America’s Cup sailing is coming back to New York Harbor for the first time in nearly a century — but don’t expect your great, great grandfather’s yacht race.
Six sailing teams will hit the harbor on May 7 and 8, but the ships and the sport have come a long way since 1920, the last time an America’s Cup race was held in New York City.
Gone are the days of old-fashioned wooden boats and calm sailing. This is “NASCAR on water” with high tech boats flying by at speeds up to 60 mph, Team USA Skipper Jimmy Spithill told the Daily News.
“When you see these boats, they stop you in your tracks,” he said of the large carbon-fiber catamarans. “These races are a quantum leap from where we started.”
Races for America’s Cup, the oldest international sporting trophy, were held off of New York from 1870 until 1920 before being moved to New Port, R.I., where it remained until 1983, when the U.S. finally lost the cup — ending a 132-year winning streak that dated back to 1851. Since then America’s Cup has taken place in waters off of California, Spain and Australia.
This year, the boaters will converge on lower Manhattan for two days of Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series races.
The points earned during the matches will count toward the 35th America’s Cup in Bermuda in 2017, which will bit reigning champ Oracle Team USA against the winner of the multi-city lead up series.
More than 20,000 people are expected to watch the races — which are free to watch and will run from the Statue of Liberty to the World Trade Center — at any given moment, event organizers said.
Six international teams — from the United States, New Zealand, Great Britain, Sweden, Japan and France — will square off in as many as six races over the two days. Weather will determine the exact race course and the number of races.
Team USA is already guaranteed a spot in the 2017 finals — but they’re still counting on plenty of fans to pack the shoreline and root for the home team.
“We can hear the fans cheering. It’s like having a home game. It gives us a big advantage,” Spithill said.
Viewers can watch the action from Brookfield Place Waterfront Plaza and the Hudson River waterfront between Battery Park City and Pier 25, as well as in New Jersey from Liberty State Park and the Jersey City waterfront.
Spithill said racing in the New York Harbor poses some unique challenges: Currents are strong in the area and the city’s skyscrapers can affect wind flow and direction. But the competition would be tough in any waters, since all six teams are some of the most elite in the world.
“There can be crashes. Boats get extremely close. It’s very exciting racing that’s right in front of you,” he said.
A month after the races in New York Harbor, the teams will square off again in Chicago. At least three more races are planned for the year, leading up to the final next summer. Great Britain already won the first race of the year, held in Oman last month.
And if the two-day New York race gets you hooked on the sport?
“Bermuda is just a two hour flight away,” Spithill joked.