From 1870 to 1920, America’s Cup races were held in New York. 96 years later, one weekend in May, the Cup came back.
The action both on the water and on the land proved worth the wait and also underscored two famous New York sayings. First, if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. And second, anything can happen in a New York minute.
Gloomy skies notwithstanding on race day one, an estimated 75,000 people lined the shores of the Hudson River in lower Manhattan and on the New Jersey side. Despite their excitement, and the adrenalin flow of the six teams, Mother Nature had different plans. The forecast southerlies never appeared, and winds were so light that racing was delayed, then abandoned three times.
Four knots of wind finally materialized, enough to hold a short “substitute race” as race time was winding down. While the results would only count if Sunday’s races were scrapped, the foiling AC45 catamarans put on a show on a short course near to shore. The racing was close and tactical, the lead changed hands a few times, and SoftBank Team Japan crossed the finish line in front.
Feeling good about the result, skipper Dean Barker explained: “The upwind leg was very short because we were sailing with the current, and the downwind leg was long because we were sailing into it. The wind wasn’t strong enough to fly a hull, but all in all it was quite a good race.”
If the first day was “good,” race day two was “epic,” in Oracle Team USA skipper Jimmy Spithill’s words. An estimated 100,000 spectators took to the Hudson shoreline under sunny skies. Super Sunday, so-named for the double points awarded, featured dramatic wind shifts and velocities ranging from 5 to 20 knots. Throw in a roaring current, and it added up to lots of place changing.
Artemis Racing won the opening, nine-leg race, while Groupama Team France finished ahead in the five-leg second race. The regatta was still anyone’s for the taking going into the final race, but it didn’t start out too well for Emirates Team New Zealand when they hooked the starting buoy’s anchor line and punctured their hull against the buoy. But then, on the next to last leg when the leading pack fell out of the wind, Team New Zealand picked up a good gust, jumped on her foils, and sailed around them, from fifth to first, to win the race and regatta.
New York, New York proved to be, as the old song says, a helluva town for a race like the America’s Cup. Here’s what else made the Cup’s return to its roots unique:
The crowds went wild. New York is one of the most densely populated cities in the world. It’s renowned, too, for the crowds its equally famed venues attract. For two days, the Hudson River stole the title of World’s Most Famous Arena from nearby Madison Square Garden. On race day one, Spithill said, “This is the largest crowd I’ve ever seen at a Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series regatta, and I hope they come back tomorrow.” He got his wish, in spades.
The City (and Harbor) That Never Sleeps…slept. On this waterway, seven days a week, there’s rarely a moment that a ferry, a tug with a barge, a tourist boat, a cruise ship, or private boats aren’t cruising up, down, and across the river. The Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series shut down the Hudson from lower Manhattan to Midtown and across to the New Jersey side for several hours through the weekend.
Celebrity-spotting was a part of the game. New York attracts celebrities—some even live there—so as many heads were turning toward land as toward the water. Olympic athlete Lindsey Vonn rode along with Oracle Team USA on demo day. Famed restaurateur and Food Network star Marcus Samuelsson was in the crowd on day one. Sir Richard Branson, actor Liam Hemsworth, and many more were among shoreline spectators on day two. Then there were the famous yachts. The J-Class beauties Ranger and Topaz plus the Lürssen-built megayacht Northern Star joined the throngs of spectator boats.
Skyscrapers joined Mother Nature in mixing up the winds. Each of the team’s sailors knows how to adapt to squirrelly winds. But even they were tested as the towering buildings of lower Manhattan often diverted the breezes. On Super Sunday, they all but choked off the winds at times, provoking quick reactions and athletic maneuvering among the sailors to keep their AC45s moving.