Forget about Bermuda’s pink-sand beaches. The 35th America’s Cup has officially landed on this mid-Atlantic island — a 21-square-mile archipelago that’s in full-scale party mode thanks to the arrival of high-speed, foiling catamarans that currently call it home. With thousands of visitors expected in June, Bermuda is set for its time in the sun. But what’s the America’s Cup all about anyway? And why is it being held in Bermuda to begin with? Read on for more.
1. The America’s Cup is not named after the United States.
Although the U.S. has won the Cup 28 times in its 166-year history, the world’s greatest race on water is named after the wooden schooner America, the winning yacht in the first contest around England’s Isle of Wight in 1851. To this day, Britain has never won the Auld Mug (New Zealand and Switzerland have won twice, and Australia once).
2. The winner of the last America’s Cup gets to choose where the next America’s Cup will be held.
This is chiefly the reason why Bermuda — a tiny island with no team in the race — is hosting this year’s regatta. So why pick Bermuda? Defending champions ORACLE TEAM USA chose the island for several reasons: Ideal sailing conditions for starters, since the Great Sound racecourse features a natural amphitheater with consistent winds and calm waters; a race village that offers a “pit lane” viewing experience where spectators can watch from shoreline grandstands; and a favorable mid-Atlantic time zone, since the television networks that cover the race in the U.S. and Europe can maximize prime-time coverage of the race (sorry, New Zealanders). Bonus: Spectators can arrive on two-hour nonstop flights from the U.S. east coast then dip their toes in Bermuda’s turquoise waters and pink-sand beaches on non-racing days.
3. Affectionately known as the Auld Mug, the sterling silver America’s Cup trophy is the oldest in international sport.
First awarded in 1851, the trophy has long been a prized possession—and one that gets a first-class treatment wherever it goes: The 32-pound mug travels in its own custom-designed Louis Vuitton trunk, flies business class and when in public, is flanked by white-gloved security guards to protect against sailing enthusiasts who might want to give it a barehanded rub.
4. This year’s America’s Cup features six of the world’s greatest open ocean sailors.
These helmsmen have reached the pinnacle of their sport in contests around the globe. Land Rover BAR’s Ben Ainslie is the most decorated Olympic sailor of all time with one silver and one four gold medals from five Olympic Games; Peter Burling of Emirates Team New Zealand won the inaugural Red Bull Youth America’s Cup in 2013; Frenchman Franck Cammas of Groupama Team France has won the Volvo Ocean Race and once held the non-stop round the world record; Artemis Racing’s Nathan Outteridge has won silver and gold medals at the Olympic Games; SoftBank Team Japan skipper Dean Barker won the America’s Cup in his 1999/2000 campaign while with Team New Zealand; and Oracle Team USA’s Jimmy Spithill is looking to win his third straight America’s Cup after victories in 2010 and 2013.
5. British tea magnate Sir Thomas Lipton is largely credited as introducing the idea of sponsorship in sport.
He challenged for the Cup five times between 1899 and 1930. Although he never won the Cup, Lipton’s influence is still felt today since international banks, automotive companies, computer technology firms and other large corporate sponsors currently power all modern sailing teams.