travel / 15/06/2017

Bermuda with Land Rover

Land Rover South Africa invited me to Bermuda to learn more about the technology that went into building the R1 Race Boat for the 35th America’s Cup. It was used for Great Britain’s racing team Land Rover BAR, Ben Ainslie Racing, headed by Sir Ben himself, who I got to meet briefly. Extract from Wikipedia – “The most successful sailor in Olympic history, Ainslie won medals at five consecutive Olympics from 1996 onwards, including gold at the four Games held between 2000 and 2012.”

The team, sponsored by Land Rover, were eliminated about a week ago from qualifying for the 35th America’s Cup, unfortunately. The leg of my trip was during the final challenger playoffs, which ended up being between Emirates New Zealand and Sweden’s Artemis Racing, which NZ won 5-2. They will face team Oracle USA on Saturday, 17 June in Bermuda. 

At the technical briefing, Martin Whitmarsh, CEO of Land Rover BAR likened the boats to being the F1 cars on water, as they are the most technically advanced boats. For those of you who are not aware, Whitmarash has a 25-year background in F1 and used to be the CEO of McLaren Racing, and team principal of McLaren Mercedes. He says Land Rover BAR were up against teams who’ve been around for more than 30 years.

The R1 is Land Rover’s first attempt at such a vessel:

He says it’s been an emotional rollercoaster, and as a new team, they did a remarkable job. It’s one of those sporting events like rugby where hard work goes in by everyone, which supporters can truly appreciate. You have to be super fit to get that 2.6 ton boat to stay afloat and keep it moving for the duration of the race, which is about 25 minutes per race. And best of nine determines the winner. 

“The 2017 America’s Cup Class (ACC) rule describes a 50ft foiling catamaran with a solid wing in place of a traditional sail. In their most efficient and fastest mode they are foiling ‒ this means the catamarans don’t sail on the water but above it; the entire three tons of boat and crew are lifted clear of the ocean thanks to a hydrofoil daggerboard on the leeward (opposite the wind) side of the boat.” More here.

To give you a brief history about the event, which I myself didn’t know much about either is that the America’s Cup is the oldest international sporting event. It dates back to 1851 at the Isle of Wight, which America had first won. The US defended their title, and just kept on winning. Team (Oracle) USA now holds the longest winning streak in sports history, of 132 years. The event takes places every three years I think. The winners get to choose the next location for the race, and so the US chose Bermuda after the last race took place in San Francisco. If New Zealand win, as they are now up against the US, they would probably choose Auckland.

After all the effort that went into team Land Rover BAR, they are more determined for the 36th America’s Cup. Land Rover will be on-board as a sponsor; and the team have done well considering it was their first attempt and to get to the semi-finals. If you are interested, I highly recommend reading this column by Sir Ben Ainslie, published on the Telegraph. After chatting to the engineers, who are a bunch of brilliant guys (shout out to Ian Anderton who’s been at the company for 17 years now – he is basically a walking encyclopaedia), in a both formal environment of media interviews, and having dinner with the team each night, it’s obvious how dedicated they are, and I wish them all the best for the next one.

The race could have been anywhere and I’m just fortunate Bermuda was chosen and I got to see a bit of that slice of heaven, all thanks to Jaguar Land Rover South Africa. We stayed at the Cambridge Beaches Resort and Spa, which was amazing, mainly because it was a kid-free resort (winning) and has four private beaches. I’m not really a beach body so I made use of the spa, which was great. What more could you ask for, really.

I do love travel and geography and like to think I could point out places on a map easily (haha) except for Bermuda. I feel like I’ve had a lot of misconceptions about it, starting off with its location. It’s just a two-hour flight away from New York City, which makes it an excellent stop-over destination for anyone going to the US. I say stop-over as you need to be in NYC before heading out as the timing of the direct flight from Johannesburg isn’t the best, unless you want to spend 18 hours in transit. If you’d love to visit Bermuda, consider it between a trip to NYC. You could see most of it in 2 to 3 days. Your other option is to fly straight there via Atlanta.

The whole trip has been amazing without a doubt, but one of the things that got me excited was being driven around in the new Land Rover Discovery that is coming to South Africa soon (looking forward to the launch). Alas there were no Velar’s brought in, but the sight of any Land Rover or Range Rover was quite something for the locals as these cars are not sold in Bermuda. It doesn’t make sense anyway, with the speed limit at 35km/h across the island.

It was so surreal being on a yacht watching the race on the TVs inside, and being able to watch the race by looking out the window or just walking to the outside and upper decks. A truly incredible experience. Thank you Land Rover South Africa.

PS I will be writing a more in-depth technical piece and a travel related post about my trip for print. Follow me on Twitter for updates on when that will come out!



Nafisa Akabor
Always online... except when I'm offline.




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  • Ben Kelly

    “Team (Oracle) USA now holds the longest winning streak in sports history, of 132 years.” Not correct as Australia won in 1983, New Zealand in 1995 and 2000 and Switzerland in 2003 and 2007.

    • Thanks Ben. I got the info directly from the official website – “After winning the trophy, the United States embarked on what would become the longest winning streak in the history of sport, a 132-year stretch of domination that saw boats representing the country successfully defend the trophy 24 times from 1870 through 1980—until 1983, when Australia II became the first successful challenger to lift the trophy.”

      I am aware others have won it after that streak was broken.

      Check here: https://www.americascup.com/en/history.html

  • Jeanne Horak

    I am so envious of your trip! Been watching the coverage online from London and those catamarans are just incredible!