Understanding The America’s Cup Fascination With Time
The America’s Cup, the world’s oldest international sporting trophy, first became a serious topic in the world of watches back in 2003, when Audemars Piguet became the partner of Cup challenger Alinghi.
It was in this year that the Swiss team Alinghi, headed up by Ernesto Bertarelli racing under the colors of the Société Nautique de Genève (SNG), won the thirty-first America’s Cup.
This was primarily made possible because, as of that edition of the famous regatta, the nationality rule stipulating that all of the crew members must be nationals of the challenging syndicate had been removed. Bertarelli was able to hire many of the crew who had won the last America’s Cup for New Zealand, including skipper Russell Coutts.
Bertarelli brought the Cup back to Europe with his boat Alinghi for the first time in the history of this legendary regatta, going back to the premier race in 1851 around the Isle of Wight.
Bertarelli’s team then successfully defended the title in the race’s 2007 edition, which was held in Valencia, Spain. Generally, the rule is that the next America’s Cup will be held in the country of the previous year’s winner. But since Switzerland is landlocked (it does not border a “sea or arm of the sea” as specified in the Deed of Gift of the America’s Cup, the primary document governing the race’s rules), another solution had to be found – making it the first time that the America’s Cup regatta had been ever held in a country different from that of the defending champion.
Naturally, Audemars Piguet, as the official partner, commemorated the achievements with a number of limited editions.
Bertarelli’s successful bids with his Alinghi made the America’s Cup an event with new-found pull in the watch world.
Louis Vuitton Cup
We often hear about the Louis Vuitton Cup in conjunction with the America’s Cup.
This series of races was used as the Cup challenger selection series for the main event between 1983 and 2013. And four out of the eight winners of the Louis Vuitton Cup subsequently won the America’s Cup.
In 2013, the challenger selection series was re-branded as the America’s Cup World Series when Louis Vuitton pulled out as the main sponsor.
Louis Vuitton is now back in, and the Louis Vuitton Cup is now back on – as evidenced by the large LV logo found on the sails of every competing boat.
It’s up to Oracle Team USA to defend its title in 2017, when the America’s Cup takes place in Bermuda. The U.S. team will go up against the winner of the Louis Vuitton Cup.
America’s Cup Number 35
Preliminary races have been held over the last few months in Portsmouth, England and Gothenburg, Sweden. A third preliminary race is just drawing to a close in Bermuda.
Originally there were seven challengers. However, the Hamilton Island Yacht Club (Australia) withdrew in July 2014, citing unanticipated costs in mounting its challenge.
When a smaller 48-foot wingsail foiling catamaran class rule amendment was made in April 2015, the Italian Luna Rossa team also withdrew, citing significant finances wasted on the development of the previously admitted larger vessel.
This leaves Artemis Racing (Sweden), Emirates Team New Zealand, Land Rover Ben Ainslie Racing (Great Britain), Groupama Team France, and SoftBank Team Japan as the challengers.
Lasting impact in watch marketing
Alinghi became the first European team in 152 years of the event’s history to win the Cup. This was a big deal, and it reverbated – throughout Switzerland – especially in the halls and meeting rooms of the watch factories.
In this thirty-fifth edition of the America’s Cup, we see a number of watch brands involved aside from principal sponsor, Louis Vuitton. Beginning with Ulysse Nardin, the timing partner of Artemis Racing. For the lowdown on that partnership – one that marks the very first time the Le Locle-based brand has ever sponsored a sporting team – please see Ulysse Nardin’s First Sponsorship: Artemis Racing, Iain Percy, And The America’s Cup.
Omega is partnered with Emirates Team New Zealand, while Bremont has become the timing partner for the defending champion, Oracle Team USA. Which also makes the English brand the official timing partner of the America’s Cup since Oracle as the returning champion is also the organizer of the event.
This very old sporting event is often called the Formula 1 of the seas as its vessels become ever more high-tech.
I’m reporting live from Bermuda as a guest of Ulysse Nardin to experience the Artemis Racing team in action. Stay tuned for more on that as soon as the boats hit the water in the official competition.