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Justin Chisholm – Happy New Year


2016 looks set to be a bumper year on the international racing scene with three of our sport’s highest profile franchises – the America’s Cup World Series, the Olympic Games and the Vendee Globe Race – all taking place over the next 12 months.


Plus, there is plenty of other action to look forward to with the RC44 Class, the 52 Super Series and the Extreme Sailing Series all boasting strong 2016 calendars.


Although there is still a year and a half to go before the real action at the 35th America’s Cup gets underway in Bermuda, four ACWS fleet racing events are scheduled with another two expected to be added later in the year.


The first ACWS regatta of 2016 takes place at the end of next month in Muscat in Oman – the first time the Cup has visited the region – followed by events in New York in May, Chicago in June and Portsmouth this July. Further ACWS regattas – strongly tipped to be in Japan and France – are expected to be announced for later in the year.


While the ACWS fleet events have little to do with the AC35 match racing finals, they are a good vehicle for keeping the America’s Cup in the sporting limelight during this non-Cup year and the series also helps the teams deliver some return to their sponsors in their local markets.


What should prove more interesting to observe this year will be the progress of the defender ORACLE Team USA and the five challengers as they hone their individual designs for the boats they will use in the main event in Bermuda in 2017.


As we start 2016 Jimmy Spithill’s OTUSA and Ben Ainslie’s Land Rover BAR squads appear to be the most advanced on their development programmes. Both teams have racked up invaluable hours on their test boats during 2105 – Spithill in Bermuda and Ainslie in the UK.


Meanwhile, Dean Barker’s Soft Bank Team Japan and the Kiwi challengers Emirates Team New Zealand have only recently started to get to grips with their newly acquired test boats – donated/lent by OTUSA and the defunct Italian Luna Rossa Challenge, respectively.

Team France – no doubt still reeling from the nasty leg injury their skipper Franck Cammas incurred when he fell off the team’s CG32 training boat – are yet to announce a launch date for their AC45S which is believed to be in build in Europe.

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Several America’s Cup sailors will be among the medal favourites at the Rio 2106 Olympic Games this August. ETNZ’s 2012 silver medallists, Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, are expected to battle it out in the 49er class against Artemis Racing’s reigning Olympic champions, Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen after these two crews finished first and second at the class’s world championship in Argentina at the end of 2015. Likewise, Land Rover BAR British wing trimmer Giles Scott should go into the games as favourite in the Finn Class after annihilating a 75-boat fleet to win his third consecutive Finn Gold Cup in New Zealand at the end of 2015.


I will be keeping an eye on all he potential medal contenders in Rio over the next few months and will bring you regular updates in future columns as well as keeping you up to speed on the America’s Cup, potential Volvo Ocean Race teams, Vendee Globe competitors and plenty more besides from around the international yacht racing scene.