The 35th America’s Cup, presented by Louis Vuitton brought to Bermuda a chance to celebrate the sport of sailing, watch world-class athletes compete and witness cutting-edge technology in action. It also presented a way to soak up the Bermudian experience, from cultural festivities to parties throughout the island.
During the month-long event, which lasted from May 26 through June 26, 2017, spectators rooted for many different teams. But regardless of the final outcome – in which Emirates Team New Zealand was crowned champion – the event was one for the record books.
LEAD-UP TO THE CUP
The buzz was building in Bermuda long before the America’s Cup kicked off. One hundred days before the official start, a clock on Hamilton’s Front Street began counting down the days. Fireworks marked the occasion when the 35th America’s Cup was only 35 days away.
CROSS ISLAND COMES TO LIFE
A much-anticipated milestone was the completion of Cross Island, a man-made island in the Royal Naval Dockyard’s South Basin. Cross Island was home to the official America’s Cup Event Village and also hosted several sailing team bases. Many Bermudian companies were involved in building out the multi-million-dollar island, and they took great pride in their creation. Many local schools got a taste of America’s Cup fever by touring the event village.
TODAY SHOW BROADCASTS FROM BERMUDA
Adding to the excitement, NBC’s Today show filmed in Bermuda in the days leading up to the event. Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb interviewed the Oscar-winning actor and Bermudian Michael Douglas, who explained why he loves Bermuda. Douglas also gave Kathie Lee a personal tour of the island.
THE OPENING CEREMONY TAKES CENTER STAGE
With great fanfare, the official Opening Ceremony on Saturday, May 27, 2017 celebrated the start of America’s Cup. The impressive lineup of music and entertainment attracted more than just sailing fans – it began with Grammy Award-winner Wyclef Jean taking the main stage in the America’s Cup Event Village. Other performers included Bermudian musician Gene Steede, H&H Gombeys, Gombey Evolution, Desmond Rivah Smith, Live Wires, Aimee Bento, Quinn Outerbridge and the official America’s Cup band, 4-Forty-1. Red Bull skydivers joined the party, and fireworks lit up the island’s night sky.
AMERICA’S CUP ACTION
On race days, team flags and handmade signs filled the path leading to the Event Village. All racing days held their share of exciting moments, but some were simply unforgettable.
THE INFAMOUS CAPSIZE
For those who witnessed Emirates Team New Zealand dramatically capsize during the semi-finals, the scene will forever be imprinted in their minds. The speeding boat hurled forward and then flipped on its side while a collective gasp filled the audience, many of which were Kiwis. Spectators then witnessed sailors from competing teams checking to make sure the Kiwi sailors were okay (fortunately, they were). It was a refreshing display of compassion over competition. The coverage went international across countless mainstream media outlets.
ARTEMIS SKIPPER OVERBOARD
On Day 1 of the Challenger Playoffs Final, the skipper of Sweden’s Artemis Racing went overboard as the boat tacked right. The audience was captivated and concerned, but fortunately Nathan Outteridge was fine. Unfortunately for Artemis, the incident gave a leg up to helmsman Peter Burling and his Emirates Team New Zealand squad.
LAND ROVER BAR MAKES THEIR MARK
With many sailing teams embedded in Bermuda for training, locals became more closely connected to their favourite teams. The British sailors of Land Rover BAR embraced Bermuda as their second home, and their loss in the semi-finals was disappointing to many. Land Rover BAR came to the race with spirit, skill and a popular hashtag campaign called #BringTheCupHome. Despite their best efforts, issues with boat speed proved too much to overcome. Helmsman Ben Ainslie and his team exhibited skill and sportsmanship from start to finish. One way they made their mark on AC35 was through their embrace of sustainability. Their entire base was sustainable, and they (along with sponsor 11th Hour Racing) were involved in deploying a submersible robot designed to capture invasive lionfish.
ORACLE TEAM USA FIGHTS FOR A COMEBACK
In the final race of Day 3 of the America’s Cup Match, helmsman Jimmy Spithill and Oracle Team USA delivered a photo finish and revived hopes of a comeback against New Zealand. They had watched the currents, calculated the best maneuvers, adjusted their boat’s setup, sailed expertly and won. The sailing team and their fans felt reinvigorated at this “turning of the tide.” After all, team USA had managed a dramatic comeback in the last America’s Cup and won. Hopes hung in the balance, but not for long.
NEW ZEALAND CLINCHES THE CUP
In the end, the American victory was not enough to change the course of the Cup Match. Aside from the one loss to Oracle Team USA, Emirates Team New Zealand dominated the final days of competition. In the final race, the Kiwis pulled ahead early on and finished almost a minute ahead of Team USA, sailing away as champions of AC35. People on boats in the Great Sound could hear the crowds cheering on land. Hundreds of boats blared their horns to mark the historic moment.
TECHNOLOGY ON DISPLAY
While only one team took home the famous “Auld Mug” trophy, the racing boats of AC35 were superstars in their own right.
FLYING BOATS & SUPERYACHTS
From the 45-foot-long, multi-hull racing catamarans to the impressive modern superyachts, technology was a highlight of AC35. The boats could literally fly, thanks to hydrofoils and wingsails that mimicked aircraft wings.
For the New Zealand team, technology was at the root of their historic win. Much research was devoted to increasing speed, including reducing the weight of the boat, carefully considering hardware and replacing traditional hand-cranked grinding stations with cycling pedestals to harness leg power. Spectators could see some boats up close – including the Emirates Team New Zealand and Artemis Racing boats – in the Event Village. Racing boats docking in and out always drew a crowd of fascinated onlookers.
WATCHING FROM THE WATER
Spectators watching from boats in the Great Sound raved about the up-close-and-personal experience. One fan commented: “If you weren’t a sailor at the start, you were at the end. You were in it. You became a fan.”
ENTERTAINMENT, EVENTS & THE BERMUDA EXPERIENCE
Hip hop legend Rev Run (formerly of Run-D.M.C.) headlined a sold-out concert on June 3 at the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club. That same weekend he gave a surprise performance that rocked the Event Village. Later in the month, Grammy Award-winning singer Ne-Yo played a sold-out show at the Event Village. Other star performances came from KES The Band, a Caribbean pop/soca group known for calypso-inspired sound. The America’s Cup band, 4-Forty-1, played regularly throughout the event and put Bermudian pride on display each time. Renowned local musician Robert Edwards, along with a selection panel, assembled the band from a diverse cross-section of local vocalists and musicians.
Themed celebration zones brought the party to the streets of popular island hubs. The City of Hamilton hosted Bonfires & BBQs along Front Street on June 8th and 22nd. During this free adults-only event, partiers roasted marshmallows over bonfires along the street while enjoying live music and watching fire dancers light up the night. The fiery and fun event featured rum swizzles, a beer garden and local vendors. On June 14, The Town of St. George hosted the family-friendly Pirates & Plunder celebration zone. The free party included cultural games, re-enactments, interactive performances, live music and entertainment for all ages.
The J Class Regatta in mid-June made history – it was the largest fleet of J Class yachts to assemble in 85 years. The magnificent, elegant yachts took their places on the same starting line, creating a photo op for the ages. Also, the first Red Bull Youth America’s Cup in Bermuda put young sailors at the helm of AC-series boats for an exciting on-the-water competition. Many island events coincided with the America’s Cup: the Tall Ships Festival, Art Walk Festival, Harbour Nights and Bermuda Heroes Weekend gave spectators a taste of the Bermuda experience.
During the America’s Cup, local restaurants and event vendors served up a steady stream of delicious food and drinks, from fish sandwiches, meat pies and pizza to Bermuda’s famous Dark n’ Stormy® cocktails. Local company Savory Kernels was a hit with its crave-worthy popcorn in a range of island flavours, including sea salt and pina colada.
Artistic expression added a colourful layer to the epic athletic competition. One highlight was a live art installation where locals and spectators painted for four days on a canvas sail. For kids, a nautical-themed playground was specially designed by the Austrian company Arti – it featured rocking “catamarans”, nets for climbing and more. This nautically themed playground was donated to the Botanical Gardens following the event.