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History of the America’s Cup

Big Boats Reborn

IACC || 1992 || 1995 || 2000


Rebirth of the Big Boat

The silver lining in Sir Michael Fay’s maverick challenge was the development of the International America’s Cup Class sailboat
. He had argued that the 12-meter design, which originated in the early 1900s, was a dinosaur. He wanted it replaced by a modern design that reflected state of the art technology, reminiscent of the long-gone days when the Vanderbilts and Rockfellers pulled out all the stops to produce an America’s Cup winner.

The America’s Cup community agreed a change was needed, and a group of designers developed the International America’s Cup Class (IACC) rule. The IACC rule is actually a design formula for a lightweight sailboat approximately 75 feet long, constructed primarily of carbon fiber, and having a mast towering more than 10 stories tall. The new sailboat carries about 50 percent more sail area than a 12-meter, but weighs about a one-third less. The net result is obvious: a delerious increase in speed and maneuverability, returning the racing platform to the grand prix level the America’s Cup deserved.


1992 - America³ Surprises Il Moro di Venencia, 4-1

Bill Koch burst upon the America’s Cup scene with his mantra of technology, teamwork and talent, and one of the biggest war chests ever. The combination proved unbeatable as the rookie—who insisted on occasionally steering his own boat—showed the veterans how to build a fast sailboat. His America³ first dispatched Dennis Conner, then surprised most America’s Cup pundits by downing Italy’s Il Moro di Venenzia, 4-1.

Obviously sailing a slower boat, Il Moro skipper Paul Cayard and crew never relented as they pushed the faster American boat around the track in the match for the America’s Cup. In the nail-biter of a second race, Cayard won the start and employed classic match-racing tactics to fend off the hard-charging Americans. That set up the thrilling finish as the white American sailboat closed on its red Italian competitor, with Il Moro crossing the line just three seconds ahead for the closest finish in the history of the match.

The fact that Cayard and the Italian team, backed by the late industrialist Raul Gardini, were even in the final was a testiment to Cayard’s fortitude and sailing skill. The months-long challenger trials was a grueling elimination process involving eight sailboats from seven nations. Besides the Italian entry, there were teams from Australia (2), France, Japan, New Zealand, Spain and Sweden.

The New Zealand team, as it had done in Australia, was the early favorite and dominated the challenger races off San Diego’s Point Loma. But controversy is part and parcel to the America’s Cup, and the Kiwis’ bowsprit became the focal point of dispute. After extensive protest hearings in which Cayard demonstrated how the bowsprit was used to an unfair advantage, the Kiwis not only lost that battle, they also seemed to lose heart. Cayard’s Il Moro di Venecia defeated New Zealand—which also sported a radical tandem or ”"fork” keel—in the challenger finals for the Louis Vuitton Cup.


1995 - Kiwis Conquer Conner, 5-0, Take Cup Back Down Under

The persistent New Zealanders, like their Australian counterparts a decade earlier, proved relentless in their quest for the Cup. In the 29th defense, the Kiwis’ black boat became a symbol of supremacy on the seas off Point Loma, amassing the unprecedented record of 42-1 during the months-long competition. After decimating the challenger fleet, New Zealand wasted no time in dispatching Team Dennis Conner and Young America, 5-0, to win the Auld Mug for the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron. The America’s Cup had changed hands again.

Conner’s loss came despite having some of the best sailing talent in the world on his boat, including helmsman Paul Cayard. But it was déja vu for Cayard, who for the second time in a row found himself in the America’s Cup final match, only to be handicapped once again by sailing the obviously slower boat.

Besides the Cup changing hands again, the 1995 defense was also remarkable on a number of counts:

Photos: Copyright Mystic Seaport Museum, from the book "America's Cup '95: The Official Record," published by Tehabi Books.


2000 - Kiwis to Defend Auld Mug Against All Comers

The 30th defense of the America’s Cup is set for early 2000 in Auckland, New Zealand, and will be hosted by defender Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron.

The Challenger of Record is New York Yacht Club, which formed the America’s Cup Challenger Association, Inc., to conduct the challenger selection series, scheduled to begin in late 1999, also in Auckland. A number of yacht clubs from around the world, including San Francisco’s St. Francis Yacht Club, have submitted challenges to the RNZYS.

The challenging clubs will conduct a months-long series of races amongst themselves to determine which one will face New Zealand in the showdown for the America’s Cup. See the America's Cup XXX Fact Sheet for current information on up-coming regatta.

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