America’s Cup preliminary races: When are they? What’s the format and schedule? Which teams are competing?

The road to the 37th America’s Cup starts this September as teams take part in the preliminary regattas.

Having been first contested in 1851, the America’s Cup is the oldest trophy in international sport.

Emirates Team New Zealand are the defending champions after winning in 2021, but will they lift the trophy again next year?

We run through all you need to know ahead of the preliminary races.

What is the America’s Cup?

The America’s Cup is an international sailing competition that has usually been held every three to four years.

This year the race will feature six teams.

What are the America’s Cup preliminary races?

The 37th America’s Cup starts with preliminary regattas in Vilanova i la Geltru, Spain (September 14-17), Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (November 29-December 2), and Barcelona, Spain (August 2024).

These regattas are warm-up matches for the competition getting under way next summer.

The preliminary regattas will see racing across four days to decide the top two teams who will contest the match race final.

The first two regattas will be raced in strict one-design AC40 boats while the third regatta will see all teams race in AC75 boats.

Each AC40 teams will consist of four sailors with two helms steering from the forward ‘pod’ and two crew members responsible for sail and foil trim sitting in the aft pods. The AC75 boats will have eight sailors.

The preliminary regattas have no bearing on the result of the America’s Cup, but provide a look at the form of the boats and the approach of the different teams.

“All the teams are looking forward to lining up in the AC40 against other teams because it’ll give us a good read and a good yardstick on just how our sailors are doing in terms of their technique and the sharpness of their racing skills,” said Jeff Causey, INEOS Britannia’s boat operations manager.

“It’ll also give us some good feedback on some of the things that we think are fast about the way you sail an AC40; everything from bustle clearance to sail trim. We’ll get a chance to measure those things when AC40s line up against other AC40s.”

What is the preliminary race schedule?

There will be eight races contested in the first preliminary regatta in Vilanova i la Geltru followed by the final.

The first day on September 14 will be for official practice.

The schedule is as follows:

  • Thursday, September 14: Official practice
  • Friday, September 15: Three races
  • Saturday, September 16: Three races
  • Sunday, September 17: Two races followed by the final

Racing will start at 2.30pm UK time each day.

The schedule for the second and third preliminary races in Saudi Arabia and Barcelona will be released closer to the time.

How does the America’s Cup work?

After the preliminary events it’s onto the Challenger Selection Series.

This is where the America’s Cup kicks into gear as five teams compete against each other in a series of one-on-one match races to see who will earn the right to meet defending champions Emirates New Zealand in the America’s Cup match.

The five challenging teams start by facing each other twice, with the top four advancing to the semi-finals. The winners of the semis reach the final, and the winner of the final advances to the 37th America’s Cup match against Emirates New Zealand.

The Challenger Selection Series will take place across summer in 2024, but dates are yet to be confirmed.

The America’s Cup match featuring Emirates New Zealand and the winner of the Challenger Selection Series will start on October 12, 2024.

How does America’s Cup scoring work?

In the preliminary races each team will get points depending where they finish in each race.

The two top-scoring teams will advance to the final.

To decide the America’s Cup next year, the winner of the Challenger Selection Series will meet Emirates New Zealand in a 13-race match.

The winner of each race scores one point, the other team scores zero points, and the first team to score seven points wins the cup.

What are the America’s Cup teams?

The six teams for this edition of the America’s Cup are:

  • INEOS Britannia (UK)
  • Alinghi Red Bull Racing (Switzerland)
  • Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli (Italy)
  • American Magic New York Yacht (USA)
  • Orient Express Racing Team (France)
  • Emirates New Zealand (New Zealand)

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