Bermuda Bound: A superyacht owner's guide to the America's Cup

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Back on the map

The America’s Cup, the oldest international trophy in sports, has been the pinnacle of yachting competition since 1851. Now, as the world focuses on the tiny island of Bermuda, Louisa Beckett discovers what this means for those visiting by superyacht.

The Bermudian government sees hosting the 35th America’s Cup as a way to put the island back on the luxury travel map. “Tourism actually was in decline until about four or five years ago, when the government made a very serious decision to invest in it,” says Bill Hanbury, CEO of the Bermuda Tourism Authority. “One of the things we decided to do when this opportunity came to us was to go all in because we really felt this could be our Super Bowl, our World Series, our Wimbledon....”

In addition to investments of more than $100 million in the island’s infrastructure, Bermuda also has made serious revisions to the maritime regulations that govern visiting yachts. “They impact (everything) from immigration to customs, to chartering, to how we navigate within our waters,” Hanbury says. Prior to this summer, he explains, “You couldn’t charter a superyacht in Bermuda waters. Those days are over. We have made these changes that are already in place for the America’s Cup, but we fully assume they will continue beyond the America’s Cup.”

According to Sam Hollis, chief operating officer of the America’s Cup Event Authority (ACEA), however, one of Bermuda’s best assets is its people. “Anyone who has been to Bermuda will tell you that the warmth and generosity of the Bermudian population is astonishing,” he says. “The whole country has embraced the America’s Cup, and anyone coming to Bermuda next year will find they are greeted like old friends.”

Picture courtesy of Sander van de Borch / Artemis Racing

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Front Row Seats

One of the reasons Oracle Team USA gave for relocating the Cup to Bermuda was to optimise viewing for spectators both onsite and watching at home. Bermuda is easily reached by air from the U.S. and Europe, and because it is on Atlantic Standard Time (GMT/UTC -four hours), events held there can be viewed during the day on a large portion of both continents.

As in San Francisco, the America’s Cup races will be run near shore, where viewers can watch them from the land as well as from the water aboard vessels with VIP spectator fleet privileges at the edge of the course.

“The America’s Cup has been at the forefront of the move to close-to-shore, stadium-style racing, and the 2017 racecourse on Bermuda’s Great Sound is the ideal stage for our events next year,” says Hollis. “Great Sound is a natural amphitheatre with room for racing and spectators, amid a spectacular backdrop of islands and beaches.”

The America’s Cup Village is being constructed in Hamilton, Bermuda, on reclaimed land at the Royal Navy Dockyard, a 19th-century British fortification steeped in history. The Village, open each day from 11am to 5pm, will have onshore grandstand seating with a direct view of the regatta’s finish line, as well as two other spots for spectators: The VIP Longtail Lounge, which has an open-air private viewing terrace and includes a complimentary bar and buffet lunch, and the lively Gosling’s Dark ‘N’ Stormy Island Bar with raised viewing terrace and buffet lunch.

All the Cup teams will be headquartered at the village during the event, and as boats leave for the racecourse, daily “Dock-Out Shows,” concerts and other events will keep visitors entertained between races. “Our full event program is being finalised now, and we have a huge range of incredible activities that will meet every fan’s needs,” says Hollis.

Picture courtesy of ACEA

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America's Cup Superyacht Regatta

In the wake of the successful Superyacht Regatta held during the 34th America’s Cup in San Francisco in 2013, ACEA decided to reprise the race series in Bermuda this summer, once again appointing Boat International Media to organise the event. The 2017 America’s Cup Superyacht Regatta, scheduled for June 13 to 15, immediately following the Louis Vuitton Challenger Playoffs, will combine spectacular fleet racing by sailing yachts ranging from 23 to 60 metres with an exclusive social program ashore.

“In San Francisco, we had some great superyachts compete, but this will be much bigger because Bermuda is on the run from the Caribbean to the Med,” says Louise Close, event director at Boat International Media.

Registration for the America’s Cup Superyacht Regatta does not close until April 1, but 26 yachts already have registered and seven — Visione, Hyperion, Perseus3, Meteor, Bequia, Ranger and Wild Horses — officially have entered to date. “The J-Class yachts will compete with the Superyacht Regatta yachts as a warm-up for the J-Class Regatta [June 16 to 20],” adds Close.

Since these sailing superyachts draw a bit more water than the foiling America’s Cup catamarans, the regatta will be held offshore, off the eastern end of Bermuda. There should be plenty of opportunity to watch it from water in the designated spectator fleet, either on a private boat or party charter vessel.

“This is such an exciting event to come to Bermuda, especially for those of us who are sailors,” says Commodore Leatrice Oatley of the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club in Hamilton, which is hosting the regatta. “It is great for Bermuda to be recognised by the professional sailors as the great place to sail we’ve always known it was. Hopefully, we will get more professional regattas here in the future.” Regarding the Superyacht Regatta itself, Close says, “We hope to make it an annual event.”

Photograph courtesy of ACEA / Abner Kingman

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BYOB (Bring your own boat)

The best seats in the house for this year’s Cup already have been booked by prescient superyacht owners, who have taken advantage of the 2017 America’s Cup Superyacht Program that BWA Yachting is organising for ACEA. The program includes berthing in the America’s Cup Village or one of Hamilton’s other superyacht marinas from May 20 through June 30, a VIP flag that will give yachts a front-row position in the spectator fleet on the water during the races, access to the “race pits” and other VIP venues in the Village, special social events and a range of concierge services, including transportation, golf and other outings. Fifty superyachts are expected to participate in the Superyacht Program, along with more than 500 people.

“We are fully booked. It’s been a humongous success,” says Laura Esteve, vice president of BWA Yachting America. Owners who haven’t booked yet are not out of luck. Slips that are not part of the America’s Cup Superyacht Program may still be available, but it’s essential to book them as soon as possible as supply is limited. Bermuda also offers beautiful anchorages where you may be able to drop the hook during the Cup races.

The brand-new Caroline Bay Marina is a good place to start looking for slips. The ISPS-certified, 35-acre yacht harbour on Morgan’s Point is scheduled to open in March. When complete, the full concierge-level, deep-water marina will have 83 slips, approximately 40 of which can accommodate large yachts, including along the extensive face dock.

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The Teams

Fans nostalgic for the America’s Cup’s summers in Newport when the teams displayed more national pride and less commercialism may bemoan the fact that a sponsor name precedes every team name and only two of the six skippers actually hail from their team’s country. But the decks are stacked with national, Olympic, world and transoceanic sailing champions, and it will be wonderful to watch the supreme athletic ability of these elite sailors as they jump nimbly from sponson to sponson of the wing-sailed, foiling AC catamarans at speeds approaching 50 knots.

Defender: Oracle Team USA
_Team owner: Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison.

Skipper: James Spithill of Australia (top left)._

Two- time winner of the America’s Cup, in 2010 and 2013.

Challenger: SoftBank Team Japan
Skipper and CEO: Dean Barker of New Zealand (top centre).

Former skipper of Emirates Team New Zealand, who “defected” to the new team after his ignominious defeat in 2013.

Challenger: Land Rover BAR (UK)
Principal and Skipper: Sir Ben Ainslie of Britain (top right).

The Oracle Team USA alumnus is determined to bring the America’s Cup back to England, where it all began.

Challenger: Emirates Team New Zealand
Skipper and Sailing Director: Glenn Ashby of Australia (bottom left).

This team has a score to settle, having lost the 2013 series after a spectacular eight-wins-in- a-row comeback by Oracle.

Challenger: Groupama Team France
Skipper: Franck Cammas of France (bottom centre).

Winner of the Volvo Ocean Race among many other regattas, Cammas’ next big hurdle is to give his country, a multiple-time challenger, its first America’s Cup win.

Challenger: Artemis Racing (Sweden)
_Team Manager and Tactician: Iain Percy of the UK.

Skipper: Nathan Outteridge of Australia (bottom right)._

Each brings an Olympic gold medal to this team.

Photographs: 2010 Oracle (America's Cup), Meredith Andrews (top left), ACEA 2015 / Ricardo Pinto (top centre), Acea / Gilles Martin-Raget (top right, bottom centre, bottom right), Acea 2016 / Ricardo Pinto (bottom left)

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