America's Cup: We rate the 6 teams ahead of the AC World Series Gothenburg

Land Rover BAR

The leaders

The weight of expectation on Sir Ben Ainslie and his team Land Rover BAR is nearly as immense as it was during the first Louis Vuitton America's Cup World Series in Portsmouth.

The British contingent has been bold in its ambitions to bring the Cup back to the UK, and Portsmouth proved its first chance to put its sailing where its mouth is. They did a fine job of this indeed, proving their determination and mettle by  winning the America's Cup World Series Portsmouth.

Land Rover BAR now sit atop the leaderboard with 19 points. The pressure is on to keep this top spot – and keep bringing in the points hand over fist.

Hopefully the arrival of Formula One veteran Martin Whitmarsh as the chief executive will free up Ainslie’s time to focus on the sailing, while Ainslie has also had the benefit of hand-picking his team mates. Giles Scott, the heir apparent to Ainslie’s Olympic crown in the Finn singlehanded dinghy, brings immense physical power and strategic know-how to the tactician’s role, while Ainslie’s former team mate at Oracle in 2013, New Zealand’s Jono McBeth, was one of the first key appointments as the sailing team manager.

Andy ‘Animal’ McLean is another highly-prized Kiwi who liaises between the sailing and design teams. The rest of the sailing crew are hard-working and accomplished British professionals, Nick Hutton, Matt Cornwell, David ‘Freddie’ Carr, and Paul Campbell-James on wing trim.

Emirates Team New Zealand

Hot on the heels of the leaders

Emirates Team New Zealand is hot on the heels of current leaders with a score of 18 points. That's only one point setting them apart from the British team Land Rover BAR.

Russell Coutts, CEO of the America's Cup Event Authority, notes that Emirates put on a good show at Portsmouth, but was bested by Ainslie. “In the first event last month in Portsmouth, Ben Ainslie was clearly better than the rest and deserved to win. Peter Burling was also very impressive in his first start for Emirates Team New Zealand,” says Coutts.

Is the New Zealand team still reeling from their decision to let long-standing helmsman and skipper Dean Barker go and replace him with the 24-year-old Pete Burling?

When asked how difficult of a decision was to replace Dean Barker, Glen Ashby of Team New Zealand says in the video below, "It was a really, really difficult situation, and his experience and his knowledge over the America's Cups over the years and through the last campaign, there's really no one else with that experience, it was a huge loss to the team for sure."

But Burling along with crewman Blair Tuke, has dominated the 49er Olympic circuit for the past three years since taking the silver medal at London 2012. Could Burling be the Ben Ainslie of his generation? It will be fascinating to see how these two young 49er sailors adapt to the Cup world. They will be backed up by some old hands including Tornado silver medallist and arguably ETNZ’s most valuable player from 2013, Glen Ashby, along with legendary tactician Ray Davies.

Oracle Team USA

The Defenders

The America’s Cup World Series in Portsmouth was the first competitive outing for Cup teams since San Francisco in summer 2013. The big difference between this event and previous ACWS regattas in 2011/12 is that the wing-masted AC45 catamarans are now running on hydrofoils, making them capable of achieving speeds close to the breathtakingly fast AC72 giants that raced in San Francisco two years ago. And they aren't far off from the smaller yachts that teams voted to race in, giving the competitors a taste for the racing that the Cup will hold in 2017.

So now Portsmouth showed us what new, smaller and more nimble yachts are capable of, and the question is, how will the America's Cup Defender, Team Oracle USA, stack up?

The answer: not as far up the leaderboard as they want to be as Defender, but not dismally either. The US team sits in third place with a respectable 16 points, but they will need to do better if they are going to keep a hold on the Cup in 2017.

While a number of key sailors departed the American team after winning in 2013, James Spithill remains as skipper and is bidding for a third Cup victory with his boss Russell Coutts (who thinks Britain's Land Rover BAR could win), and billionaire owner Larry Ellison. As before, the bulk of the sailing team is Australian, which rankles with US patriots, although US Olympic representative in the Laser, Andrew Campbell, is a new appointment.

In addition to Spithill, other key Aussies from the 2013 campaign include tactician Tom Slingsby, the 2012 Laser Olympic Champion who is now the crew boss for Oracle, and young Kyle Langford who was an eleventh-hour replacement for the wing trimming role in San Francisco and proved more than man enough for the task. Recent training against Artemis Racing in Bermuda has gone well, and the pugnacious Spithill is always up for a fight. He’ll want to show the challengers in Portsmouth that he’s still the daddy.

Groupama Team France

Will they move past the middle?

Before the first America's Cup World series, we glumly predicted that it would be a surprise to see Groupama Team France finish better than last. But the French team came in just before last, tying in fourth place with the Japanese team with 13 points. Now we'll look to see if they can hold this spot, and hopefully for them claw their way above middle billing on the leaderboard.

Why the apparent lack of faith? Call it pragmatism. Although Franck Cammas is one of the most celebrated sailors in France, the helmsman and his team were only scheduled to start sailing on the Solent on July 20, not giving them much time before the World Series action started in Portsmouth. They are learning the ropes as they go, and are unlikely to be as smooth around the tight race track as their more practised rivals.

But that being said, at least the French are here, because a few months ago even that seemed unlikely. The revision of the new America’s Cup class from a 62-footer to a more one-design 50-footer makes it possible for the French to contemplate a campaign for Bermuda 2017.

The French have been cagey about much of the detail of their project, but in addition to the multi-talented Cammas (best known for breaking round-the-world records in big multihulls but currently campaigning a 17ft semi-foiling Nacra 17 catamaran for the Rio Olympics) is the twice Vendée Globe winner Michel Desjoyeaux. Although new to the Cup, ‘Le Professeur’ is respected for being one of the best at pushing through technical innovations, which actually work in the real world.

SoftBank Team Japan

The team with the most to prove

Emirates Team New Zealand’s loss has been SoftBank Team Japan’s gain. Following an acrimonious split with Grant Dalton, Dean Barker departed his old team because the 43-year-old wanted to continue in a sailing role.

But is gaining the prolific Kiwi sailor enough to make the Japanese Cup Challenger a real contender? In some ways, they are the team with the most to prove because they are both the new kids on the block and have such a famed veteran in their midst.

SoftBank Team Japan currently sits on the leader board alongside Groupama Team France with 13 points.

Another high-profile signing for Japan is Great Britain’s Chris Draper, the former 49er World Champion and Olympic medallist who found himself out of a job after Luna Rossa shut up shop earlier this year.

The team’s general manager is Kazuhiko Sofuku, who used to work as the bowman on Nippon Challenge back in the Version 5 keelboat days of the late 1990s America's Cup.

Artemis Racing

The hometown heroes?

Russell Coutts sums it up best. While all the teams are looking to improve, "none more so than Artemis, which has a boat stacked with Olympic champions," Coutts says. "They definitely have the talent and they will certainly want to put on a better performance in front of their home crowd in Gothenburg."

Can the Swedish team claw back from last place with just 11 points and become hometown heroes as the America's Cup World Series descends on Gothenburg?

Despite a much-troubled campaign for the 2013 edition of the Cup in San Francisco, the Swedish challenge Artemis Racing has retained many of its core staff for the 2017 cycle. Britain’s double gold medallist Iain Percy is the team boss, with the reigning 49er Olympic Champions from Australia, Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen, doing the steering and wing trim.

The campaign is awash with other gold medal winning talent, with Sweden’s Olympic Champion in the Star, Freddie Loof, and Britain’s Laser gold medallist from Beijing 2008, Paul Goodison, also on the crew roster. Former Tornado Olympic representative for Great Britain, Adam May, has been promoted to the team’s head of design and is backed up by French offshore sailing legend, Loick Peyron.

Whilst the Swedish team would love to do well on the America’s Cup World Series, its stated priority is very much on designing a fast boat for the Cup itself.

We'll have to wait and see how the racing action shakes down – and who winds up on top – when the America's Cup World Series in Gothenburg kicks off August 29-30.

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