The America’s Cup is the premier sailing race in the world. It also happens to be the oldest multi-country sporting trophy in the world. The first cup race occurred around the Isle of Wight in 1851. The rules for the America’s Cup are quite interesting, too, as the prior event’s winner tends to get a pretty robust advantage. The “Defender” (aka prior event’s winner) gets to pick the location for the next America’s Cup, and they’re also guaranteed a spot in the final race.
This obviously skews the playing field a bit in favor of the Defender.
Unlike many other regattas around the world, the America’s Cup is a match race, so competitors race one on one. The challengers will progress through a series of races over two days (Saturday and Sunday), known as the America’s Cup World Series.
Points are accumulated throughout these races, and the races on Sunday are actually worth double the points. At the end of the America’s Cup World Series Events, points are tallied up, and the top team gets two additional points to carry over into the next series of races, known as the America’s Cup Qualifiers. (The second-place team after the World Series Events gets one bonus point to carry over)
The America’s Cup Qualifiers is a double “round robin” race in which all teams will race every other team once per round. This includes the Defender for that year. From this series of races, the top four challengers will advance to the America’s Cup Playoffs, with a semi-final determining who will race the Defender for the final America’s Cup event that year.
In the past, the America’s Cup has struggled a bit to retain followers and enthusiasts. This was due in large part because there is a 4-year break between America’s Cup races. Fans and sponsors weren’t exactly at the edge of their seats during that gap, and the sailors were bored to death. This gave way to some smaller, “build-up” events to keep sailors and fans interested in the offseason.
Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait until 2021 for the next America’s Cup, but at least now you’ll understand how the points and races work.