For sailing, shopping, dining, and entertainment, Bermuda was a perfect venue for the 35th America’s Cup.
It’s only been a week since the Auld Mug flew south for only the third time in its 166-year history, and here at Sail Couture, we’re already nostalgic for the spectacle and excitement that only a battle between nations for sailing’s most valued prize can provide. Here we offer you a glimpse of what it was like to witness this thrilling event in one of the world’s most spectacular sailing locations.
ETNZ’s dramatic comeback
Fourteen years after losing the America’s Cup and coming achingly close to winning it in San Francisco in 2013, it was thrilling to watch Emirates Team New Zealand best the well-funded tech giant Oracle Team USA in both innovation and sheer sailing skill at the 35th America’s Cup in Bermuda.
There was more than a little feeling of David vs. Goliath between the two teams, the scrappy New Zealanders mounting a campaign with just half of their 2013 budget—and a fraction of OTUSA’s. As the holder of the America’s Cup, OTUSA set the rules in terms of venue, timing, and format, with some decisions that could be construed as stacking the deck against their closest competition. Among them, canceling the planned America’s Cup World Series in Auckland (regattas were held in the home countries of the other challengers) placing the burden of travel on the Kiwis and making it more difficult to secure sponsorship.
ETNZ responded by unveiling innovative design features on their ACC Aotearoa (the Māori name for New Zealand), including a dramatic move to a cycling system to generate hydraulic power for the boat rather than using the traditional grinding pedestals and Glenn Ashby’s Xbox-like wing control mechanism.
Like many American sailing fans, I was conflicted. I wanted to root for my country, but I was concerned about the direction OTUSA hand mapped out for the future. They were taking the Cup further and further from the original Deed of Gift, the governing rules of the regatta. They’d already locked all the other challengers into an agreement where the AC would be sailed every two years in near one design boats, ostensibly making it just another catamaran series. The America’s Cup should be so much more than that and ETNZ has promised to take the AC back to its roots. Therefore, perhaps not so secretly, I was cheering ETNZ.
As in 2013, it was ETNZ serving up a master class in yacht racing and innovation; you may recall that the New Zealanders were first to foil in AC34. It was poetic justice that they were rewarded with a decisive 7-1 victory this time around. Redemption indeed.
“For me, I think the reason we won was because of what happened four years ago. This team has gone through some really tough spots from San Francisco and to be able to reward this team with the America’s Cup is the best feeling, because they are such an incredible team,” said Emirates Team New Zealand helmsman Peter Burling.
It was thrilling to watch these young guns (only one crew member was over 30) rule the course. And a beautiful course it was. Watching those foiling speed machines skate across Bermuda’s azure waters at 47 knots is something I’ll never forget.
Tomorrow’s sailing stars shine in the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup
If you want to know what the future of sailing might look like four years from now, all you have to do is follow the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup. The first ever RBYAC was held in 2013. The winning team was the NZL Sailing Team featuring none other than Peter Burling and ETNZ cyclist and foil trimmer Blaire Tuke! Developed as launching pad to a professional sailing career for talented 18 to 24-year-olds, the RBYAC has clearly achieved its mission.
AC35’s RBYAC featured its share of drama as well. It looked like defending champions NZL Sailing Team would successfully defend their title but at the last moment of the last race, Land Rover BAR Academy passed SVB Team Germany, who had hit the mark, for a second. Land Rover BAR Academy finished with 50 points, just two ahead of NZL Sailing Team in the final standings.
“We had some slightly bleak thoughts for a little while watching on in that final race,” said Land Rover Bar Academy skipper Rob Bunce. “We were just praying for an opportunity from somewhere and then we saw the drama that was unfolding in front of us that was our opportunity. It feels fantastic to be able to bring the trophy home with us.”
I was pleased to see Land Rover BAR Academy win since Great Britain had been so supportive of Sir Ben Ainslie’s challenge. It was a nice touch that Sir Ben was on hand to congratulate the team on the water after the race.
AC Superyacht Regatta: Elegance on the water
By invitation only, the America’s Cup Superyacht Regatta featuring 20 yachts 80 feet and larger offered something for everyone. From the grandeur of the modern 289-foot Maltese Falcon to the charm of the 141-foot historic racing schooner replica Columbia to the elegance of the six J Class yachts, the regatta was a delight for spectators and racers alike.
The yachts were divided into four classes but the America’s Cup Superyacht Trophy could be presented to only one. The overall winner was the 142-foot J Class yacht Lionheart.
J Class Regatta: A nod to a golden age
The J Class Regatta was especially meaningful in Bermuda since it was a bow to a golden age of Cup history. The America’s Cup was contested between J Class yachts three times between 1930 and 1937. These yachts are nothing short of majestic and watching them race is sheer magic.
After her strong showing in the AC Superyacht Regatta, Lionheart was the boat to beat in the following J Class Regatta and she didn’t disappoint. It was a historic moment for sailing; never before had seven J Class sailed together. It was a quite a sight to see, and for this lucky writer, experience. I was thrilled to be aboard Hanuman for a race. More about that in an upcoming article!
Accommodation in Bermuda
There are many beautiful places to stay in Bermuda, but during the America’s Cup two hotels really stood out. Both Fairmont properties, the Hamilton Princess, which served as the official host hotel for the AC and marina for the J Class, and the Southampton Princess for the general resort feel and overall amenities.
The Hamilton Princess is Bermuda’s oldest hotel with a chic new renovation—a successful mélange of classic Bermuda and modern design, particularly art. Modern art lovers will delight in the collection throughout the hotel, featuring works by Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, and Damien Hirst.
Outside, the ever-changing seascape of Hamilton Harbor presents a different kind of art. It was a special treat to enjoy an evening cocktail and gaze upon the seven J Class yachts against the backdrop of the setting sun.
Perched on top of Bermuda’s highest point and boasting a golf course and pink sand beach, the Fairmont Southampton has more of a vacation feel and was a nice counterpoint to the urban vibe at the Hamilton Princess.
The Fairmont Southampton Beach is located adjacent to Bermuda’s most famous one, Horseshoe Bay, often listed in the top 10 of the world. I think the Southampton’s own private beach is just as beautiful and far less crowded, but you have the option of the short walk over to Horseshoe, ideally, before or after the crowds arrive.
Another great accommodation option is BermudaRentals.com, with interesting locations with local context and helpful people.
Dining al fresco
I was based in Hamilton and frequented the restaurants there. Some favorite experiences were the imaginative mahi-mahi with maple za’atar, coconut bamboo rice, fresh peas, baby turnip, and sour orange curry at the refined Barracuda Grill; the exceptional tuna tartare at Red; and local pan-seared rockfish with black rum and banana chutney at The Pickled Onion. Red and The Pickled Onion are neighbors, both with balconies overlooking Front Street, and it was fun to experience a similar view at different times of the day.
Two of my most memorable meals were multi-sensory experiences at seaside restaurants. After enjoying the Fairmont Southampton’s beautiful beach, the Sunset Beach BBQ tempted with island favorites like grilled wahoo, BBQ pork ribs, Caribbean grilled chicken, and calamari salad. The dessert selection beckoned and I answered; the traditional Bermuda rum balls were my favorite.
The grilled seafood platter of local fish, mahi-mahi, shrimp, scallops, and octopus was my choice at Mickey’s Beach Bistro at the Elbow Beach Resort, but it was secondary to the sound of the waves lapping at the beach and a chorus of clinking glasses. It had been a good day for the sailors dining nearby.
After dinner, we walked along the beach and then enjoyed the sounds of local band Bermuda Big Chill on the resort’s Sea Breeze Terrace. The band is inspired by music found in Ibiza, though I wish Bermuda had hours like Ibiza—it ended far too soon! The terrace was rocking, people of all ages having so much fun.
Bermudans are proud of their fish chowder and the Hamilton Princess’s Crown & Anchor serves up a delicious one. I paired it with a favorite wine, the wonderful Mirabeau Rosé. It seemed only appropriate to enjoy a pink wine at the Pink Palace, as the Hamilton Princess is affectionately known.
The Bermuda cocktail forecast was thoroughly Dark ‘n Stormy every day. Each place I visited was anxious to show off their own take on the popular drink.
It became a fun contest to try them all. From ground zero at the Gosling Rum AC35 Lounge (it’s only an authentic Dark ‘n Stormy if made with Gosling’s—you knew that didn’t you?), to parties at the Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club (Oracle Team USA’s home away from home), to beach bars—the Dark ‘n Stormy was the drink of choice.
I’d have to say the ultimate AC35 souvenir is one of the limited edition official America’s Cup Panerai Watches. Available in three styles, they are particularly stylish and meaningful keepsake timepieces.
Another very special option would be a piece from the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Collection. It has some nice masculine offerings like the AC Keepall 45. The sole women’s option would be the unisex Latitude Stole; I do wish Louis Vuitton would include more women’s designs in their America’s Cup Collections. Maybe for AC36!
Barbara Finsness, often called the Martha Stewart of Bermuda, created a wonderful America’s Cup Collection for her Island Shop. The hand painted plates, pillows, and tea towels are delightfully festive and fun.
Local jewelers Walker Christopher Goldsmiths created a limited edition silver Bermuda Racer Christmas ornament can also be made into a pin. Just 50 were made.
As the official style of AC35, Vineyard Vines designed a special collection for the regatta. I like how several pieces incorporate the flags of competing countries, for example, the AC Flag Sails Tie, AC Ring of Flags Tee, and AC Skinny Flag Boats Flip Flops, which feature the competing countries flags.
Bermuda was such a wonderful America’s Cup host. Here are some of my suggestions for a special keepsake unique to the island.
Jewelry designer Alexandra Mosher realized Bermuda didn’t have a native gemstone, so she created one! Her whimsical pink sand jewelry is the quintessential Bermuda souvenir. Many designs feature nautical touches like the Splash Collection Anchor Bracelet and Bermuda Fitted Dinghy Pendent.
Lili Bermuda, the island’s perfumery has many beguiling island fragrances, many influenced by the sea. One was derived from perfume found on a 150-year-old shipwreck off Bermuda! Part of the proceeds from sales of their Mary Celestia perfume goes to fund the preservation of Bermuda’s shipwreck heritage. The website has a fun quiz to find out what fragrance is right for you.
Tina Gosling created a fun line of shirts featuring sailboats, rum, and island life. They are carried by Coral Coast, a clothing company founded by two friends inspired by the Bermuda lifestyle.
The island’s luxury fashion destination Lusso has many exquisite items. I was immediately drawn to the designer bag selection in shades of Bermuda pink but was thrilled to learn about something uniquely Bermuda. Pucci has immortalized the island’s Gombey folk dancers with a scarf!
Art is always a lovely way to remember a special trip and Bermuda artist Rhona Emmerson paints seascapes that capture the beauty of the island.
Beyond the race
Like many San Franciscans, I felt AC35 should have been held again on Oracle Team USA’s home waters of San Francisco Bay, or at the very least, in the United States. But once on site, Bermuda completely charmed me with the cerulean water, colorful architecture, and remarkably happy and friendly people. I hope that ETNZ continues the AC World Series program leading up to the next America’s Cup and selects Bermuda as a host venue.
Although the US has lost the Cup for now, there is much to be excited about, not the least of which is that ETNZ has announced Luna Rossa as the challenger of record for AC36. Both teams have signaled a desire to return to a more traditional interpretation of the deed of gift, which is great news.
Headed by Prada CEO Patrizio Bertelli, Luna Rossa cut a stylish swath through SF Bay. Their gleaming hulls and futuristic uniforms were missed this time around. Sailing fashionistas rejoice, cheers to AC36!