Ten obscure America’s Cup facts

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Four years after decisively winning the 35th edition of the America’s Cup in Bermuda, Team New Zealand will begin the defence of the oldest sporting trophy in the world on the Waitematā Harbour today when they come up against Italy’s Luna Rossa.

Team NZ trialling their new America's Cup boat Te Rehutai on the Waitemata Harbour, 2020.


Team New Zealand toppled Oracle from San Francisco’s Golden Gate Yacht club 7-1 in the final to claim the Auld Mug for the third time.

The win in Bermuda dimmed the memories of 2013 when Team New Zealand blew a seemingly unassailable 8-1 lead to go down 8-9.

Australian Jimmy Spithill was at the helm of Oracle in 2013 and 2017, and he’s back to torment Team New Zealand in 2021, this time at the helm of Luna Rossa.

The final series is the best of 13 races with two races scheduled on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday and each day after that until either team reaches seven wins.

The first race is due to start at 3.15pm on Wednesday.

Finlay Dunseath digs up 10 obscure America’s Cup facts:

1. Spithill denied chance to make history

Luna Rossa’s Jimmy Spithill has the joint highest America’s Cup race wins as a skipper.

Former Oracle skipper, Jimmy Spithill.

Former Oracle skipper, Jimmy Spithill. Photo: Photosport

Spithill is tied with New Zealand legend Sir Russell Coutts on 14 races, however with Max Sirena taking on the role of skipper for Luna Rossa the Australian won’t have the chance to take the record in Auckland.

Coutts reached his record with a flawless record of 14 wins without a loss while Spithill has lost 16 races with eight of those losses coming in the 2013 America’s Cup.

2. The ‘Old’ Mug

With the first America’s Cup being sailed in 1851, the race is 45 years older than the modern Olympics, making it the oldest international trophy in sports history.

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By the time the first modern Olympics were held in Athens in 1896, there had already been nine contests held for the America’s Cup.

The prestige of the long running competition plays a big part in the Cup’s ability to attract the world’s finest sailors and designers.

3. The American Dream

In 1851, the America’s Cup was first known as the Hundred Guinea Cup, run by the Royal Yacht Squadron of Great Britain the Cup saw 16 yachts race around the Isle of Wight.

Replica of 'The America" schooner

Replica of ‘The America” schooner Photo: Photosport

A far cry from the mechatronic behemoths of today’s sailing, the cup was won by a 100-foot schooner named ‘America’ from New York Yacht Club, and subsequently became known as the America’s Cup.

The America was manned by a syndicate of wealthy businessmen from New York who sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to compete.

After winning the cup they sold the schooner for a sum of $25,000, $5000 more than they paid for it.

4. The Brits can’t catch a break

Although the competition’s first ever race took place in the English seaport town of Cowes, a British syndicate has never won the America’s Cup, despite challenging 16 times.

The USA hold the record of 23 wins, while New Zealand have won three times, Switzerland twice and Australia once.

The Brits will have to wait even longer to get another shot as in 2021 even Sir Ben Ainslie, the most decorated sailor in Olympic history, could not guide Team UK to their first challenge since 1964.

5. USA’s winning run for the ages

The United States held the America’s Cup for a whopping 132 years until Australia and the Royal Perth Yacht Club triumphed in 1983.

Prior to Australia’s win the New York Yacht Club had successfully defended the Cup 25 times in a row.

During their decades-long period of domination the USA won a ridiculous 77 races from a total of 84 races.

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6. Beginner’s Luck

Team New Zealand gained their maiden America’s Cup victory with their first ever challenge.

Sir Russell Coutts lifts the Auld Mug.

Sir Russell Coutts lifts the Auld Mug. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

In 1995, legendary sailors Sir Peter Blake and Sir Russell Coutts led Team New Zealand to an astounding 5-0 victory over Sail America in San Diego.

As their NZL 32 yacht approached the finish line, sailing commentator Peter Montgomery coined the famous line ‘The America’s Cup is now New Zealand’s Cup.’

Team New Zealand’s winning yacht was donated to Te Papa Museum and can now be found in the National Maritime Museum in Auckland.

7. Hammer Time

In 1996 the Cup trophy was seriously vandalised by 28-year-old New Zealand student, Benjamin Peri Nathan, who reportedly hit the trophy 50 times with a hammer.

Nathan, a Māori activist, explained that he committed the act of vandalism because he believed the Cup symbolised the oppression of the Māori people and he was angered that none of the money from the Cup would trickle down into indigenous communities.

Nathan went on to change his name to Penehamine​ Netana-Patuawa and became a film director, he even tried to fund his creative ventures by selling pieces of memorabilia on Trade Me commemorating his vandalism.

8. Hometown struggles

Surprisingly Team New Zealand Skipper Glenn Ashby grew up in a landlocked area of Australia.

Glenn Ashby skipper of Emirates Team NZ.

Glenn Ashby skipper of Emirates Team NZ. Photo: Getty Images

Despite his reputation as one of the most respected members of the America’s Cup, growing up in Bendigo, Victoria, Ashby had to learn to sail on a nearby lake that was often almost dry.

Carlos Huisman, the other international member of Team New Zealand, had no such trouble growing up in Friesland, Netherlands where canals and lakes are abundant.

9. Travelling in style

The America’s Cup trophy has its own travel box and typically has its own seat on any plane in which it is flown, where it is accompanied by a cup minder to ensure it remains safe.

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The trophy even received a first-class seat for it’s flight back to New Zealand after receiving significant repairs in the UK to reverse the aforementioned damage.

The Auld Mug was crafted three years before the first America’s Cup in 1848 by Royal Jeweller Robert Garrard of London.

The first Marquess of Anglesey was the first owner and went on to gift it to the Royal Yacht Squadron to use as their racing trophy.

10. Man of the seas

Team New Zealand’s Grant Dalton has sailed around the world seven times.

Grant Dalton

Grant Dalton Photo: © Chris Cameron 2013

Dalton started sailing at the age of just 8-years-old and has gone on to circumnavigate the world seven times with the first coming in the 1981/82 Whitbread Round the World Race on board the winning Dutch yacht Flyer II.

One of his most memorable circumnavigations came as he took on the role of skipper in Club Med’s 62-day winning sprint around the world.

Dalton, who is now the Team New Zealand chief executive, also boasts five America’s Cups to his name and will be hoping to add another in Auckland.


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