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Tucker Thompson on the America’s Cup

The venue for this year’s match for the oldest trophy in sports is arguably the most beautiful in the event’s history, and the Public Host of the 35th America’s Cup says it’s not too late to plan an unforgettable trip!

America's CupThe 35th America’s Cup starts next month, and the regatta will be held in Bermuda for the very first time. The Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers and Challenger Playoffs run from May 26 to June 12, 2017 and the America’s Cup Match presented by Louis Vuitton will be held June 17 & 18 and 24 - 27, 2017.

The 50-foot America’s Cup Class (ACC) boats are even faster than their 72-foot predecessors.   Photo: Sam Greenfield/© ORACLE TEAM USA

Tucker Thompson is the Public Host of the 35th America’s Cup, and was one of the TV announcers of the 34th Cup in San Francisco. A veteran sailing commentator, Thompson has hosted over 1,500 sailing shows on T2PTV and live television, and covered the Cup on TV since 2007 in Valencia, Spain. A national award winning TV and video host, producer and public speaker, he’s also a former champion sailor who sailed with America True in the 2000 America’s Cup in New Zealand.

WindCheck: What are your responsibilities as Public Host of the 35th America’s Cup, and is the job as great as it sounds?

Tucker ThompsonTucker Thompson: This job is as great as it sounds! I’ve been involved in four America’s Cups, and I live and breathe the America’s Cup and its history, and what it represents in our sport. For me, to represent it publicly and help deliver the event from a live standpoint – not only at the venues but all over the world – is a dream job. I have ‘pinch me’ moments when I bring the Cup onstage because it has this awe factor like a celebrity…it is a celebrity in our sport. To be involved is a fantastic honor.

As the official Host of the 35th America’s Cup, Tucker Thompson is enjoying his dream job.   © Jim Noble

 

Please tell us about the America’s Cup Tour.

When I’m not hosting the coverage of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series and ultimately the Cup in Bermuda, I’m on a two-year tour of yacht clubs, regattas, boat shows and other venues, giving live multi-media presentations about the America’s Cup. In fact, I recently completed my 100th presentation.

My role is to educate yacht club members and sailors all over the world about the Cup’s history and heritage, how the event got to the point where it is in terms of the revolution of foiling catamarans and exciting television coverage, and ultimately what to expect in Bermuda: where to stay, the America’s Cup Village, how to get access on the water, and the viewing options. So far I’ve Reached over 28,000 people.

We’ve heard that accommodations in Bermuda for the 35th America’s Cup cannot be had for love or money. Is this true, or is it still possible to book a hotel room or a rental house?

It’s a fair assumption on a small island with a limited number of hotel beds that availability is getting limited, and to some extent it is. However, there are still a lot of options available. I’ve been working with a group called Travel Places, the official Travel Package Provider for the America’s Cup. They’ve put together 5-night and 7-night packages during the Qualifier or the Cup Match itself that include a double-occupancy hotel room (you can choose from any number of hotels), on-the-water spectator boat access, airport transfers and America’s Cup merchandise. Their prices are heavily discounted because they’ve bought up so much inventory on the island, and while you may read that a lot of the inventory is not available, it still is for them. Their website is americascuptravel.com.

People who come during the earlier rounds of qualifying will obviously see more racing and more teams, have somewhat better access to the sailors and the racing, and it’s less expensive. Conversely, those who come for the Finals will see the main event. Day 1 of the Cup is always the most exciting because it’s the first time the two teams finally meet.

The America’s Cup also has a partnership with The Moorings yacht charter company. The Moorings is sending a fleet of boats to Bermuda, 48 and 58 feet long and sleeping six and ten respectively. This is a unique option because you get a vacation for a week on a yacht with your family or friends, plus racecourse access and all food and beverages. It’s a spectator boat, lodging and a vacation all built into one package, and it comes with a captain and a chef. That’s a very fun way, particularly for families, to experience the America’s Cup in Bermuda.

What’s the availability of dock space or moorings for those who want to sail to Bermuda for the Cup?

It’s no secret that Bermuda is easy to sail to from multiple locations on the East Coast of the U.S., and the Bermuda government has done a lot to cater to transient yachts that want to travel to Bermuda for the America’s Cup. There are special anchorages, information available online to fast track your access into Bermuda, and spectator boat flags you can display for prime viewing along the racecourse.

Hank Schmitt of Offshore Passage Opportunities is organizing a Rally to the Cup that starts in early June from various ports from Florida to Maine. It’s essentially a cruising rally that arrives in Bermuda before the start of the Cup Finals, and you can learn more at sailopo.com/Rally_to_the_Cup_2017.aspx

What are the options for on-water spectating, and will a spectator boat afford a better view of the action than remaining on shore?

America's Cup Village BermudaThe options include viewing the racing from your own boat, any number of spectator boats that will be available, or one of the Official America’s Cup Spectator Boats. I recommend that people try spending a day on shore to experience the racing from the grandstands in the America’s Cup Village, and spend another day on the water.

The America’s Cup Village is located at the Royal Naval Dockyard.   © ACEA

I believe the spectator boats will typically include food and beverages, so either option gives you a full day’s entertainment. If you’re coming to the Cup, schedule some downtime to explore the island and have some fun. There’s plenty to see and do in Bermuda – golf, sport fishing, scuba diving, etc.

What can we expect at the America’s Cup Village?

One of the reasons Bermuda was chosen as the venue is because they have literally built an island at the Royal Naval Dockyard for the America’s Cup Village. It will have the team bases with public access to the boats and the sailors, concessions, entertainment, VIP hospitality lounges, restaurants, bars, merchandising and grandstand seating, all in one place. You’ll be able to see the whole racecourse from the Cup Village and the finish line will be 100 yards from the grandstands, very much like it was in San Francisco.

What’s the best way to get around on Bermuda?

Regardless of where you stay, I think the best travel option to and from the Cup Village is by water. There are a lot of water taxis available, and an increased ferry schedule. It would take an hour to get from downtown Hamilton to the Cup Village by road, but by water it’s only 15 to 20 minutes.

What other events are happening in conjunction with the America’s Cup?

One of the most exciting times to come to the event will be around the weekend of the Challenger Finals. You’ll see who gets to challenge for the Cup, and in the week between the end of that and the beginning of the Cup Match is the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup [June 20 & 21], which gives sailors age 19 to 24 a chance to race foiling catamarans with the professional Cup teams watching. Eight of the sailors that are currently employed by America’s Cup teams, including Peter Burling, the helmsman of Emirates Team New Zealand, sailed in the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup.

We’ll also have a superyacht regatta and a J Class regatta that week, and I believe this will be the largest collection of J Class yachts ever to have sailed at one time. It’s going to be spectacular! That week is capped off on June 17 and 18 with the first races of the America’s Cup Match itself.  

Is Bermuda embracing the America’s Cup, particularly such things as the AC Endeavour Program for youth sailors?

Yes. One of the reasons I think Bermuda is going to be possibly the best venue that’s ever hosted the America’s Cup is the people of Bermuda. Ever since Bermuda was announced as the venue two years ago the entire island has been buzzing with America’s Cup fever. They’re all talking about it, in taxi cabs, coffee shops, and the tourist shops on Front Street. If that level of excitement is any indicator of how the Cup’s going to be in May and June, we’re in for quite a show.

One of the priorities of this America’s Cup is to leave a lasting legacy in Bermuda well after the event. Whether the Cup stays in Bermuda or not, it will have made a very valuable mark on kids throughout the island through the AC Endeavour Community Sailing Program. They’re already introduced over 2,000 school children to the sport of sailing and a special STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) education program. They’re learning about the marine industry, sailing, and the America’s Cup.

Bermuda Beaches

With beaches like this one at Horseshoe Bay, Bermuda is an ideal place to combine watching the 35th America’s Cup with a memorable family vacation.   © Bermuda Tourism Authority

 

What’s your response to such comments as “Cup racing was better in the 12 Metre era,” “Foiling cats are no good for match racing,” or “This is an exciting international regatta but it’s not the America’s Cup”?

The America’s Cup is always the America’s Cup, and you don’t have to be a fan of one end of racing or the other to appreciate what it is. The 12 Metre era in Newport was fantastic, so were the IACC boats, and so were the AC72s in San Francisco. Now we’re in smaller, 50-foot boats that will be traveling even faster than the AC72s.

There are a lot of people who may still be skeptical about the change to multihulls. It’s exciting, but it is a departure from what people may have traditionally recognized as the America’s Cup in the past. To that I would say that the America’s Cup is more in keeping with its tradition and its original intent today than ever before. It’s the same as it was back in 1851, when a revolutionary pilot schooner called America sailed over to England and beat the best of the British fleet. I often imagine that America must have looked to the British – the yachting superpower at the time – very much like a carbon fiber, wing sail, hydrofoiling catamaran looks to us today.

The Cup has always pushed the envelope of what’s possible in the sport, and this edition is no different. You don’t have to like the catamarans to appreciate that this new class of boat and this new style of racing is really what the America’s Cup is all about. I was a traditional monohull match racer who sailed on the IACC boats on a Cup team in New Zealand, and when they shifted to the catamarans I wasn’t sure where they were headed with such radical changes…until I saw it live in person. Once you see these boats lift up out of the water and reach speeds over 50 miles per hour, it’s truly breathtaking. When you experience it, you realize that they’re really on to the future of our sport.

The 34th America’s Cup in San Francisco was spectacular, and it’ll be a tough act to follow. How will the 35th America’s Cup be different from previous editions, and hopefully the best yet?

It’s going to be the same and different from what we saw in San Francisco. That dramatic finish has been called the greatest comeback in the history of sports. Will we see the same type of drama unfold in Bermuda? Who knows? It’s probably unlikely, although I think this will be one of the most exciting America’s Cups in history. They have equalized a lot of the design factors of the boats including the hulls and the wings, and they’ve also lowered the cost barrier of entry which gives smaller teams more of a fighting chance.

Because of that, any one of these teams can win races, and any one can win an event. In my opinion, this America’s Cup will be one of the closest competitions we’ve ever seen and certainly one of the hardest for ORACLE TEAM USA to defend.

If you’re still on the fence about whether to come to this America’s Cup, consider this: If ORACLE TEAM USA fails to defend the Cup, it’ll very likely go to Great Britain or New Zealand, and that means that the Cup is probably never going to be closer to us than it is now. Bermuda is a two-hour flight from anywhere on the East Coast, and what’s not to like about traveling there to experience what I think is going to be one of the best America’s Cups ever?

Thank you very much Tucker.  See you in Bermuda!


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April WindCheck 2017