Two-time winner Jimmy Spithill and his Oracle crew will open the event in a race against a Groupama team
Two-time America's Cup winner Jimmy Spithill and his Oracle crew will open the event in a race against a Groupama team led by French star Franck Cammas in the Louis Vuitton America's Cup Qualifiers.
The May 26 race in the azure waters of Bermuda's Great Sound launches five weeks of sailing action which will reach its climax in late June with the finale of the America's Cup.
The opening race of the qualifiers will be the first time the America's Cup Class (ACC) yachts and their crews face off in full competitive action.
The state-of-the-art yachts are wingsail catmarans designed to foil above the water at great speed in a battle for the oldest trophy in international sport, organisers said.
"It will be a fantastic spectacle," New Zealander Russell Coutts, chief executive of the America's Cup Event Authority said in a statement, predicting the "greatest America's Cup ever."
Oracle skipper Spithill said improved technology of the racing yachts would lead to one of the most fiercely competitive America's Cups in the event's 165-year history.
"The physical and mental demands on the athletes on board have gone up exponentially - the catamarans will be faster than last time, more maneuverable, and likely will foil all the way around the race track, given the right conditions," Spithill said.
"The competition is going to be fierce. We have six great teams preparing for racing next year and this is quite possibly shaping up to be one of the hardest, most competitive America's Cups in its long history."
All six America's Cup teams take part in the Louis Vuitton qualifiers in a round robin competition. Each team races every other team twice, with the challengers aiming to be among the top four who advance to the America's Cup Challenger Playoffs, which begin on June 4.
The current defending champion, Oracle Team USA, automatically advances to the America's Cup Match, where it will face the winner of the challenger playoffs.
The America's Cup dates back to 1851 when the yacht America won a race around the Isle of Wight off the south coast of Britain.
Only teams from four countries -- the United States, Switzerland, New Zealand and Australia -- have managed to win the America's Cup since then.