America’s Cup is a biennial sailing race that has been taking place since 1851 and is the oldest sporting competition between countries. Longer than the Olympics, the Ryder Cup and the World Cup. This actually started as an English race. In 1851 there were five British boats and just to make it interesting, the Brits invited America to race around the UK thinking they would give them a proper thrashing. Instead, the Americans kicked their butts and out of respect, it was named America’s Cup.
Fort the most part, the American’s have dominated the sport, but for the last 25 years, it has become less nationalistic and more billionairistic where there is little correlation between the sailors, the country they represent and the entity that sponsors them. This weekend the race was held on Lake Michigan and I got to see first hand just what an amazing event this has become. Today’s boats are catamarans and thanks to hydrofoil technology, the hulls can float above water creating minimal drag and speeds up to 50 knots. In other words, the sport has changed so much that there is little similarity to the origins of this competition.
In many ways, the Land Rover brand and English sailing have experienced similar struggles. Now that Jaguar-LandRover is owned by Tata Motors, sales are healthy, cars are strong and there is room to enter sports like America’s Cup Sailing since many of their owners follow the sport. The LandRover BAR team is new, but the skipper (Ben Ainslie) is no rookie. He’s a derivative of the defending champion Oracle boat from 2015. I believe he has the best chance to defeat Oracle, but the boats we saw this weekend are not the ones that will race in Bermuda in 2017.
Considering there is only one American on the Oracle boat, it’s hard to feel a sense of nationalistic pride to cheer them on. Almost all of the competitors come from England, Australia or New Zealand. Considering America’s dominance in the sport and that Great Britain started this thing 165 years ago, it wouldn’t break my heart to see England finally win the race they started in 1851.