Chicago, June 15, 2016 – At 165 years, the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup is the world’s oldest international sporting trophy. The international racing competition features the world’s best sailors competing on foiling, wingsailed catamarans that can reach speeds of up to 40 knots (46mph or 74 km/hr). The latest series which kicked off 2016 in Oman in late February, landed stateside last month. The New York race in early May was followed by Chicago on the June 10-12 weekend. It’s the first time the race has been held on freshwater and the third of six races that see the series continuing on to Portsmouth, Toulon, and Japan this year – ahead of the finals in Bermuda on June 17-27, 2017.
We were very fortunate to have been invited to Chicago by the British Land Rover BAR Team. In third place overall going into Chicago, Land Rover BAR are one of six teams competing including reigning champions Oracle Team USA and the Groupama Team France, Softbank Team Japan, Artemis Racing Sweden, and Emirates Team New Zealand. The five-man teams consist of a helmsman, bowman, grinder, trimmer, and wing trimmer. Like every other sport, there are more actual ‘players’ than the five on the ‘field’. The Chicago race was led by team principle and skipper Sir Ben Ainslie and his crew Paul Campbell-James, David Carr, Nick Hutton, and Ed Powys.
What we learned quickly was that Land Rover doesn’t just write a cheque for the right to slap their logo on the catamaran’s wing. They are an actual innovation partner at Land Rover BAR, having teamed up with Ben Ainslie Racing (BAR) back in July 2015. Advanced engineering, design and technology play a key role in Land Rover’s development of class-leading great British vehicles. Jaguar Land Rover’s highly skilled engineers deliver a combination of advanced engineering and innovative technological solutions to give the team performance advantages in a sport driven by marginal gains. More specifically, Jaguar Land Rover provides resources and expertise in keys areas of development in aerodynamics and performance simulations, control system development, and machine learning (AI).
The weekend kicked off on Thursday with thunderstorm warnings which grounded the team for the day. Not a problem, Land Rover BAR issued a challenge to Chicago Bulls basketball player Bobby Portis, for an afternoon of indoor activity. The 21-year old newly relocated Chicago player who has recently left the University of Arkansas’ Razerbacks was put through his paces by Land Rover BAR’s Head of Strength and Conditioning, Ben Williams.
After a bespoke sailing workout covering strength, mobility and endurance, Portis then went head-to-head in a grinding challenge with the Land Rover BAR sailing team, and managed to power into second place on the leaderboard – an impressive finish behind the main power house of the team, Freddie Carr.
It was then the turn of Bobby to put the sailors’ ball skills to the test on a pop-up court in the team’s technical area. After some shooting practice with Bobby, the team attempted the Free-Throw Challenge which put them to the test and Bobby Portis demonstrated why he is labeled ‘an explosive ball of energy’.
“Previously America’s Cup sailors were power and sprint athletes, and now this has changed thanks to the new challenges in today’s boat design, the sailing teams are required to train more like time trial cyclists. From today, we have also seen that there are many comparisons between sailing and basketball from the high intensity workouts to the importance of building strength, awareness and mobility whilst on the court and the water. Training with the Chicago basketball players, who are extremely physically fit, demonstrates how powerful and agile the sailors are in order to drive these two-tonne flying boats above the water. The sport of sailing does compete and compare in endurance and strength with many other high profile sports across the world.” – Ben Williams
The sport of sailing is changing and the physical demands of the sailors has significantly increased and unlike the campaigns of the past the sailors have to be in peak condition in order to drive these two tonne flying boats across the water.
A testy practice session followed on Friday that saw two boats capsize. The windy city didn’t quite live up to its name on Race Day Saturday with the first day of official racing having winds as flat as 5 knots and racing cancelled. Super Sunday brought the promise of winds of up to 15 knots and created a highly anticipated and exciting day of racing. A win in race one saw them quickly cross the start line leaving the rest of the pack behind. The second race followed with a challenging start and well earned 4th place. The climax came by way of the final race where they had to really pull it out of the bag making great decisions on the course strategy to get back up the fleet and across the line in 2nd place. A nail biter for all of us on the official Team Land Rover BAR spectator boat.
Chicago saw Land Rover BAR taking a solid 2nd place finish in the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series weekend regatta, and moving up to 2nd place on the overall leaderboard behind Oracle Team USA. The points awarded this weekend put the team into a strong position ahead of next month’s home event in Portsmouth and they are building their armoury to ‘Bring the Cup Home’ for the first time in the sports 165-year history.
“What can I say, today was brilliant racing and it is great to showcase the sport this way and show how good it can be. The guys on board did an incredible job. In these conditions it’s all about boat handling and the fitness required, I can’t say enough about the boys and the great job they did today. We leave the US in a great position from the points gained today and are now set up to race in front of our home crowd in Portsmouth next month.” – Sir Ben Ainslie
Last year, the Cup attracted over a quarter of a million people who arrived on the UK’s coastal town to support the British team. Land Rover BAR are ready to welcome the America’s Cup World Series regatta back to UK shores on July 22-24.
Since its inception in 1851 the boats used in America’s Cup have seen great leaps in development as have the very apparel or kits the team use. What started as a competition mainly by fishermen in oiled woollen sweaters, canvas work trousers and oilskin jackets is now very high-tech. Henri Lloyd works in partnership with Land Rover BAR and Spinlock to develop cutting edge kit incorporating lightweight bi-component stretch fabrics like neoprene and lycra. Flying high out on the water where the boats are designed for speed, the sailors themselves are the least aerodynamic component. These stretch fabrics like neoprene hold tight to the sailors to reduce windage, or ‘drag’.
But at these speeds safety is a key concern and as such certain elements must be added to kit to ensure sailor safety. The new Land Rover BAR sailor kit includes an air tank and razor sharp rescue knife in case the crew face the danger of being trapped under water and need time to cut themselves free. Other features such as the flotation vest are crucial, the vest features body armour which allows freedom of movement, but on shock, the particles lock together to absorb and disperse energy, before instantly returning to their flexible state. This reaction is intuitive, the greater the force of the impact, the more the molecules lock together and the greater the protection. With all these features integration is key, minimising bulk and drag whilst ensuring safety.
Henri Lloyd gives an excellent retrospective look at the evolution of apparel in their online journal (click here).
While at the America’s Cup Chicago, I wore a Columbia Sportswear Titanium OutDry Extreme Diamond Shell & OutDry Extreme Gold Pants, a Henri Lloyd for Land Rover BAR Team Cotton-Dri Polo & Replica Cap, Reebok ZPump Pump Fusion 2.0 sneakers, and a pair of military green Prada Linea Rossa Sunglasses. I hate baggy polo shirts that are heavy. Thanks to its 3% elastane to 97% cotton construction, the Henri Lloyd polo was fitted, lightweight, and very comfortable. Columbia Sportswear is a technological marvel. We tested the Fall/Winter 2016 Collection out on the slopes and were shocked at how something so thin could keep you so warm. The Spring/Summer 2016 Collection is more about keeping you cool while protecting you from the elements. The OutDry technology meant not a single wet spot on my pants or jacket as moisture from the inside was wicked away and moisture from the outside repelled. The handy zip vents in the underarms kept the wind flowing through my torso in the warm temperatures.
Photography gear for Chicago was provided by Nikon Canada. As a fashion photographer, America’s Cup was foreign territory for me. I have used the Nikon D4S ($USD 6,499.95/$CAD 7,149.95) on several occasions and it’s the best DSLR that I’ve ever used. The fast focus, superior low-light ability, long battery life, and ruggedness makes it the go-to camera for any condition. In hindsight, perhaps the D810 with its 36MP capacity would have given me a lot more pixels to play with.
Shooting moving catamarans from a moving boat without a tripod or monopod is a challenge. That’s why I brought along the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6 ED VR ($USD 1,399.95/$CAD 1,799.95) telephoto lens. This lens is surprisingly inexpensive and has great range and stability. I felt that given the distance of the boats and their speed, a low ISO in full sun or partially cloudy skies at f/5.6 was the way to go. The reason I didn’t go higher than 400 ISO was because I wanted as many high quality pixels in that full frame as possible. My first set shot at 1/2000 were horrible. Anything below 1/4000 was useless because of the distance and small size of the boats to their surroundings. This is why I shot nearly everything with the aperture wide open. This way I could get the fastest shutter speed and minimize blur. The lens’ 200-400mm range was very good with quality around the edges falling off at 500mm. The SPORT VR mode was very helpful allowing the VR to work well while photographing subjects that moved unpredictably. The 200-500mm was a very good economical option that is very versatile and has proven effective without the use of a tripod or monopod on a moving vessel no less. For full photo gallery, scroll all the way to the bottom.
Video: Land Rover BAR
Photos: Spiro Mandylor, spiro.ca, Nikon D4S DSLR, Nikon Nikkor AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8 ED & Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6 ED VR
Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Chicago