08 Jun America’s Cup Bermuda – What to Know Before You Go
The 35th America’s Cup, taking place now in Bermuda, is truly a spectacle on many levels. First you have the boats – 50 foot foiling catamarans that fly across the water at speeds up to 50 knots. Second is the location – the clear turquoise waters of Bermuda’s Great Sound, a majestic natural harbor graced by a sprawling but well-planned America’s Cup Village at the historic Dockyards. And third is the event itself – it’s been four years since the last America’s Cup, and the teams and fans are raring to face off in this storied sailing competition. Add it all up, and it’s a “must see” event for sailing fans around the world.
When the America’s Cup Event Authority first announced that the 2017 competition would be held in Bermuda, I have to admit I wasn’t thrilled. But after spending the first weekend of the America’s Cup in Bermuda, I’m a convert. First off, the Bermudians are incredibly warm and friendly. Everywhere we went, locals were knowledgable and excited about the competition in a way that would be hard to replicate anywhere else. It seems all of Bermuda has fully embraced the America’s Cup, and it shows in every interaction from the airport, to the race village, to shops and restaurants across the island.
The America’s Cup Bermuda Race Village is located in the Dockyards area, on land that was purpose-built to host the event. Almost all of the teams have their bases at the village, but it’s more than a working dock. For visitors, it’s an incredibly well thought out and interactive experience. The nine-acre area encompasses interesting exhibits, food and beverage stations featuring authentic Bermudian cuisine, a fantastic children’s area, and VIP lounges and viewing platforms. And of course there are multiple places to buy America’s Cup Bermuda branded merchandise, or logo kit from your favorite team.
At the center of the village is the main stage, on a large lawn strewn with picnic tables, umbrellas, and beanbag chairs. The main stage area has 2 giant screens on either side, and there are multiple other large and small screens throughout the venue. The finish line is right in front of the village; however the start and most marks of the course are hard to see from land (take binoculars!). But all races are broadcast live with great commentary throughout the village, so you won’t miss any of the action.
We spent our first day wandering the village, watching races from the seawall, enjoying food and drink on the main lawn, and taking in the festivities of the Opening Ceremony. First Red Bull skydivers put on an aerial show, then Wyclef Jean got everyone on their feet for an upbeat singalong. The show featured performances by prominent Bermudians, including traditional Gombey dancers and the amazing Bermuda Regiment. Finally, the teams were brought in through the crowd – sailors high-fiving fans, fans screaming and waving national flags – then each team took the stage for a short intro. It was a little strange, but actually kind of cool, to see the sailors received like rock stars.
On our second day we went for a different experience, mostly to find some shade from the hot Bermuda sun. There are spectator options you can buy in advance, ranging from grandstand seating (a seat in the elevated and shaded grandstand, with a dedicated cash bar) to the Longtail Lounge (full on VIP hospitality including food and drink in a shaded lounge with sailing personalities providing color commentary on the races). We didn’t plan that far ahead, but after checking out some different options we ended up at the Moët & Chandon pavilion, which turned out to be a great call.
We arrived before the races began and secured a group of comfy couches in the front row, under a big white umbrella. This area doesn’t take reservations – the deal is bottle service. As long as you’re buying bottles of Moët & Chandon champagne, you can pretty much stay as long as you want. The pavilion is raised up above the sea wall, and the big screen from the grandstand is in view, so it’s a great spectator spot. Sitting in the shade, sipping Moët & Chandon (the official champagne of the America’s Cup!) nibbling on snacks, sharing good company and watching a spectacular sailing race finish right in front of you – it’s not a bad way to spend the day.
For our final day, a local friend invited us to watch the races from his boat. We were lucky! Because the AC 50 boats race best on flat water, the Americas Cup Event Authority tightly controls how many spectator boats are allowed on the course and where they are positioned. We heard from others that the official spectator boats weren’t that close to the action, but our friend had access to a VIP area near the start line and first mark. We had a fantastic view of the races, and being water level I really got a feel for how dizzyingly fast these boats are moving.
So if you’re wondering if it’s worth going to Bermuda for the America’s Cup – my answer is a resounding yes. Bermuda itself is stunningly beautiful, the people are some of the friendliest you’ll ever meet, the race village experience is world class, and the racing itself is spectacular. If you can, go. Here are some tips to make your experience as enjoyable as possible.
- Purchase your tickets for the village and any VIP experiences in advance. The grandstand, Goslings Dark ‘n Stormy Island Bar, and Longtail Lounge fill up quickly. It’s advisable to print out your tickets; the scanners the staff use are a little finicky and seemed to read paper tickets faster than ones on a phone. (Purchase event tickets here: America’s Cup Spectator Experiences)
- If you’re staying near Hamilton, the easiest and fastest way to get to the event is the dedicated America’s Cup ferry. Buy both your outbound and return tickets in advance, as the ferries sell out pretty quickly. At $5 each way, it’s a steal and drops you right at the village. There’s also a ferry that runs from St. George’s on weekends. As above, print out your tickets if possible. (Purchase ferry tickets here: America’s Cup Ferry)
- No outside food or drink is allowed in the race village – security is very strict about this.
- As part of their commitment to sustainability, America’s Cup Bermuda does not allow single-use plastic bottles. Take your own reusable bottle and fill it up from the many free Hydration stations throughout the village.
- Bermuda is (usually) hot and sunny. Sunscreen and sunglasses are a must, and a hat is highly advisable. You’re allowed to bring a (regular-sized) umbrella which can be useful for shade.
- There are several food and drink tents spread out around the event, with an emphasis on native Bermudian fare. We can recommend the Bermuda fish sandwich from Rosas, and the lamb pie at Bermuda Pie Company. And of course, you can’t be in Bermuda and not have a Rum Swizzle or Goslings Dark ‘n Stormy.
- The village experience is very family-friendly. There’s a fantastic interactive children’s area, and kids love the big beanbag chairs scattered on the main lawn. There are even kid-sized picnic tables with umbrellas, so cute!
- If you’re there multiple days, it might be worth doing a VIP experience one day so that you have a guaranteed spot to see the races, and easy access to food, drink and shade. Book ahead where possible.
- The security staff told us we weren’t allowed to bring in our DSLR camera with a 300mm zoom lens. After some discussion they said we could keep the camera with us as long as we didn’t use it. However we checked later and the America’s Cup event website says no lenses 500mm or larger. (Here’s the list of what you can and can’t bring: America’s Cup Prohibited Items)
- Go to the Land Rover BAR exhibit and see the virtual reality film that puts you on one of the boats – it’s a really cool experience.
- If you know a local that can get you out on the water (especially in a VIP zone), go for it. The official spectator boats are really nice, although they may not always have the best views. Either way, take binoculars.
- For getting around the island, note that Bermuda does not have Uber. There’s an Uber-like app called Hitch, but we didn’t have any luck with it. Your best bet is to find a taxi driver you like, get their number, and then call them when you need a ride. We weren’t brave enough to try scooters, and if you plan on drinking they’re not advisable. The roads are twisty and quite dark at night.
- Airline flights from the U.S. are frequent and (for now at least) pretty reasonable. The bigger challenge is housing, as there is somewhat limited hotel inventory on the island, and it’s not cheap. We found a lovely cottage on AirBnB that was perfect for our group of five, but it was a last minute cancellation and we snatched it up right away. Check out the America’s Cup official travel provider to see more options for air and lodging, and the Bermuda Tourism Authority for things to do on the island. (Links are here: America’s Cup Travel and Go To Bermuda)
Lastly, this wouldn’t be a respectable America’s Cup post without some pictures of these amazing flying boats.
The America’s Cup is one of the world’s oldest, most storied, and prestigious sporting events. The America’s Cup Bermuda, with these highly technical foiling boats flying across gorgeous turquoise waters, is a worthy evolution of the America’s Cup tradition. So go ahead, book that ticket! It’s a spectacle you shouldn’t miss.