America’s Cup - Report

The Auld Mug

March 15, 2021
Yanmar Holdings Co., Ltd.

The Prada Cup took place in Auckland, New Zealand over January 15th to 21st, to select the Challenger to take on Emirates Team New Zealand in the 36th America's Cup.
Yanmar Racing's Yasuhiro Yaji, a four-time contender for the America's Cup: three times with the Japanese team and once with the American team, looks back on the Prada Cup series and gives us his unique perspective in this report.

By Yasuhiro Yaji, Director, Yanmar Racing

The America's Cup has a long history, beginning as race held during the first World’s Fair in England in 1851. The Royal Yacht Squadron in the United Kingdom invited a team from America, the New York Yacht Club to a race around the Isle of Wight. The Auld Mug, presented to the winner, the New York Yacht Club, went on to be called the America's Cup and is the oldest sports trophy in the world.
Today, the America's Cup is often thought of as a race between countries, but it's really a race between yacht clubs that has carried national prestige for over 170 years. As a side note, the first modern Olympic Games was the Athens Olympic Games in 1896. This means that The America's Cup has a history 45 years longer than the Olympics.

The America's Cup Trophy

The America's Cup race format is as follows. There is a Challenger Series consisting of Preliminary Series → Semi-finals → Finals. The team that comes out on top after these three stages will compete with the Defender (the Cup holder) for the trophy. Depending on the number of Challenger boats participating, the racing will take place over about 3 months.

The interesting yet difficult part of the America's Cup is the possibility of creating various boat combinations according to the race situation. Race boats do not perform 100% from the beginning.
Most teams take three to four years to prepare for the race. They start by designing the most important sailing components: hulls, masts, sails and foils. For that, it is necessary to quickly gather talented designers and engineers and build the best design team. If a team falls behind here, they will have no chance to win the race. Key players in the sailing team will collaborate with the design team from the time the team is established to share ideas and give a sense of the sailors’ point of view in creating the race boat.

Launch of the first race boat comes two years prior to the race. By that time, the sailing team will be ready, and the collection of race boat data begins. There are hundreds of combinations of hulls, masts, sails, foils and the software that controls them, and all those combinations are tested. The data during sailing is instantly sent to the chase boat via the network for analysis. Settings are changed based on data analysis to calculate the best combination of settings according to the racing conditions. The testing period can seem like an eternity, but the data collected here is key to realizing the best performance in any condition to win the race and leads to the right to be a challenger in the America's Cup. Half a year before the race, the second boat should be completed. Now the mass of data accumulated to date is incorporated into the construction and setup of the new boat, and the team conducts further sailing tests with real racing in mind. When the yacht gets to the start line of qualifying for Prada Cup, it starts with 92 to 95 percent of maximum performance and it is left to the team to draw out the remaining capabilities of the boat according to the circumstances of the race.

Many teams hide their full potential to throw their rivals off guard. At the Christmas Race held in December last year, INEOS UK was completely defeated but in the Prada Cup qualifying, it was an entirely different situation. The team upset the other challengers to qualify in first place. On the other hand, American Magic, who secured 2nd place in the Christmas Race, capsized in one of their finals races, damaging the hull and went on to be eliminated. Among the teams, Luna Rossa seemed to show the ability to extract the full capability of their boat. I think they played it close to their chest from the beginning and showed different strengths for qualifying, semi-finals, and finals. In the Prada Cup final, Luna Rossa held down INEOS UK, who was overwhelmingly fast in qualifying, with an amazing strategy, won the race with a solid game plan, and earned the right to challenge for the America's Cup.

I have competed 4 times in the America's Cup and made it as far as the semi-finals. So, I know more of the bitter feelings of defeat than the joys of winning. However, what impressed me at the Prada Cup was the team American Magic who were representing the New York Yacht Club. Their entry came from a yacht club with a unique position in the history of the America’s Cup, as the club that actually gave the trophy its name. The team did their best with the cheer and support of their fans, to bring the Auld Mug back to New York. In an on-board interview that took place shortly after the race, when the interviewer said, "I think you are appreciated by many people and your family,” skipper Terry Hutchinson couldn't hold back the tears.

American Magic
Skipper Terry Hutchinson

See the excitement on the America's Cup on the YouTube channel.

Yanmar in the 36th America's Cup

Yanmar is no stranger to the America’s Cup having played a key role over several editions. At the 34th edition of the America’s Cup in 2013, Yanmar supported Oracle Team USA as Official Technical Partner, and supplied the chase boat engines for the team. Then in 2017 Yanmar served as the Official Marine Engines Partner for the 35th edition in Bermuda.

Now for the 36th America’s Cup, as part of the company’s role as the event’s Official Marine Supplier, Yanmar is providing key on-the-water support to the race management team at all the America’s Cup events during 2020 and 2021.