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Formula One on water

Ever since the 2017 America’s Cup was awarded to Bermuda last December the buzz has gradually built into a crescendo. There has been a real feel good atmosphere around the island supressing the negativity of poor economic conditions, the countries debt and record unemployment.

However the 2017 America’s Cup has already seen some green shoots of recovery with new hotels under, or ready to start, construction and hundreds of competitors and their families already living here and bringing a boost to the island’s economy.

This weekend the island, particularly the capital Hamilton was fully decked out to celebrate the The Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series. This is a qualifying race for the main event in two years time.

All of the America’s Cup teams took part racing one-design AC45 catamarans, and the circuit is an early opportunity to win points and determine the starting points score of the teams in the America’s Cup Qualifiers in 2017.

Each of the teams host at least one event with races already taken part in Portsmouth and Gothenburg. Four to six races are expected next year, which will also include one on Lake Michigan in Chicago.

Current champions Team Oracle picked Bermuda as it’s host venue and moved their base here a couple of months ago and because we have done some work with them, I have been lucky to tour their incredible facility at Dockyard and meet their inspirational skipper, Aussie Jimmy Spithill.

So it was Team Oracle that I cheered for this weekend, whilst my daughter picked the Swedish owned Artemis Racing and the other half flipped her team depending on the winners, which prompted me to have a sit down with our daughter explaining that sports teams come into your life, you don’t go into theirs.

The opening ceremony was on Friday and went off without a hitch but sadly the lack of wind put pay to any racing on Saturday, and the two 20-minute races were cancelled. This was a shame for the huge crowd that gathered at Hamilton Harbour’s edge where the races were meant to finish.

We were there too, but still enjoyed the festival spirit with the main road arteries pedestrianized and every balcony bar and restaurant doing a roaring trade. We were home by the time Maxi Priest and Shaggy came onto stage for the late night concert, and despite the light rain reports were of big crowds and a party atmosphere, just what Bermuda was hoping for in the dress rehearsal for 2017.

Today the races were moved out into the Great Sound away from Hamilton but the 20 knot winds were perfect conditions and three races took place on a triangular course. We drove out to get a vantage point but were unable to really make out the first race so whizzed home to watch the excellent TV coverage for races two and three. BBC and BT Sport have won the rights for the 2017 Americas Cup coverage by the way.

The way these wingsail catamaran’s fly through the air on single blade foils is incredible, it’s fantastic to watch as they fly at twice the speed of the wind. It’s hard to compare it is like Formula One on water.

My team Oracle won the first race in a close finish, and Artemis the second but not before it crashed into an umpire’s boat just after the start. The commentator said that both boats would have been travelling at 20mph at impact. Fortunately no one was hurt, but Artemis’ boat was severely damaged. The race was cancelled and 10 minutes later Artemis, with their boat patched up, got off to a fast start and amazingly won the race.

The third race was won by Emirates Team NZ, but with Artemis coming in 3rd meant that they won the overall Bermuda Regatta. And after the three World Series events Emirates Team NZ lead.

This weekend certainly wet the whistle for big one in 2017.

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