Dana Johannsen assesses the merits of the six America’s Cup contenders, with qualifiers scheduled to start at the end of May.

The Teams

Defender: Oracle Team USA

Jimmy Spithill

The protagonists for what is widely considered one of the greatest sporting comebacks of all time, Oracle Team USA are chasing the "three-peat" in Bermuda this year-something only one other team has achieved.

They first got their hands on the Auld Mug through a one-on-one Deed of Gift challenge against Alinghi in 2010, retaining the Cup with their stunning (or brutal, if you were a Team New Zealand fan) reversal of form, over coming an 8-1 deficit to take out a 9-8win.


Wily skipper Jimmy Spithill will once again the helm in Bermuda, leading a crew that has a strong Australian influence-so much so, that the team has been sometimes jokingly referred to as Oracle Team AUS.

Of their 14-strong sailing team, nine are Australian, including their key personnel in Spithill, tactician Tom Slingsby and wing-trimmer Kyle Langford.

Oracle, who are headed by five-time America's Cup winner Russell Coutts, have had some what of a shaky build-up to the event, having capsized twice in the space of a month on the Great Sound.

But stability issues aside, the team's boat, USA-17, is looking super quick, and if the team can get their boat handling and manoeuvring under control, they will be tough to beat.

Challengers: Team New Zealand
Skipper Glenn Ashby
One of the most enduring syndicates in America's Cup history, this will be the sixth campaign, and fourth as challenger, for Emirates Team NewZealand.

They return with very different crew to the one that found themselves on the wrong side of the greatest sporting comeback of all time in San Francisco four years ago. Glenn Ashby, the team's chipper Aussie skipper, is the only one of the 2013 crew back on the boat this time, returning in the role of wing trimmer.

Peter Burling, who at 26 is already considered one of thegreatest sailing talents this country has produced, will be at the helm for his first America's Cup campaign,while his Olympic sailing partner Blair Tuke will perform a dual trimming/cyclist role. The trio joined by a rotating cast of cyclists, or "cyclors"-a hybrid of cyclist and sailor-as they have come to call themselves.

Among those providing the pedal power are Andy Maloney, who just missed out on New Zealand's Laser spot for the Rio Olympics, Finn sailor Josh Junior, Guy Endean, Olympic rowing champion Joe Sullivan and former sprint cyclist Simon van Velthoven.


In all, Team NZ will have five Olympic medallists on board from three different sports.

Artemis (Sweden)
Skipper: Nathan Outteridge
Artemis' America's Cup debut in 2013 was overshadowed by the death of British Olympian Andrew Simpson, after their catamaran capsized during a test run before the event.

For theSwedish team, just getting a boat on the water during the challenger series inSan Francisco was a triumph. Led by Iain Percy- who sailed with Simpson in two Olympics - they have emerged as strong contenders.

Artemis will be skippered again by Australian Nathan Outteridge-one of Burling andTuke's rivals in the
Olympic 49er class. Outteridge and Artemis teammate Iain Jensen won gold at the London Olympics, with the young Kiwi pairing taking out silver, beforethe result was reversed at the 2016 Rio Games.

Land Rover Bar (Britain)
Skipper: Ben Ainslie
The Brits are still trying to get their hands on the Auld Mug 166 years after the schooner America won the original race in 1851. Four-time Olympic champion Ben Ainslie, the team's principal, CEO, skipper and namesake, is the latest to take on the challenge.

BAR will start next weekend's America's Cup qualifiers with a two-point advantage after taking out the World Series circuit. But they have looked off the pace in practice racing. Their crew features Kiwi sailors Jono Macbeth and Andrew McLean, but BAR have not endeared themselves to NewZealand fans, after they caused Team NZ significant damage when Ainslie plowed into the back of the Kiwi boat in practice racing last week.

Softbank Team Japan
Skipper: Dean Barker
After his shock departure from Team NZ in 2015, Dean Barker was shoulder-tapped by Oracle boss Russell Coutts to head up a new Japanese syndicate.

Barker took with him a host of former Team NZ personnel, including design chief Nick Holroyd and sailors Jeremy Lomas, Derek Saward and Winston Macfarlane. The new syndicate,which is Japan's first America's Cup challenge in 20 years, have had a close working relationship with Oracle throughout the campaign, with the defender even handing them the blue print to their race boat.

Given their close ties to Oracle, and the experience of Barker and Holroyd, Team Japan are expected to be one of the more formidable challengers.

Groupama Team France
Skipper: Franck Cammas
Groupama Team France is the latest French challenger to the America's Cup but the first in the multihull era, a type of sailing in which French sailors excel.

Team France may have left their run at this campaign a little late, however. They were the last syndicate to lodge their challenge, and have struggled to make up lost ground with their design programme. The French are led by Franck Cammas, a legendary multihull and offs hore sailor with a list of accomplishments that includes wins in the Jules Verne Trophy, Volvo Ocean Race, Route du Rhumand Little America's Cup. There is a small Kiwi connection in Team France,with sailor Adam Minoprio serving as the team's wing trimmer.

Aerial view of Bermuda, the venue for the 35th America's Cup.
Aerial view of Bermuda, the venue for the 35th America's Cup.

The Boat

The 35th America's Cup will be raced in 15 metre (approximately 50 foot) foiling, wing sailed catamarans called the America's Cup Class. These are arguably the most high-performance sailing boats in the world, travelling at three times the windspeed and literally flying above the water.

It took the huge teams of the world's best and brightest boat designers, engineers and builders tens of thousands of hours to design and build these racing machines.

Hull length: 15m
Hull width: 8.48m
Wing height: 24m above the water
Wing area: 101sqm
Sailing weight: 2400kg
Top speed: 48-50knots

The Crew

•Each team has six crew: helmsman, wing trimmer and four grinders (or cyclists in Team NewZealand's case)
• Maximum combined crew weight is 525kg