What it’s Like to Race an America’s Cup Yacht

In one word, racing an America’s Cup yacht is Thrilling. In two, it’s Really fast! And in four words, it’s Once in a lifetime or A bucket list item

Formula One Sailing Yachts are Fast Yachts

Racing on an America’s Cup yacht is akin to Formula One car racing. Both sports involve high-powered vehicles, advanced technologies, high speeds, incredible precision, and international fame.

Through the years, America’s Cup yachts have evolved from wooden schooners (a.k.a. America, the very first “defender” of the trophy) and foiling multihulls to foiling monohulls (the boats to be raced in the 2021 America’s Cup Regatta in Auckland, New Zealand). Each reigning defender of the “Auld Mug” is entitled to defining the materials and technologies that can be used for each yacht to compete for the next America’s Cup Regatta. Due to this evolution, racing an America’s Cup varies from generation to generation.

International America’s Cup Challenger Class Yachts

USA 76 is an International America’s Cup Challenger (IACC) class yacht. There were 101 IACC yachts built over seventeen years and used as trial and race boats for the 28th, 29th, 30th, 31st, 32nd America’s Cup regattas. The very first IACC yacht was an Italian trial yacht, ITA 1, built in March of 1990. Built in 2001, USA 76 was the 76th IACC hull produced. The BMW ORACLE Racing team used her in the 2002-2003 Louis Vuitton Cup in New Zealand.

A Carbon Fiber Boat Built for Speed

Several unique features of the IACC Class set them apart from typical race yachts of their time. These same features also set the class apart from race yachts seen on the water today. USA 76’s carbon fiber construction, large sail area, and the ability to sail within 25° off the True wind make her an incredible ride. 

One of the first things most passengers notice upon stepping aboard USA 76, is the height of her mast. Towering 115 ft above the deck of the boat, and high above Pier 39, she boasts four sets of spreaders and titanium shrouds. Her current sail area totals 2,800 sq ft. To maximize power and speed. She also needs this “horsepower” to pull the hull through the water. 

 From the waterline up, USA 76 weights 10,000 lbs. From the waterline down, she weighs 40,000 lbs. Attached to a fin keel in the shape of a torpedo, the keel is solid lead. This weight helps to stabilize the yacht while going through the water. It also offsets her incredible sail area. 

USA 76 is maximized for speed! With the bulk of the yacht constructed of carbon fiber – even the steering wheels – she’s feather-light. Her narrow bow is concave and the hull-to-deck joint is rounded to allow airflow. In the original design, her keel was canting, and hydraulics powered many of the boat’s systems. At the height of her racing career, all of these features were top of the line and new technologies.

Sailboat racing on San Francisco 

Friday Night Racing at South Beach Yacht Club

All of these features combined make racing this America’s Cup yacht an incredible experience! She glides through the water in light and strong winds providing sure and stable footing for passengers. Upwind, she sees nine knots of boat speed at 25° off the true wind. She sails at 19° off the apparent wind and can sail in a line nearly direct to her destination. As the boat powers up, she settles into a 27° heel angle, and you may find yourself firmly holding onto the stainless steel life rails for balance. Top speeds going downwind are around 15 knots and the deck will flatten out.

On a mild to very windy day, USA 76 accelerates across the San Francisco Bay in no time. With Captain Jon or Captain Pete at the helm, we’ll zip around the course beside other San Francisco racers, all competing for First Place.

Do you want to experience racing on America’s Cup Yacht USA 76? In the fall and winter, we compete in the Golden Gate mid-winter regattas. In the summer, we race in the South Beach Yacht Club’s Friday night beer can series. Take a look at our calendar, and be sure to book your tickets asap. Race days fill up quick!