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Last Updated: Monday, 16 April 2007, 14:30 GMT 15:30 UK
America's Cup guide
The America's Cup
Alinghi beat Team New Zealand to win the America's Cup in 2003
The America's Cup is the most prestigious event in inshore yacht racing and is often referred to as sailing's Formula One.

Multi million-pound syndicates, using cutting-edge design and technology, and employing the world's best sailors, battle it out head-to-head for the oldest trophy in sport.

The "Auld Mug" was first raced for around the Isle of Wight in 1851 - 45 years before the first modern Olympics. US yacht America won to spark 132 years of US domination until Australia II broke the deadlock in 1983.

The America's Cup, once known for spy scandals and lawsuits, has been made more transparent and spectator-friendly with 13 warm-up regattas worldwide since the last event in 2003.

Holders Alinghi await the winners of the 11-team Louis Vuitton Cup challenger series.

Here, BBC Sport gives a brief guide to the America's Cup.


Louis Vuitton Cup challenger series
Round robins: 16 April-7 May (teams race each other twice)
Semi-finals: 14-25 May (best-of-nine series)
Final: 1-12 June (best-of-nine series)

32nd America's Cup (23 June-7 July)
Best-of-nine series between Louis Vuitton Cup winners and holders Alinghi


The Louis Vuitton Cup and America's Cup are match-racing, meaning two boats race head-to-head over two laps of an upwind/downwind course.

The America's Cup is match-racing
Match-racing is an aggressive combination of brains and brawn

The two crews are seeking to place their boat between the opposition and the next mark, using a combination of tactics, cunning and aggression.

An in-depth knowledge of the complicated racing rules is vital, as is slicker boat handling, but, like Formula One, design and technology is key.


Eleven challengers:
Team New Zealand (NZ), BMW Oracle (USA), +39 Challenge (Ita), Team Shosholoza (SA), Luna Rossa Challenge (Ita), Areva Challenge, Victory Challenge (Swe), Desafio Espanol (Spa), Mascalzone Latino (Ita), United Internet Team Germany (Ger), China Team (Chi)

Defender: Alinghi (Swi)


Each crew comprises 17 sailors, with a non-sailing "18th man", often the syndicate head or a celebrity, also allowed on board.

Teams can have different configurations of roles but they can be split broadly into four main areas:

America's Cup holders Alinghi
Alinghi will wait until 23 June to meet the Louis Vuitton Cup winner

  • Afterguard: The "brains trust" includes the skipper/helmsman, tactician, navigator and strategist.
  • Trimmers: Work closely with the helmsman to control the position of the sails to extract as much speed as possible.
  • Grinders: The engine room of the boat. A hugely physical position manning the winches or "coffee grinders" that pull in the sheets (ropes) attached to the sails during manoeuvres.
  • Foredeck: Responsible for sail changes at the front of the boat, including coordinating rigging, attaching new sails, packing sails below decks, and climbing up the mast if there is a problem.

    Teams often contain as many as 120 personnel, and more than 80 Britons are involved in a variety of roles including sailing, design, administration and media in Valencia.

    They include Ben Ainslie (back-up helmsman, Team New Zealand), Iain Percy and Ian Walker (helm and afterguard, +39 Challenge), Neal McDonald (strategist, Victory).


    The boats used for the 32nd America's Cup are the America's Cup Class (ACC).

    Designers must stick to specific rules governing length, weight and sail area, but can make trade-offs in each area to best maximise boat speed in the expected conditions.

    Team New Zealand
    Team New Zealand are one of the fancied challengers

    Typical ACC configuration:
    Length overall: 85ft (24m)
    Draft: 13.5ft (4.1m)
    Beam: 14.5ft (4.5m)
    Mast height: 107ft (32.5m)

    Sail area:
    - upwind: 3,400sqft (320sqm)
    - downwind: 5,100sqft (480sqm)

    - hull & fittings: 3 tonnes
    - rig: 1 tonne
    - keel: 1 tonne
    - bulb: 19 tonnes

    Upwind sails are made of carbon fibre/Mylar laminate and cost $30,000-$40,000 each. Downwind sails are made of nylon and cost $20,000-$25,000.

    Each syndicate is allowed to build two new boats for this event. They must be built in the country of origin of the yacht club the team represents.


    As holders, Swiss syndicate Alinghi, backed by biotechnology billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli, were allowed to choose the venue for the next event but America's Cup rules say it must be held on the sea.

    Because Switzerland is landlocked, the team chose Valencia on Spain's eastern Mediterranean coast.

    This is the first time in 156 years that the America's Cup has been held in Europe.

    Ainslie faces sailing dilemma
    16 Apr 07 |  Sailing
    Alinghi completes series victory
    07 Apr 07 |  Sailing
    Ainslie to helm Team NZ warm-up
    02 Apr 07 |  Sailing
    Sanderson joins GB's Team Origin
    29 Mar 07 |  Sailing


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