Everything you need to know about the 2021 America's Cup

The 36th America's Cup between Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa of Italy will take place this month in Auckland, New Zealand.

By ZK Goh

The 36th America's Cup – one of sailing's most prestigious events and the oldest trophy in international sport – is set to get underway later this month in Auckland, New Zealand, as Emirates Team New Zealand takes on Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team of Italy.

Originally scheduled from 6–15 March, the series between the two teams, each representing yacht clubs in their respective home countries, will now start no earlier than 10 March in and around Waitematā Harbour.

There is no shortage of Olympians taking part in the race, either, with both teams having a wealth of experience among their crews.

Here are five things you should know about this year's America's Cup.

Brief history of the America's Cup

The America's Cup was founded in 1851 by the Royal Yacht Squadron, a club based on the Isle of Wight in southern England.

The trophy is so named after the winner of that first race, the New York Yacht Club's America. Due to this, the 1870 race – when the New York Yacht Club defeated the Royal Thames Yacht Club – is considered the first America's Cup.

Challenges for the trophy are held at irregular intervals; excluding the 1851 race, the first 25 America's Cups were held over a span of 113 years; since 1987 (the 26th challenge), there have been 11 challenges. Two challenges – in 1871 and 1988 – have come within a year of the previous America's Cup.

The America's Cup has seen one of the longest winning streaks in all of sport; including the inaugural race, the New York Yacht Club won 25 series in a row from 1851 to 1980. They were finally defeated in the 25th challenge in 1983 by Australia's Royal Perth Yacht Club.

In recent years, the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron has been the most successful club, winning three of the last seven America's Cups.

The two teams involved this year actually met in the 2000 America's Cup (although Luna Rossa represented a different club that year), with Emirates Team New Zealand winning 5–0.

Teams involved and key men to watch

Two teams will compete for the 36th America's Cup: Emirates Team New Zealand, representing the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, and Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team, representing Italy's Circolo della Vela Sicilia yacht club.

Luna Rossa was selected as the final challenger to Emirates Team New Zealand after winning the Prada Challenger's Trophy last month.

The Italians beat the New York Yacht Club's American Magic team in a 4-0 semi-final sweep, before a stunning 7-1 final series victory against hot favourites and round-robin winners INEOS Team UK, led by the most-decorated Olympic sailor Ben Ainslie.

Luna Rossa's yacht, also named Luna Rossa, is jointly helmed by Francesco Bruni and Jimmy Spithill. Bruni is a three-time Italian Olympian, while two-time sailing world champion Spithill is no stranger to success in the America's Cup, having skippered Oracle Team USA to wins in 2010 and 2013.

Antigua and Barbuda's Shannon Falcone is the only other member of Luna Rossa with an America's Cup triumph under his belt, having been part of Spithill's crew in 2013.

Olympic 49er champion Peter Burling returns to helm defending champions Emirates Team New Zealand, having become the youngest helmsman to win the America's Cup in 2017. His Olympic crewmate Blair Tuke is also back for a second crack as the team's flight controller.

Beijing 2008 silver medallist Glenn Ashby retains his spot as Emirates Team New Zealand's skipper, while they can also count on Commonwealth Games, world, and Olympic medal-winning track cyclist Simon van Velthooven in their ranks.

2021 America's Cup format

Each club will use AC75-class foiling monohulls measuring – as the name suggests – 75 feet (22.86 metres) in length.

Each yacht can attain top speeds of around 50 knots (around 90 km/h), with Te Rehutai, Emirates Team New Zealand's yacht for the contest, recording 49.1 knots while sailing in December during the America's Cup World Series.

The two yachts will race in a head-to-head best-of-13 match race series in and around Auckland Harbour, off the eastern coast of the city. The first yacht to seven points will clinch the 36th America's Cup.

Five courses, each around 1.7 nautical miles (around 3 km) long, have been prepared for the series. They are all located in the Hauraki Gulf in or near the harbour, allowing for public viewing from land.

2021 America's Cup schedule

The 13-race series was due to be held from 6–15 March, with races on 6, 7, 10, 12, 13, 14 and 15 March. However, the first four races in the series – two races each on the first two scheduled race-days – have been postponed to a later date due to increased anti-coronavirus restrictions in Auckland.

Organisers have indicated no races will be held prior to 10 March, when two races are set to take place.

While the original plan was to race in front of spectators – New Zealand has allowed in-person attendance at sporting events with few restrictions for a few months – the America's Cup organisers have said they will ask for an allowance to race under local "Level 3" restrictions without fans "so as to keep as many options open as possible".

On race days, the first race is scheduled for 03:12 UTC / GMT (16:12 local time), and on days with two races the second race is set to get underway an hour after the first.

Tentative race schedule

All times are New Zealand Daylight Time (UTC / GMT +13 hours). Correct as of 1 March 2021.

Port side team listed first; starboard side team listed second

10 March 2021

Race 1 (4:12 pm) Emirates Team New Zealand – Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team

Race 2 (5:12 pm) Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team – Emirates Team New Zealand

12 March 2021

Race 3 (4:12 pm) Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team – Emirates Team New Zealand

Race 4 (5:12 pm) Emirates Team New Zealand – Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team

13 March 2021

Race 5 (4:12 pm) Emirates Team New Zealand – Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team

Race 6 (5:12 pm) Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team – Emirates Team New Zealand

14 March 2021

Race 7 (4:12 pm) Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team – Emirates Team New Zealand

Race 8 (5:12 pm) Emirates Team New Zealand – Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team

15 March 2021

Race 9 (4:12 pm) Emirates Team New Zealand – Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team

Four races to be rescheduled from 6 and 7 March.

Fan attendance, ticket, and broadcast info for the 36th America's Cup

Although affected by Auckland's local Covid-19 restrictions, spectator access to the races is otherwise free-of-charge from the Auckland waterfront.

There is an America's Cup Village open to the public (restrictions allowing) in the city, with access to the team bases of all teams involved. Big screens have also been set up for public viewing.

Should fans eventually be allowed for the race series, hospitality packages are on sale.

The series will also be broadcast online on the America's Cup website, Facebook, and YouTube, as well as on selected broadcasters on television around the world.