America's Cup FAQ

(Frequently Axed Questions)


Q. How much do the winners receive?

A. Absolutely nothing... Just the trophy, fame, and the right to defend.


Q.  Why would they put themselves through this, if there is no money involved?

A.  If you were a real sailor, you wouldn't have to ask that - you would understand.


Q. How is the winner determined.   

A. It is a best of nine series.  The first boat to win five races is the America's Cup champion.


Q. What if it's a tie?

A.  It's a best of nine, stupid!


Q. What kind of course do they race on?

A.  It is an Olympic style course with a windward and leeward mark.  It is comprised of 6 legs (3 windward, 3 leeward) of 3.00 to 3.25 nautical miles per leg.  The entire course measures 18.5 nautical miles.


Q. What kind of boats are raced for the Cup?

A. Twelve Metre yachts.


Q.  What the heck is a twelve metre yacht?  Is it 12 metres long?

A.  The twelve metre actually refers to a complex formula applied by the official measurer.  It takes into account length  (LWL), beam, sail area, etc...  The boats are actually about 24 meters in length with a beam of about 4.3 meters.  They have a draft of 4.00 metres and displace about 24,000 Kg.


Click here for an explanation of 12-Metre Formula



Q. How much do the boats cost?

A.  Roughly 2 million dollars U.S.  A mast costs about $750,000 and a spinnaker can run about $60,000.


Q. What is Italy's national flag?

A.  The Protest Flag!


Q. How long is the starting line?

A.  200 metres.


Q.  What are those yellow and blue flags that the boats fly  from the stern of the boat?

A.  Those flags indicate which side of the course the boats enter the starting area from.  The boat with the yellow flag enters from the committee boat side of the course on a starboard tack.  The boat with the blue flag enters from the pin end on a port tack.  The starboard tack boat has the right of way.  The port tack boat must give way.  Each race, the boats alternate between entering on the port and the favoured starboard tack.


Q.  Who played Lumpy on Leave it to Beaver?

A.  Frank Bank.


Q. What is the Louis Vuitton Cup?

A.  The Louis Vuitton Cup is the trophy awarded to the winner of the challenger series, that determines who challenges the defender for the America's Cup.


Q. Who can enter the Louis Vuitton Cup?

A.  Anybody with $50,000,000.


Q.  How many crew are on a twelve metre boat?

A.  There are 16 crew.  A "seventeenth man" is allowed to ride along as a spectator, but cannot assist the crew in any way.


Q. Why do the boats have two wheels?

A.  The helmsman will steer using either the port or starboard wheel, depending on which tack or gybe the boat is on.  It allows him to see around the sails.


Q. What's the deal with winged keels?

A.  This is a feature introduced several years ago.  It was invented by Ben Lexcen (although this is under dispute). This was a revolution that allowed the Australians to steal the Cup and bring Dennis Conner much notoriety.  The wings provide hydrodynamic lift (like an airplane wing).  This allows better handling of the boat, and allows it to point higher (sail closer to, or more directly at the wind).  It was a major revolution in boat building, and heralded a new era in America's Cup competition.  It somewhat took the emphasis off of sailing and turned it into a design competition.


Q. What's the next new revolution in boat design?

A.  Apparently, the Kiwi's have a new bow design that features a distinct knuckle at the waterline. This shape is understood to break the water more cleanly. Conventional bows send out a slight roll of water ahead of them, so the yacht is always presented with a small wave to climb. The Kiwi bow shapes are about eliminating, or at least reducing, that barrier.


Q. Are there any other design revolutions?

A.  WHEN New Zealand's defence of the America's Cup commences, their rivals from Italy's Prada team will get their first look at 'The Device', an attachment to the mast designed to promote additional performance. The New Zealanders already have the Cup's most novel mast - which has been dubbed the Millennium Rig - and The Device will represent a last refinement. It will added just before the match to prevent the Italians copying it. 

"We can't say too much about what it will be like or what it will do, but all will be revealed in the first race," said Simon Daubney, the sail trimmer, who has been a key figure in its development. 

The Device has only been used in secret tests to date. It will take the form of a short top spreader, below the long jumper struts of the Team New Zealand boat. This means that the rig will use just three spreaders, instead of the normal four, to supply its bracing. The rigging is also highly unusual in that the rods criss-cross from side to side against the line of the mast. 

A normal configuration looks a little like a Christmas tree, but the rigging of the Kiwi boat produces a series of X's, one above the other. The idea is to produce an extra-stiff mast for superior upwind performance. "Effectively, it is a six-spreader rig - but with only three spreaders," explained Sir Peter Blake, who is in charge of the Team New Zealand defence. 

The Kiwis appear to have a second trick up their sleeve, by now being able to set the powerful Code 0 sails developed by Lawrie Smith and Paul Cayard in the last Whitbread Race. With extra-wide struts at the top of the masts, the Kiwis can support such powerful sails, though Prada has so far shown no sign of copying the move.


Q. Why all the emphasis on boat design?

A.  These boats are so closely matched in speed, that being able to squeak of a fraction of a knot more boat speed, can mean the difference between winning and losing.


Q. What's the difference between a "bear away" and a "gybe set"?

A. A 'bear away set' occurs when you place the pole and the spinnaker such that when you round the windward mark (on port tack in match racing), you can bear away to a port-gybe run.

However, on the other hand, a 'gybe set' occurs when you have the pole set in such a way that you can round the mark, gybe, and then set the spinnaker on a starboard-gybe run.  This is usually accomplished  by setting the pole up 'underneath' the genoa, adjusting the mast-end of the pole to the correct height, and then leveling it off after the gybe.  However, due to the fact that you need to gybe before the hoist, it takes longer than a standard set.  Also, in boats the size of the IACC yachts, on a bear-away you can hoist the head near the top of the mast before rounding, when gybe-setting, this becomes impossible.