O When it’s time to stow my electronics, the hooked island appears in the window, ringed by a kaleidoscope of blue: reefs, shallows and deep ocean. There’s no mistaking Bermuda, and whether I arrive by bird or by boat, the place is magical, a remote destination not too far away but still in the middle of nowhere. As we circle to land, I get a sweeping view, which reaffirms how small the place really is. That the 35th America’s Cup will be hosted here is still hard to fathom.
The seat-belt sign dings, reminding me to fill out my pink Department of Immigration passenger form. Under the heading “Primary Purpose of Visit,” there’s the typical stuff: vacation, study, business. The America’s Cup has three of its own check boxes: team, visiting, business. This is my first clue the government of Bermuda is tracking every traveler and dollar of its investment in hosting the big race. Inside the airport, immigration kiosks are wrapped in photos of AC45S on Bermuda’s Great Sound. The ATM is too. Hints of the Cup are everywhere, and it is top-of-mind with everyone I speak to during my visit, especially the cabbies and bartenders who stand to make a tidy profit this summer.
This is Bermuda’s America’s Cup, no doubt about it, but there lies the rub for the rest of the Cup’s fans. Months out, every hotel is sold out. Bermuda is booked solid. This 35th edition, therefore, will be spectated by residents, wellheeled fans, sponsors, VIPS, and yachties on superyacht row.
For everyone else, AC35 will be best viewed on-screen. If the broadcast team carries on
The Defender is sitting pretty in Bermuda, awaiting a worthy foe to emerge from an unpredictable challengers series. Get your popcorn and Wi-fi ready.
Stan Honey’s legacy, the two 25-minute races per day will be fun to watch (in the United States on NBC Sports outlets) without giving up an entire summer’s afternoon. In San Francisco, each skipper wore a microphone while racing, and on the America’s Cup app, one could toggle between skippers and listen in. Let’s pray they do so again. Organizers are not forthcoming with broadcast details, but I’m told at least one crew per boat will be live.
The AC50 is fascinating, and while it’s nowhere near as breathtaking as the AC72, it is exciting to watch, especially when sailed fast and loose on the foils. The more familiar crews get with their boats, the more they’ll whip them around the racecourse and at each other.
Which of the five challengers can take down Jimmy and the Machine? I’m no gambler, but let’s start with Oracle’s base neighbor, Softbank Team Japan. Behind Dean Barker’s piercing eyes is burning redemption — strong odds there. Groupama Team France? Its leader, Frank Cammas, won the Volvo Ocean Race in one try. Different gigs, yes, but the French are one heck of a dark horse.
Land Rover BAR won the World Series but was slow in spring scrimmages. If they’ve budgeted their design time and money well, leaving enough in the kitty, they’ll be fine. They are the home team too, don’t forget. No pressure there.
Emirates Team New Zealand dared to be different with its cyclists, but opinions are divided. There’s pent up animosity between the Kiwis and the Defender, so should a New Zealand versus Oracle matchup come to be, cue the soap opera.
For the Kiwis to get to the big dance, they’ll have to go through Artemis. With chemistry, money, and a productive winter spent lining up with Oracle and Softbank, these sailors have muscle memory, and they will flex it.
It’ll be an amazing month in Bermuda and a sailors’ party for sure, and I intend to get there a few more times before it ends. I’ll report back often, as will our contributors on the ground, so mix up a Dark ’n’ Stormy and bookmark our new and improved experience at sailingworld.com. Q
The 35th America’s Cup goes offshore to Bermuda for a month of high-performance sailing. PHOTO : ACEA / PICTURESQUE BERMUDA . BM