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America’s Cup boats: How they work and why they’re unique

Toby Heppell

  • Toby Heppell
  • February 5, 2021

The America's Cup boats to be used on the 2021 edition of the event are unlike anything we have seen before. They might be officially sailing craft but they behave in some remarkable ways.

america's cup yacht classes

The AC75s, the America’s Cup boats currently racing in the Prada Cup and that will be used for next month’s Cup match showdown, are arguably the most radical boat the America’s Cup has ever seen. 

The America’s Cup is, fundamentally, a design competition, and successive America’s Cups have featured the most extreme yachts yet – for their time – ever since the first race in 1851 .  

However, the foiling boats we have seen in the last three editions of America’s Cup racing (the AC72 and AC50 catamarans, and now the AC75 monohulls ) do represent a new direction for the highest level of sailing. 

There are plenty who argue that this technology is so far beyond the bounds of what most people consider sailing as to be an entirely different sport. Equally, there are those who believe this is simply a continuation of the development that the America’s Cup has always pushed to the fore, from Bermudan rigs, to composite materials, winged keels, and everything in between.

Good arguments can be made either way and foiling in the world’s oldest sporting trophy will always be a subjective and controversial topic. But one thing is certain: the current America’s Cup boats, the AC75s, are unlike anything seen before and are showcasing to the world just what is possible under sail power alone.   

america's cup yacht classes

American Magic hit an impressive 53.3 knots on their final weekend of racing. Photo: COR 36/Studio Borlenghi

1 Unimaginable speed

In their final race before being knocked out of the competition , American Magic’s Patriot registered a top speed of 53.3 knots during a bear away. 

Topping the 50-knot barrier used to be the preserve of extreme speed record craft and kiteboarders. A World Speed Sailing Record was set in 2009 of 51.36 knots by Alain Thebault in his early foiling trimaran, Hydroptere , and was bested in 2010 by kite boarder, Alexandre Caizergues who managed 54.10 knots.

O nly one craft has ever topped 60-knots, the asymmetric Vestas Sail Rocket , which was designed for straight line speed only and could no more get around an America’s Cup course than cross an ocean. Such records are set by sailing an average speed over the course of 500m, usually over a perfectly straight, flat course in optimum conditions.

America’s Cup class yachts, designed to sail windward/leeward courses around marks, are now hitting speeds that just over a decade ago were the preserve of specialist record attempts, while mid-race.

Perhaps even more impressive, in the right conditions when racing we have seen some boats managing 40 knots of boatspeed upwind in around 17 knots of wind. That is simply unheard of in performance terms and almost unimaginable just three or so years ago. 

america's cup yacht classes

Photo: COR 36/Studio Borlenghi

2 A storm onboard America’s Cup boats

Related to the speeds the boats are sailing through the water, particularly upwind, is the wind speeds the sailors will feel on deck. 

When sailing, the forward motion affects the wind we experience onboard, known as apparent wind. The oft’ trotted out explanation of how apparent wind works is to imagine driving your car at 50mph. Roll down the window and stick your hand out of it and there will be 50mph of wind hitting your hand from the direction your car is travelling.

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america's cup yacht classes

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america's cup yacht classes

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So when an AC75 is sailing upwind in 18 knots of breeze at a boatspeed of 40 knots, the crew on deck will be experiencing 40 knots of wind over the decks plus a percentage of the true wind speed – depending on their angle to the wind. 

The AC75 crews might be sailing in only 18 knots of breeze – what would feel like a decent summer breeze on any other boat – but they experience winds of around 50 knots.

To put that into context, that is a storm force 10 on the Beaufort scale!

america's cup yacht classes

Once up on the foil, everything to windward of the leeward foil generates righting moment. Photo: COR 36/Studio Borlenghi

3 Righting moment changes  

The single most radical development of the AC75 is to take a 75ft ‘keelboat’, but put no keel on it whatsoever. 

When the America’s Cup Defender and the Challenger of Record, Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli respectively, announced the 36th America’s Cup would be sailed in 75ft monohulls, conventional wisdom had it that the boats would look something like a TP52 or a Maxi72 – both impressively high performance keelboats.  

By doing away with the keel entirely, the design is now like nothing we have ever seen, particularly when it comes to how dynamic the power transition is between foiling and not foiling. 

The boats are designed to foil on the leeward foil, with the windward one raised to help increase righting moment: to help balance the boat. This means that when the AC75 is not foiling they are extremely tippy – much more so than most other boats of the same size.

Essentially, when the wind catches the sails, the boat wants to fall over as there is too much sail area for the amount of weight underneath the boat – something a lead keel usually counters on a yacht or keelboat. 

Once the boat is up and on the foils, however, that all changes, as everything to windward of the single foil in the water balances the sails. That means, the hull, the crew weight, the sail and rig weight, and the windward foil, all work to counter the sails. 

What all this means is that the boats go from being extremely tippy, to hugely powerful in just the few seconds it takes to get up on the foil. “The [AC75s] are really very tippy pre-foiling and then they go through the transition where they will need to build significant power. Then immediately [once they lift off] you have more stability than, well, take your pick, but certainly more righting moment than something like a Volvo 70 with a big canting keel.

“That change all happens in a very short space of time,” explained Burns Fallow of North Sails, who was one of the team who developed the soft wing concept back when the concept was revealed. 

america's cup yacht classes

With lift created to windward by the foils, it is possible that the boats can sail diagonally to windward. Photo: COR 36/Studio Borlenghi

4 America’s Cup boats may not be heading where they point

With the AC75 sailing on its foil, drag is dramatically reduced, vast amounts of power can be generated and so speeds rapidly increase. But the foils can serve another purpose too. 

In order to be able to lift each foil out of the water, the foil arms must be able to be raised and lowered. Hence the foil wings, which sit at the bottom of the foil arms (and are usually a T or Y shape), do not always sit perpendicular to the water surface and the AC75s often sail with them canted over to something nearer 45º to the surface.

The further out the leeward foil arm is canted – essentially more raised – the closer the AC75 flies to surface and, crucially, the more righting moment is generated as the hull and rest of the boat gets further from the lifting surface of the foil.  

There is another positive to this: as the lifting foil is angled, it produces lift to windward, which can force the boat more towards the wind than the angle it is sailing. 

Due to this negative leeway (as it is known when a foil creates lift to windward) the boat can be pointing at a compass heading of say 180º but in fact will be sailing at eg 177º as the foil pushes the boat sideways and to weather, essentially sailing to windward somewhat diagonally. 

america's cup yacht classes

5 The foils are heavy. Very heavy.

As the foils work to provide stability to the boat (when it is stationary both foils are dropped all the way down to stop it tipping over) and to provide massive amounts of righting moment, they are incredibly heavy.

A pair of foil wings and flaps (excluding the one-design foil arm which attaches them to the boat and lifts them up and down) weigh 1842kg. To put that into perspective, the entire boat itself with all equipment (but without the crew) weighs between 6508kg and 6538kg. So the foil wings at the base of the foil arms are nearly ⅓ of the total weight of the boat. 

It is partly due to this that you will see some teams with bulbs on their foils. If you decide to go for a skinny foil wing (which would be low drag and so faster) then there will not be enough volume to cram sufficient material in to make the foil weigh enough. So some teams have decided to add a bulb in order to make it weigh enough but to also keep a less draggy, slimmer foil shape. 

6 Sails can invert at the head

america's cup yacht classes

As with everything on the AC75, the mainsail is a relatively new concept. It consists of two mainsails which are attached to both corners of a D-shaped mast tube. This has the effect of creating a profile similar to a wing. 

It is well established that solid wing sails are more efficient at generating power than a soft sail and for this reason solid wings were used in both the America’s Cup in 2013 and 2017. But there are drawbacks with a wing: they cannot be lowered if something goes wrong and require a significant amount of manpower and a crane to put it on or take it off a boat. 

One reason a wing makes for such a powerful sail is that the shape can be manipulated from top to bottom fairly easily with the right controls. With the AC75 the designers wanted a sail that could have some of this manipulation, produce similar power but could also be dropped while out on the water. The twin skin, ‘soft wing’ is what they came up with for this class of America’s Cup boat.

In addition to the usual sail controls, within the rules, the teams are allowed to develop systems for controlling the top 2m of the mainsail and the bottom 1.5m. 

What this means is that the teams are able to manipulate their mainsail in a number of different ways to develop power and control where that power is produced in the sail. But it also means that they have the ability to invert the head of the sail. 

Doing this effectively means ‘tacking’ the top of the sail while the rest of the sail is in its usual shape. The advantage here is that instead of trying to tip the boat to leeward, the very top of the sail will be trying to push the boat upright and so creating even more righting moment. The disadvantage is that it would come at the cost of increased aerodynamic drag. 

We know that a number of America’s Cup teams are able to do this, though whether it is effective is another question and it is very hard to spot this technique being used while the boats are racing at lightning speeds.

america's cup yacht classes

Photo: Emirates Team New Zealand

7 An America’s Cup boat generates lots of data

A new America’s Cup boat is a vastly complex bit of kit. Each team has incredibly powerful Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) software packages and simulators in order to try to understand the various gains and losses. 

To make these simulators and computer projections as accurate as possible each team has been getting as much data as they can over their three year development cycle.

In the case of this America’s Cup it does seem the development process is genuinely getting closer to Formula 1 (albeit with smaller budgets than a modern F1 team has behind them).

INEOS Team UK have been able to work alongside the all powerful Mercedes F1 team (both of who are backed by INEOS) and have been open about how much this has helped their development process. They even have some Mercedes staff out with the team in Auckland assessing their data.  

“It’s really similar to F1,” explains Mercedes Applied Science Principal Engineer Thomas Batch who has 11 F1 titles to his name and is with INEOS in Auckland. “Certainly in this campaign the technology is close to what we have in F1. 

“In terms of raw sensors on the boat you are probably talking in the 100s but then we take that and we make that into mass channels and additional analysis with computational versions of those channels that we then analyse and get into in more detail. So you are looking at 1000s of plots that we can delve into [per race or training session].

“That level of data analysis and then feedback with the sailors is very similar to working with an [F1] driver.” 

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The J Class has its roots in the oldest international yacht race in the world, the America’s Cup.

america's cup yacht classes

Our Heritage

Considered some of the most beautiful yachts ever built, the story of the J Class is defined by fierce transatlantic competition for the America’s Cup, followed by an era of steep decline, and the modern-day revival.

america's cup yacht classes

The J Class includes a mixture of refitted surviving yachts along with a number of new yachts faithfully built to original hull lines from 1930’s designs, with more yachts currently in build.

america's cup yacht classes

The J Class Association was founded in 2000 to protect the interests of the Class, present and future, and organises an annual calendar of racing for these magnificent yachts.

2024 Calendar

The Superyacht Cup Palma

Palma, Spain

8 - 14 September

Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup

Puerto Cervo, Sardinia

5-11 October

America's Cup J Class Regatta

Barcelona, Spain

We love them because they are sublimely beautiful, utterly impractical and fiendishly demanding.

Elizabeth Meyer

Modern-day saviour of the J Class

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Latest news

Svea finish on top at the superyacht cup palma.

Svea finish on top at The Superyacht Cup Palma

With a carefully crafted victory in today’s final 25 nautical mile coastal race, the Swedish flagged Svea won the J Class at The Superyacht Cup Palma.

A coastal race win to savour for Velsheda at The Superyacht Cup Palma

A coastal race win to savour for Velsheda at The Superyacht Cup Palma

Velsheda proved they are still very much a force to be reckoned with when they won a hard fought 26 miles coastal race at The Superyacht Cup Palma today.

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Boats of the America's Cup 2024

america's cup yacht classes

The 37th America's Cup or America's Cup of 2024 will be held in Barcelona and we will see the best boats competing. The excellence of the port facilities, the variety of areas dedicated to the competition, the city's experience in organizing major sporting events, the local enthusiasm for nautical sports and the rich educational and entertainment offer it provides, are the main reasons for its welcome.

What boats are participating?

The America's Cup boats are known as "AC75 class racing yachts". These are monohulls, which means they have a single hull, unlike the catamarans used in previous editions of the America's Cup. These yachts are equipped with "foils" or retractable ailerons that allow them to rise above the water to reduce drag and increase speed.

America's Cup yachts are known for incorporating cutting-edge technologies.

Teams employ advanced electronics, hydraulics and aerodynamics to optimize the performance of their boats. Although there are strict rules governing the dimensions and characteristics of AC75s, teams have some flexibility in design to encourage innovation and strategic competition.

The six boats of the America's Cup 2024

Emirates team new zealand.

This is the defending team , i.e. the current holder of the America's Cup. This team is the oldest of the participating teams (1987) , is from New Zealand as its name suggests and represents the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron. The leader of this team and of the America's Cup is Great Dalton; and Peter Burling is the skipper. The defending champions are based between the World Trace Center and the Columbus Monument. The base has two floors and an area of 1,400 square meters, with a berthing area of 45 square meters. New Zealand has been a constant presence in the contemporary America's Cup era since 1987, presenting innovative and daring challengers that came close to victory in 1987, 1988 and 1992.

Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli

It is one of the strongest America's Cup boats. It comes from Italy and was founded in 1999 . It is recognized for its outstanding presence in the America's Cup, as it has participated in six editions, this would be its seventh. Specifically, last year, it was a finalist together with Team New Zealand. Of those participating in this edition, it is undoubtedly one of those that has participated the most in this competition.

However, it has also participated in equally challenging sailing events. He took second place in the Fastnet Race in 2009 aboard the STP65 "Luna Rossa", with which he also won the Middle Sea Race that same year. In addition, he was part of the Audi MedCup Circuit in 2010 competing in the TP52 class and triumphed in the 2011 Extreme Sailing Series at the helm of an Extreme 40.

This boat represents Circolo della Vela Sicilia, its owner is Patrizio Bertelli, its leader is Max Sirenas and its helmsmen James Spithill and Franceso Bruni. The Italians, meanwhile, have opted for a base further away from the port, staying at the west end of the entrance, just below the Barcelona Nautical Center.

Alinghi Red Bull Racing

Hailing from Switzerland, it was founded in 2000 . The Alinghi sailing team represents the Geneva Nautical Society.

This team has stood out as the winner of the America's Cup both in Auckland (New Zealand) in 2003 and in Valencia (Spain) in 2007 . In both instances, it prevailed over Team New Zealand of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron. And it can boast of being the only European club in history to have managed to win the Americas' Cup.

After a couple of editions away, it is back thanks to Red Bull (its new and main sponsor) and Ernesto Bertarelli, its founder. Its skipper, Arnaud Psarophaghis makes his debut in this competition. The Swiss will be located near the Barcelona Aquarium and the Maremagnum shopping center.

INEOS Britannia

Is the America's Cup Challenger of Record boat, i.e. the team that first submits a challenge to compete against the defending team. I t works closely with the defending team to coordinate and organize the event and acts on behalf of the challenging teams to ensure that their interests are represented and respected throughout the process.

It was founded in 2012 and represents the Royal Comwall Yacht Club in the UK. Its skipper , is Olympic medalist, Ben Ainsli e, who is one of the most decorated sailing athletes in history.

He is not the only medalist who is part of this team, as a few months ago in Palma de Mallorca they were trained by the Spaniard Xabi Fernandez. They are currently based at the Moll d'Espanya, the coach parking area in front of the superyacht berthing facility adjacent to the IMAX.

NYYC American Magic

American set that was founded in 2017 and represents the New York Yacht Club. It was created to compete in the America's Cup 2021, so the next edition, would be its second participation in this tournament.

As in the previous edition, her skipper is Terry Hutchinson and Tom Slingsby her helmsman. It faces this edition with the clear objective of regaining the trophy, as its founding club has been one of the important and victorious teams in previous editions.

Their base will be located at the Marina Barcelona 92 facilities, close to the lively promenade, a natural vantage point for the Cup races.

Orient Express Racing Team

This last America's Cup boat is the former K-Challenge, the French team has been re-founded in 2022 , representing the Saint-Tropez sailing society.

The last participation of the French K-Challenge was in 2007, 15 years later the founders of that team (Ortwin and Stephan Kandler) joined Bruno Dubois to resume the participation of the French boat.

They will be guided by Quentin Delapierre and Kevin Peponnet, who will be the skippers; and will be based at the Moll de Ponent. The area is on the other side of the harbor, west of the World Trade Center, at the Grimaldi Lines dock.

The America's Cup promises to be an unforgettable regatta, where skill and passion are found in every wave. From September to December 2023 the teams are training, having several preliminary regattas.

August 22 , 2024 will be the official opening date of the America's Cup 2024, and we are looking forward to the wind in our sails and the excitement on the ho

Names of winds and how to identify them

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Story of the J-Class Yachts:

     
 


 

The J-Class was adopted for America's Cup competition in 1928, looking forward to the next regatta in 1930.  The Class itself, though, dated back to the turn of the century when the Universal Rule was adopted though no J-Class yachts had yet been built.

The Rule used a yacht's various dimensions to calculate an equivalent rating in feet.  Boats of equal rated lengths could then race against each other directly without making other allowances for time or distance sailed.  Even though one yacht might have a longer length or another yacht a larger sail area, their overall configurations had to produce a rated length that met the Universal Rule for that class. Boats in Class J, more commonly today termed J-Class yachts, were the largest constructed under the Universal Rule.  The Rule actually includes provisions for an even larger type of boat, the I Class, though none were ever built.  Inquiries made in the 1930s for a Defense in the smaller K Class were rejected.

The J-Class were the first yachts in an America's Cup match to be governed by a formal design rule.  Previous defenders and challengers were only restricted by minimum and maximum lengths set forth in the Deed of Gift.  Sir Thomas Lipton, challenging in 1930 for the fifth time, had held earlier discussions with the New York Yacht Club in hopes of adopting the Universal Rule for the previous America's Cup match, intended for 1914 but delayed until 1920.  Though an agreement to use the rule was not reached for that match, the 1914 US boats, Vanitie and Resolute, still roughly followed J-Class parameters.

Building Program:

There were only 10 J-class yachts designed and built.  Additionally, several yachts of closely related dimensions, mostly 23-Meter International Rule boats, were converted after their construction to meet the rating rules of the J-Class. 

Only the purpose-built Cup yachts, though, could compete in the America's Cup.  The "converted" J-Class yachts, while acceptable for Class racing events, were not admissible for America's Cup competition.  Responding to issues that surfaced in earlier defenses, the America's Cup rules required that all boats had to be sailed to the event on their own bottom.  Some critics pointed out the possibility that the challenger might, as a result, be disadvantaged by  being of heavier construction than the defender.  In order to avoid a situation that could be perceived as an undue advantage, the NYYC eventually agreed that all America's Cup J-Class yachts would be built to Lloyds A1 standards, ensuring that defender and challenger met the same minimum construction specifications (the nautical term is "scantlings").  Most existing yachts were not built to such standards, so the Cup-eligible boats thus ended up heavier than the ineligible J's.

(The issue of challengers having to build heavier boats due to the ocean crossing was a popular, if uncertain, explanation in the British press for the long string of American victories.  In practice, a number of challengers added internal bracing for the crossing, which was then removed before racing.  And on a few occasions defenders subsequently made the crossing in reverse in search of competition following their successful defense.  The rule requiring that the challenger sail to the event on her own bottom was actually instituted in response to a super-lightweight challenger towed to the match through canals and rivers from Canada.

The J-Class Yachts

   
   
 
   
 
                         
         
                         
                       
               
       
               
                         
                       
       
         
         
                         
   
                         
                         
 
.  Mahogany planking over steel frames.  Pine deck.  Spruce original mast replaced with duralumin.  Led J's with double-headsail rig. Electric wind-speed devices. Sold to Pynchon. Whirlwind Syndicate: Landon Thorne, Alfred Loomis, Paul Hammond. Longest J-Class until 1937. Scrapped at City Island, 1935.
 
 
and winning by 17 hours.  Raced in England, took eight first-place finishes in 32 races.  Defense Trials, 1937, tested single-headed rig, mast step moved forward, lowered center of ballast, larger mainsail.  Sold for scrap by Lambert (reportedly for $10,000) in April, 1941, Fall River, MA, with proceeds donated to war effort. Tender:
 
 
also raced in the off-years between defenses.  1930 Tender: .
 
 
 
and (same No. 1 main was used on all three); Vanderbilt's 3 J's all used the tender , which also served the 12M defender candidate in 1958, and challengers (1962) and (1967);  Launched May 11, 1937;  Bath Iron Works Hull # 172; built at cost; funded solely by Vanderbilt; named for US frigate commanded by John Paul Jones; largest displacement J-Class; Hauled at end of 1937 and never sailed again.  Sold for scrap May, 1941, bringing $12,000.
 
 
(spelling uncertain but roughly "Four Leaf" in Italian as a play on her original name); ketch-rigged?; Appeared in movie "Swept Away"; Rebuilt at C&N 1967-70; Sold to Lipton Tea Co. 1986, donated to Newport Museum of Yachting; Restored under Elizabeth Meyer 1989, rig, bulwarks, deckhouse rebuilt to original; sold to Newport Yacht Restoration School 1995; sold to Newport Shamrock V Corp 1998; refit 2000 at Pendennis, under Gerard Dykstra; sold to Marcos de Maraes, Brazil. Lipton had a 23M yacht also named , sometimes confused with his America's Cup boats.  The 23M was broken up in 1933.
 
 
 

 
 
's keel;  Ends modified 1935;  Name combines Stephenson's daughters Velma, Daphne, and Sheila; (laid up 25 years?); Restored Terry Brabant 1983, maintaining very original condition; Sailed as charter;  Sold to Swiss owner, refit stalled for lack of funds;  Laid up Gosport; Sold in 1996, major refit 1996-7 at Southampton Yacht Services under Gerard Dykstra, interior, CF rig, sails, modernized, but less authentic; Current owner Ronald de Waal.  
     
lost to in 1914 trials (defense postponed) and 1920 trials, losing 7-4 in final 1920 selection series. Owned by Alexander Smith Cochran.  Not designed as a J, but altered after construction to rate as a J; not acceptable for AC as a J-Class yacht because lightweight, not Lloyd's A1. Sold to Gerard Lambert, 1928. Trial horse 1930 and 1934 America's Cup defender trials. Laid-up at Herreshoff Mfg. and scrapped there in 1938.
 
 

 
 
     

 
 

 
 
 
by Nicholson for Italian Owner; restored 1989.
 
 
in fleet racing on the Clyde, 1894; Built for HRH Albert Edward, Prince of Wales; Sold to private owners, 1897;  Bought back in 1902, after the Prince had acceded to the throne as Edward VII; Passed to his son George V after Edward's death in 1910; Rated after construction as 23M; not designed as a J, but altered in 1931, converted to "Marconi" rig, sail area 8,700 sf, triple-headed, and rated as a J; modified to double-headed-rig and Park Avenue boom in 1935; Scuttled off the Isle of Wight by Edward VIII, July 9, 1936, as per wishes of his father, George V, who did not wish to see the yacht live on to a life of decline once he was gone.
 
 
     

Disposition:

Conceived at the height of the affluent 1920's, the J-boats arrived during the Great Depression.  They required enormous crews, and, despite expert attention to their technical details, still broke an astonishing number of masts.  While they were in most regards the most advanced sailing yachts yet built, and they were  indeed powerful sailing thoroughbreds formed in sleek lines that can race the pulse of almost every viewer, the glorious J's proved too extravagant for their own good.  Most had very limited sailing careers outside of America's Cup.  Ranger , whose 1937 cost was upwards of $500,000, was laid-up at the end of her debut season and never sailed again.  All of the American J's were scrapped between 1935 and 1941. Most of the British J's were either abandoned or scrapped.

When NYYC sought to revive the America's Cup in the 1950s, there was a faction that favored returning to the J-Class.  Mike Vanderbilt even stated that not only would he like to see the Cup contested in the large boats, but that if so he would consider rebuilding a new Range r to the design of the original.  Still, another faction hoped for smaller dual-use yachts that could be used in offshore racing when the Cup year was ended.  With cost estimates for a 1958-era J starting around three million dollars, the impulse for a J-Class defense faded away in the face of economic pressures and a compromise was reached to sail the America's Cup in International Rule 12-Meters.

  , the 1930 Challenger, and , the 1934 Challenger.  , distinguished by being the only yacht built as a J-class though not intended for America's Cup, is intact and sailing, too.  Of at least seven other boats that were rated as J's, two remain: , and .  was originally a 23-Meter International Rule yacht, but later altered to rate as a J. The surviving boats have all had extensive restoration and re-building. was rescued from near oblivion, too delicate to move without structural reconstruction.

The J-Class Resurgent

J-Class rigs today are no longer built of wood or dur-alumin, but with modern lightweight composites.  Their sail technology is long past being canvas duck, and many other subtle changes have been made to make the ongoing maintenance and operation of these yachts a realistic proposition.  Still, the J-Class owners have gone to great lengths to insure the integrity of the boats.  The J-Class is self-administered, rather than governed by an outside organization as is the case with almost all other classes.  This allows the members to more easily adapt the rules in order to serve the needs of these uniquely historic yachts.

Most of the surviving J's are available for charter.  Cambria was reportedly for sale in 2000.  Endeavour changed hands in 2006 for a reported $13.1 million USD, though as her former owner Dennis Kozlowski said, "No one truly owns Endeavour .  She's a part of yachting history.''

Recreations, Replicas, and a Tender:

For decades, most yachting fans thought that we would never again see the likes of these boats again, the few survivors would sooner or later fade away, and the whole history would be reserved for books and fading photographs, but following the restoration of the surviving hulls rumors grew throughout the late 1990's and early 2000's about building "new" J's.  In 2001, all of this dock talk began to become reality:

Ranger Wooden Boat magazine, March/April 2001, described a "Dutchman" who had commissioned a new Ranger built to the original's plan.  This incredible rumor came true, and a piece of lost sailing history was brought back to life.  The new version of this "Superboat", as Mike Vanderbilt once called her, was officially launched in October, 2003. 

Designed by Studio Scanu and Reichel-Pugh, and built by Danish Yachts, Skagen, Denmark, she is not an exact replica of the original. Some would term her a re-interpretation, as a number of changes were made including greater freeboard, and Ranger 's original designers did not participate in the project.  The new Ranger first competed head-to-head against other J's in Antigua, Spring, 2004.  It took some additional adjustment after launch by her owners and designers to seek the proper trim that would make her float on her lines, an essential step in the process of being officially rated a J-Class yacht.  Visit the Ranger Website for more info.  J-Class Management is also at work on a restoration of Bystander, tender to the original Ranger .

Endeavour II An Endeavour II replica is being built at Royal Huisman Shipyard, with a planned 2008 launch date.  Gerard Dykstra and Partners is leading the project, which features a lightweight Alustar (aluminum alloy) hull and carbon-fiber mast.  See additional photo at Yachtspotter


 
   

Lionheart Based on an unbuilt alternate design by Starling Burgess and Olin Stephens II that was considered for 1937's America's Cup defender Ranger , this new boat is being built at yards in the Netherlands for an expected 2008 launch.  Lionheart will be the longest J-Class yacht when completed. See more including photos of the completed hull at the Lionheart Website and the story of sailing onboard including photos and videos Cruising J-Class Style Aboard Lionheart at Yachting World Designer:  Hoek Design Builders: Bloemsma Aluminiumbouw and Claasen Jachtbouw BV

Svea Tore Holm's unbuilt 1937 design, said by some to be faster in the test tank than any of the original boats, is being pursued by Hoek Design

Name To Be Announced In late March 2008, reports of another replica about to begin construction appeared on the Classic Boat website .  Whether this is one of the known projects, such as Svea , above, or yet another replica about to become reality, such as Rainbow , below, should become known shortly.

Rainbow In late May, 2008, Dykstra and Partners announced that a new build of the 1934 America's Cup Defender Rainbow was underway, with an expected launch date of 2010.  Read the Press Release

Other projects: Hoek Design is also studying replicas of 1930's Enterprise and another boat from Yankee designer Frank Paine.  Yankee herself has also been rumored as a new project, as well.  Earlier reports of a Ranger alternate-design carrying the name of Seawolf may have been referring to the project that has become Lionheart , see above.  Whirlwind and Weetamoe are the only two designs of the original ten J's that aren't known to be sailing, building, or under serious consideration as of 2008.  The J-Class website points out that there are 10 unbuilt J designs from the 1930's, so the possibilities for more J-Class yachts are intriguing.

Yachting World reported in May, 2003 , that construction was underway on a yacht replicating the famous G.L Watson design Britannia .  Photos showed a nearly completed hull at Solombala Shipyard, in Arkhangel, Russia, and included interviews with the yacht's owner Sigurd Coates of Norway.  The design was adapted by Cesil Stephansen from published plans.  The original designer's modern descendent company, G.L.Watson & Co., Ltd., has no involvement with the Arkhangel boat.  Little was been heard of this ambitious project for years, until the yacht was finally launched only to become subject of a financial dispute, trapping her in Russia until 2009, when she "escaped" to Norway. 

In the Spirit

A similar project to return elegant yachts to competitive racing, the W-class, was set in motion by Donald Tofias, an American enthusiast.  He commissioned naval architect Joel White to design a new class with lines evocative of famous racing yachts like the New York 50's and the J-Class.  The first two boats, Wild Horses and White Wings , were built in Maine of modern cold-molded wood construction and launched in 1998.  It is Tofias' aim that there will eventually be a whole fleet of the beautiful W-class to regularly compete against each other.  The one-design W-76 is actually similar to the New York 50's.  Tofias' long-range plans involve a range of classes including 46, 62, 76, 105, and 130.  The 130's would be nearly identical in basic dimensions to the J-class. See the W-Class Websit e .  

Additional Links: Chris Cameron onboard Ranger at Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, 2010: Photo Gallery

Web Sites of Particular Interest: The J-Class Association J-Class Management, Inc.  

Further Notes:

K-Class: The Royal London Yacht Club made and withdrew its inquiry for a K-Class challenge in 1935.  The intent had been to reduce costs, not the least of which was hoped to be a lower velocity of mast replacement, but the K-Class line of thought was rejected for several reasons.  For one, the K-Class wasn't so much smaller than the J-Class as to have clearly led to significant savings.  Additionally, no K-Class yachts existed on either side of the Atlantic while several J's of various pedigree were available for testing, training, and racing in 1935.  Also a factor was that the NYYC was already actively considering another challenge at the time the RLYC began their communication  about the K-Class and it was the NYYC's policy to consider only one challenge at a time, in keeping with the Deed of Gift.

Sailing to the Event on Own Bottom: This provision of the Deed of Gift was at times strictly interpreted to the the degree of making sure that the challenging yacht actually was under her own sail while traveling to the match, not towed by another boat.  Challengers returning across the Atlantic after Cup matches concluded were sometimes towed for convenience. Eventually the NYYC agreed at various times to permit towing the yachts to the match, particularly when conditions were light, and in 1956, for the coming of the 12-meter yachts in 1958, the Deed of Gift was amended to eliminate the requirement.

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The ultimate guide to the 35th America’s Cup

The ultimate guide to the 35th America’s Cup

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By Rebecca Bradbury   Last Updated: 23 May 2023

The 35th  America’s Cup will take place in Bermuda this summer and, as the best way to take in the thrilling race action is from the comfort of a superyacht, here’s the complete guide to undertaking a luxury yacht charter at the iconic sporting fixture.

First contested in 1851,  America’s Cup is the oldest trophy in international sport, even predating the modern Olympic Games. Now, 166 years later, from 26 th May, the very best sailors on the planet will gather in Bermuda and go head-to-head in the picturesque waters of the Great Sound.

Taking place over a whole month, the cup features a number of other unmissable events, including America’s Cup J Class Regatta and the America’s Cup Superyacht Regatta. There is also a lively social scene and many Bermudan attractions to visit away from the racing.

America’s Cup World Series

competitors line up for the America's Cup 2017

Since November 2015, teams from Sweden, Great Britain, New Zealand, France, Japan and the USA have been battling it out on foiling wing-sailed catamarans at events around the globe. Overall rankings in this World Series racing circuit determine the seeding for the America's Cup Qualifiers.

The qualifiers will get underway in Bermuda from 26 th May to 3 rd June. Each competitor races each other competitor twice, scoring one point per win. The top four challengers advance to the Challenger Playoffs which, split into two semi-finals, take place from 4 th to 12 th June.

The winners of the semi-finals then race in a final to determine the top challenger, who will go up against the defender, ORACLE TEAM USA, from 24 th June to 27 th June. The first team to earn seven points will be crowned the overall winner and presented with the America’s Cup ewer.

America’s Cup J Class Regatta

americas cup in bermuda

On 16 th , 19 th and 20 th June, the America’s Cup will be graced by the J Class fleet. These majestic sailing yachts competed for the cup during the 1930s and, out of the 10 ever built, three still survive, including the 37m/120ft sailing yacht ‘Shamrock V’ and the 128ft/39m sailing yacht ENDEAVOUR .

Since the J Class Assn (JCA) was founded, six replica J Class yachts have been built in modern materials to original designs, and these are expected to compete alongside Shamrock V in the America’s Cup J Class Regatta.

Berthed at Hamilton Princess Marina, the J Class fleet will race in Murray’s Anchorage on Bermuda’s north shore and, making history, they will showcase the heritage and tradition of the America’s Cup in fine style. The scoring system ensures the old and new builds can compete fairly together. 

There will be a chance for superyachts to get in on the thrill of racing with the America’s Cup Superyacht Regatta

America’s Cup Superyacht Regatta

overhead shot of yachts lining up for the America's Cup Superyacht Regatta

From 13 th to 15 th June, before the America’s Cup Match begins, there will be a chance for superyachts to get in on the thrill of racing with the America’s Cup Superyacht Regatta .

The off-shore racing will take place northeast, east and south of Bermuda, starting from the area close to St George's Harbour, and the fleet will be divided into classes based on the size and specifications of the entrants.

Among those signed up are a number of charter yachts, including the spectacular 88m/289ft superyacht ‘Maltese Falcon’ , a fellow Perini Navi build, the 60m/197ft superyacht PERSEUS^3 , and the 47m/156ft superyacht HYPERION , which is a regular on the regatta circuit.

Watching the Racing

Artemis Racing of Sweden competing in the America's Cup 2017

Spectators attending the cup races on a luxury yacht charter can incorporate a VIP package into their visit. With a VIP flag, their charter yacht will have access to a front-row view of the race course, immediately adjacent to the race boundary, to be at the heart of the racing.

It also includes entry into the America’s Cup Official Opening Ceremony on 26 th May, as well as a range of other parties and events, including prize-giving ceremonies, post-race press conferences and a Big Superyacht Gala.

To get even closer to the racing, spectators can follow the race on a tender or, for a bird’s eye view, head to the skies by incorporating a private helicopter charter into their vacation.

Away From the Track

america's cup yacht classes

There is certainly much to see and do away from the track. Set adrift, 650 miles off the east coast of America, the 181 islands of Bermuda are draped in the azure waters of the Sargasso Sea and offer 21-square-miles of natural beauty, vibrant island culture and idyllic sailing conditions.

Coral-pink sand beaches, limestone-carved caves and the lively hub of Horseshoe Bay Beach make up the southern shores. Conditions are perfect for watersports while there is much to discover under the water thanks to coral-encrusted shipwrecks and a rich array of marine life.

There are also world-class golf courses, and attractions such as the 400-year-old settlement of St George’s which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Royal Naval Dockyard and the Crystal Caves, where otherworldly formations exist under the surface of a subterranean lake.

The 181 islands of Bermuda are bathed in the azure waters of the Sargasso Sea and offer 21-square-miles of natural beauty

For more details on an America’s Cup yacht charter, contact your preferred charter broker .

Alternatively, browse and compare all luxury yachts available for charter in Bermuda .

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THE AMERICA'S CUP CLASS AC75 BOAT CONCEPT REVEALED

An exciting new era in America’s Cup racing has been unveiled today as the concept for the AC75, the class of boat to be sailed in the 36th America’s Cup is released illustrating a bold and modern vision for high performance fully foiling monohull racing yachts.

america's cup yacht classes

The Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa design teams have spent the last four months evaluating a wide range of monohull concepts. Their goals have been to design a class that will be  challenging and demanding to sail, rewarding the top level of skill for the crews; this concept could become the future of racing and even cruising monohulls beyond the America's Cup.

The AC75 combines extremely high-performance sailing and great match racing with the safety of a boat that can right itself in the event of a capsize. The ground-breaking concept is achieved through the use of twin canting T-foils, ballasted to provide righting-moment when sailing, and roll stability at low speed.

america's cup yacht classes

The normal sailing mode sees the leeward foil lowered to provide lift and enable foiling, with the windward foil raised out of the water to maximise the lever-arm of the ballast  and reduce drag . In pre-starts and through manoeuvres, both foils can be lowered to provide extra lift and roll control, also useful in rougher sea conditions and providing a wider window for racing.

Although racing performance has been the cornerstone of the design, consideration has had to be focused on the more practical aspects of the boat in the shed and at the dock, where both foils are canted right under the hull in order to provide natural roll stability and to allow the yacht to fit into a standard marina berth.

america's cup yacht classes

An underlying principle has been to provide affordable and sustainable technology ‘trickle down’ to other sailing classes and yachts. Whilst recent America's Cup multihulls have benefitted from the power and control of rigid wing sails, there has been no transfer of this technology to the rigs of other sailing classes. In tandem with the innovations of the foiling system, Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa are investigating a number of possible innovations for the AC75's rig, with the requirement that the rig need not be craned in and out each day. This research work is ongoing as different concepts are evaluated, and details will be released with the AC75 Class Rule  before March 31st, 2018.

The America's Cup is a match race and creating a class that will provide challenging match racing has been the goal from the start. The AC75 will foil-tack and foil-gybe with only small manoeuvring losses, and given the speed and the ease at which the boats can turn the classic pre-starts of the America's Cup are set to make an exciting comeback.  Sail handling will also become important, with cross-overs to code zero sails in light wind conditions.

A huge number of ideas have been considered in the quest to define a class that will be extremely exciting to sail and provide great match racing, but the final decision was an easy one: the concept being announced was a clear winner, and both teams are eager to be introducing the AC75 for the 36th America's Cup in 2021.

The AC75 class rule will be published by March 31st 2018. 

GRANT DALTON, CEO Emirates Team New Zealand 

“We are really proud to present the concept of the AC75 today. It has been a phenomenal effort by Dan and the guys together with Luna Rossa design team and there is a lot of excitement building around the boat in the development and getting to this point.”

“Our analysis of the performance of the foiling monohulls tells us that once the boat is up and foiling, the boat has the potential to be faster than an AC50 both upwind and downwind.”

“Auckland is in for a  highly competitive summer of racing in 2020 / 2021.”

DAN BERNASCONI, Design Coordinator Emirates Team New Zealand:

“This design process has been new territory for the team, starting with a clean sheet to develop a class - and we've loved it. We wanted to see how far we could push the performance of monohull yachts to create a foiling boat that would be challenging to sail and thrilling to match race. We're really excited about the concept and can't wait to see it on the water..

We think we have achieved these goals - thanks also to the constructive co-operation of Luna Rossa design team - as well as the more practical detail to consider in terms of cost management and logistics of running the boats.”

PATRIZIO BERTELLI, Chairman of Luna Rossa Challenge:

“The choice of a monohull was a fundamental condition for us to be involved again in the America’s Cup. This is not a return to the past, but rather a step towards the future: the concept of the new AC 75 Class, which Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa design teams have developed together, will open new horizons for racing yachts, which, in the future, may also extend to cruising. It is a modern concept, at the high end of technology and challenging from a sporting point of view, which will deliver competitive and exciting match racing. I would like to thank both design teams for their commitment in achieving, in just four months, the goal which we had established when we challenged”.

MAX SIRENA. Team Director of Luna Rossa Challenge:

  “As a sailor I am very pleased of the concept jointly developed by both design teams: the AC 75 will be an extremely high-performance yacht, challenging to sail, who will require an athletic and very talented crew. Every crew member will have a key role both in the manoeuvres and in racing the boat; the tight crossings and the circling in the pre-starts – which are part of the America’s Cup tradition – will be back on show, but at significant higher speeds. It is a new concept, and I am sure that its development will bring interesting surprises”.

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Three Thai missing boats loaded with smuggled diesel found off Malaysian coast

Monday, 17 Jun 2024

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BANGKOK: The three boats that disappeared from a marine police station last week with some 330,000 litres of diesel were found in Malaysian waters on Sunday (June 16) and are being towed back.

Pol Maj-General Jaroonkiart Pankaew (pic), deputy commissioner of the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB), said the three boats are expected to reach Songkhla pier on Monday.

Jaroonkiart was speaking to reporters just before boarding a police plane to Songkhla, where he will interrogate the crew of the three boats himself.

The three fishing boats were among five seized by the coast guard in the Gulf of Thailand on March 17 with 28 crew members. Most of the crew are of Thai nationality.

Three of the five boats were found to be loaded with some 330,000 litres of diesel smuggled from a neighbouring country to sell cheaply in Thailand. The other two boats were empty.

The five boats were towed to the Sattahip marine police’s pier in Chonburi. On the evening of June 11, officers guarding the boats allowed them to be moved away from the pier due to strong winds.

The officers believed the heavy winds and big waves would cause the boats to smash into the pier and get damaged.

However, no officers were dispatched to watch the boats and the three loaded with diesel disappeared late that night.

Channel 8 reported earlier that certain members of the coast guard had allegedly siphoned some diesel from the boats to sell and had let go of the boats to conceal their crimes.

On Monday, Pol Maj-General Preutthipong Nutchanart, commander of the marine police division under CIB, said it was found that some of the oil on the three boats was missing. He did not elaborate.

He also said eight of the 16 crew members on the three boats had also disappeared.

Preutthipong added that he believes some members of the Sattahip coast guard definitely had a hand in letting the boats go. He said Jaroonkiart has given him seven days to investigate the case and determine who was involved.

Meanwhile, Pol Colonel Chatchawal Chuchaicharoen, commander of Crime Suppression Sub-division 2, said he had learned from lawyers that only 11 of the 28 crew members arrested on March 17 were still available to face charges after being released on bail. The 11 suspects are scheduled to report for interrogation later on Monday. - The Nation/ANN

Tags / Keywords: Thailand , Malaysia , missing , boats , diesel , smuggle

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Yemen’s Houthi rebels launch boat-borne bomb attack against Greek-owned ship in Red Sea

An HSC-7 helicopter lands on the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Laboon in the Red Sea, Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

An HSC-7 helicopter lands on the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Laboon in the Red Sea, Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

The USS aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower, also known as ‘IKE’, sails in the Red Sea on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

A fighter jet parks on the deck of the USS aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower, also known as ‘IKE’, in the Red Sea, Tuesday, June 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

A sailor signals a fighter jet preparing to launch off the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier in the Red Sea on Tuesday, June 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)

A fighter jet takes off from the USS aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower, also known as ‘IKE’, in the Red Sea, Tuesday, June 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

This is a locator map for Yemen with its capital, Sanaa. (AP Photo)

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ABOARD THE USS LABOON IN THE RED SEA (AP) — Yemen’s Houthi rebels launched a boat-borne bomb attack against a commercial ship in the Red Sea on Wednesday, authorities said, the latest escalation despite a U.S.-led campaign trying to protect the vital waterway.

The use of a boat loaded with explosives raised the specter of 2000’s USS Cole attack, a suicide assault by al-Qaida on the warship when it was at port in Aden, killing 17 on board. Associated Press journalists saw the Cole in the Red Sea on Wednesday, now taking part in the U.S. campaign while visiting one of her sister ships, the USS Laboon.

Yemen’s military spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree claimed responsibility for the attack, identifying the vessel targeted as the Liberian-flagged, Greek-owned bulk carrier Tutor. He described the attack as using a “drone boat,” as well as drones and ballistic missiles.

In a warning to shippers, the British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations center described the vessel as being hit in its stern by a small white craft southwest of the Houthi-controlled port city of Hodeida.

The captain “reports the vessel is taking on water, and not under command of the crew,” the UKMTO said. He also “reports the vessel was hit for a second time by an unknown airborne projectile.”

Palestinians mourn their relatives killed in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip in a hospital in Deir al Balah on Tuesday, June 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana)

The U.S. military’s Central Command also acknowledged the attack, saying the Tutor “most recently docked in Russia.”

“The impact of the (drone boat) caused severe flooding and damage to the engine room,” it added.

The U.S. military separately destroyed three anti-ship cruise missile launchers in Houthi-held Yemen, as well as one rebel drone over the Red Sea. The Houthis launched two anti-ship ballistic missiles over the Red Sea, but they caused no damage, Central Command said.

The Houthis, who seized Yemen’s capital nearly a decade ago and have been fighting a Saudi-led coalition since shortly after, have been targeting shipping throughout the Red Sea corridor over the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip.

They say the attacks are aimed at stopping the war and supporting the Palestinians, though the attacks often target vessels that have nothing to do with the conflict .

The war in Gaza has killed more than 36,000 Palestinians there, while hundreds of others have been killed in Israeli operations in the West Bank. It began after Hamas-led militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing about 1,200 people and taking around 250 hostage.

The Houthis have launched more than 50 attacks on shipping, killed three sailors, seized one vessel and sunk another since November, according to the U.S. Maritime Administration. A U.S.-led airstrike campaign has targeted the Houthis since January, with a series of strikes May 30 killing at least 16 people and wounding 42 others, the rebels say.

Associated Press journalists on an embark with the U.S. Navy were interviewing Cmdr. Eric Blomberg, the commanding officer of the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer Laboon, when the alert came in on the attack. Blomberg took multiple calls from sailors on board the vessel, giving updates on the apparent attack.

The Laboon is one of the destroyers accompanying the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier and both has shot down Houthi fire and escorted vessels through the region. Though Blomberg and others stressed they were still investigating the attack, he said it appeared the vessel targeted had nothing to do with the Israel-Hamas war.

The Houthis “hit ships that are completely not associated or tied to the U.S. or Israel at all,” Blomberg said.

“These are just innocent merchant sailors carrying goods through the Red Sea, trying to get it through the least-expensive route, and they’re paying for it,” he said.

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IDF fires artillery shells into Gaza as fighting between Israeli troops and Islamist Hamas militants continues on Oct. 12, 2023.

Middle East crisis — explained

The conflict between Israel and Palestinians — and other groups in the Middle East — goes back decades. These stories provide context for current developments and the history that led up to them.

‘All eyes on Rafah’ is the Internet's most viral AI image. Two artists are claiming credit

Bobby Allyn

Bobby Allyn

The image on the right was generated by Zila Abka in February. She says she created it with Microsoft’s Image Creator. On the left is the viral image that Amirul Shah said he created also using an AI image generator tool.

The image on the right was generated by Zila Abka in February. She says she created it with Microsoft’s Image Creator. On the left is the viral image that Amirul Shah said he created also using an AI image generator tool. Amirul Shah/AI generated image and Zila Abka/Microsoft Image Creator hide caption

Two Malaysians separated by 900 miles are both taking credit for a synthetic image of Gaza that became the most viral ever AI-generated photo, underscoring the complexities of authorship and ownership in an online landscape increasingly overrun with content created by artificial intelligence.

The story behind the “all eyes on Rafah” graphic, which has been shared about 50 million times on Instagram and other platforms, likely begins on the northern tip of the Southeast Asian island of Borneo.

There, back in February, Zila AbKa was at her home playing around with Microsoft’s AI tool Image Creator.

AbKa is a 39-year-old science teacher and an AI art hobbyist. She’s also a pro-Palestinian activist. She wanted to make a piece of political art that depicted those sheltering in camps in the Gazan city of Rafah.

Zila Abka is a school teacher in Malaysia. She is active in the Facebook group Prompters Malaya, a gathering place for mostly Malaysian AI artists to show their work.

Zila Abka is a school teacher in Malaysia. She is active in the Facebook group Prompters Malaya, a gathering place for mostly Malaysian AI artists to show their work. Zila Abka hide caption

After the phrase “all eyes on Rafah” started going viral, AbKa said she wrote a prompt for the AI tool to create an image that would have the phrase spelled out by white tents amid dense rows of other tent encampments. The words had become a rallying cry after a World Health Organization representative used them to draw attention to the situation in the region where hundreds of thousands of displaced people have fled.

When Microsoft’s Image Creator spit out a graphic, AbKa put two watermarks on it: One indicating it was generated by AI; another saying she was the creator.

She liked it. So she shared a post on Feb. 14 in her language — Malay — to the Facebook group Prompters Malaya , a gathering place of about 250,000 mostly Malaysians who share AI-generated art, sometimes about the war in Gaza.

“I wanted to spread and highlight the issue and hoped that everybody would do whatever they could to show solidarity with Gazans right now,” AbKa told NPR.

AbKa has not previously spoken out about making the image.

AbKa: 'I think this is mine,' but the watermarks are gone

From there, she basically forgot about it — until last week, when she saw a very similar image on Instagram, spreading rapidly following an Israeli strike in the city that killed dozens and prompted worldwide condemnation.

But the image was altered. Her watermarks were gone. And the image was expanded to include snow-capped mountains looming over the tents, an almost surrealist touch, an AI riff on Gaza’s Middle Eastern landscape.

Zila Abka generated this image in February.

Zila Abka generated this image in February. Zila Abka/Microsoft Image Creator hide caption

At first, she was offended that someone had laundered her image and removed her name from it. In addition, she was initially alarmed that the “AI generated” disclaimer was missing just as tens of millions of people were re-sharing it across the internet.

She zoomed in to examine every letter and corner of the viral image. She concluded that it had to be hers.

“Everything about the structure of the words and the arrangement of the ‘tents,’ it’s all the same, except for the expanded part,” she said. “When I saw it, I thought, yeah, I think this is mine.”

But her annoyance over not getting credit soon dissipated.

“I don’t think any generated AI image is fully someone’s belonging,” AbKa said.

Indeed, the U.S. Copyright Office has repeatedly rejected copyright protection for AI-generated images since they lack human authorship, placing the AI images in a legal gray area.

It was, however, AbKa’s unique prompt that summoned the image. She said that should be worth something, though galvanizing support for Gaza was always her main impetus.

“If the aim is to spread awareness,” AbKa said about the version of the image that went viral, “then I think I should thank that person.”

The person behind the account 'Shahv4012'

Amirul Shah is a college student and photographer in Malaysia. The “all eyes on Rafah” image he created has been shared nearly 50 million times on Instagram.

Amirul Shah is a college student and photographer in Malaysia. The “all eyes on Rafah” image he created has been shared nearly 50 million times on Instagram. Amirul Shah hide caption

That person is Amirul Shah, known as Shahv4012 on Instagram. He is also Malaysian.

The two do not know each other, nor have they ever communicated.

AbKa believes he took her image, edited it and created an Instagram “template,” which has since surged on social media, amassing nearly 50 million shares on Instagram and millions more on other social media platforms.

AbKa thinks Shah cropped her image right above her watermarks, then edited it with a tool that uses AI to expand and re-imagine the background of a photo. She believes this because she tried it herself on her own AI rendering and got results strikingly similar to the viral image.

Shah’s image has his own watermark on it with the tag of his Instagram account dedicated to his photography, @chaa.my_, giving the impression that the whole thing was his original undertaking.

Amirul Shah added his generated image to an Instagram template that was amplified by celebrities like Dua Lipa and Bella Hadid.

Amirul Shah added his generated image to an Instagram template that was amplified by celebrities like Dua Lipa and Bella Hadid. Amirul Shah/AI generated image hide caption

When Shah was reached for an interview, he denied copying AbKa’s creation. Instead, he shared a different version of events.

Shah, a 21-year-old college student in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital, has not previously spoken out about his process.

A photography enthusiast, Shah says he was toying around with an AI image generator recently. He thinks he used Microsoft’s Image Creator, the same service AbKa used, but he claims he can’t remember.

When he added it to an Instagram "template," it ricocheted around the world, as influencers and celebrities like Dua Lipa and Bella Hadid amplified it to their millions of followers.

The image looks uncannily like AbKa’s, but he claims he hadn't even seen AbKa's before making his own.

Still, the size of the words, placement of each letter and AI-generated clusters of tents next to the phrase are identical. But Shah’s version is portrayed from an higher aerial view, with deeper and longer shadows cast by snowy mountains.

He said he was giving all sorts of Gaza-related AI images a try as a form of activism, not angling for virality.

“My intention was not for popularity,” Shah told NPR. “I wanted to uphold justice for all Palestinians who are there.”

Shah says AI images spread faster

Technologists say that generating the same exact AI image twice is exceedingly unlikely.

In dozens of attempts to recreate the image using Microsoft’s Image Creator, NPR was not able to prompt the tool to create a visual that came close to the viral one. Most of the time, the tool struggled to correctly spell “All eyes on Rafah,” a limitation of many AI image generators, which tend to depict words misspelled or warped in some way.

These are the results produced for NPR by Microsoft’s Image Creator after given a prompt to produce a realistic-looking aerial photo of Rafah, with the phrase “all eyes on Rafah” superimposed among the tents.

These are the results produced for NPR by Microsoft’s Image Creator after given a prompt to produce a realistic-looking aerial photo of Rafah, with the phrase “all eyes on Rafah” superimposed among the tents. NPR/Microsoft Image Creator hide caption

Shah, who regularly shares posts on social media highlighting the plight of Palestinians, said he has noticed that real photos and videos of the war tend to have limited reach on Instagram.

“The picture from AI can spread faster in a short time,” he said. Shah says another problem is that he has had graphic images of war removed by Instagram for violating the platform’s policies. He said he’s aware that repeat violations can mean that “users can get blocked,” he said.

Felix Simon, a research fellow at the University of Oxford who studies AI’s impact on public discourse, said the image being created by artificial intelligence fueled its virality far less than other factors.

“The simplicity of the slogan, the symbolism at work, the timing and political context, and the fact that it was shared by celebrities,” said Simon, adding that “the lack of graphic content makes it less likely to get taken down, which helps, too.”

It is a concern that has been echoed by other activists who have claimed graphic imagery that shows the atrocities of the war in Gaza can be removed from platforms, or suppressed by social media algorithms.

Some commentators criticized the meme for portraying a sanitized version of war that renders human horrors on the ground in Gaza into an easily-shareable AI image.

Both AbKa and Shah reject that idea, saying AI images can be a useful way to grab peoples' attention and make them engage in some way with the war.

Yet there is no agreement among them about who created the viral image that has spurred discussion around the world about the authenticity of online activism and renewed attention on an internet increasingly rife with realistic-looking AI depictions.

When pressed in direct messages on Instagram for a response to AbKa’s contention that her image was copied, Shah blocked an NPR reporter.

NPR researcher Susie Cummings contributed to this report.

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COMMENTS

  1. THE BOATS: AC75, AC40 & LEQ12

    The Teams of the 37th America's Cup. THE BOATS: AC75, AC40 & LEQ12. Although foiling feels like a recent revolution to take the world of watersports by storm, it has been at the heart of America's Cup racing for over 10 years. It was August 2012 when the sailing world was turned upside down by a 72-foot catamaran flying in the Hauraki Gulf.

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  4. International America's Cup Class

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  5. 6 famous America's Cup yachts

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  6. America's Cup

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  7. THE TECHNOLOGY

    It was August 2012 when the sailing world was turned upside down by a 72- foot catamaran flying in the Hauraki Gulf. Emirates Team New Zealand had brought foils to the America's Cup, changing the face of top-level yacht racing forever. Six years later, in 2018, the publication of the AC75 Class Rule marked the beginning of a new sailing era.

  8. Home

    The J Class has its roots in the oldest international yacht race in the world, the America's Cup. About Yachts History News Events Gallery Partners. Next event: 19-22 June. ... The Yachts. The J Class includes a mixture of refitted surviving yachts along with a number of new yachts faithfully built to original hull lines from 1930's designs ...

  9. America's Cup yacht class

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  10. THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE PROTOCOL AND CLASS RULE OF ...

    The Protocol of the 37th America's Cup was released today by the Defender, the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and Emirates Team New Zealand and the Challenger of Record - Royal Yacht Squadron Ltd and their representative team INEOS Britannia, eight months to the day after Emirates Team New Zealand successfully defended the America's Cup.

  11. Boats of the America's Cup 2024

    The America's Cup boats are known as "AC75 class racing yachts". These are monohulls, which means they have a single hull, unlike the catamarans used in previous editions of the America's Cup. These yachts are equipped with "foils" or retractable ailerons that allow them to rise above the water to reduce drag and increase speed.

  12. America's Cup

    The J-Class was adopted for America's Cup competition in 1928, looking forward to the next regatta in 1930. The Class itself, though, dated back to the turn of the century when the Universal Rule was adopted though no J-Class yachts had yet been built. The Rule used a yacht's various dimensions to calculate an equivalent rating in feet.

  13. History of the America's Cup

    1851. On August 22, the New York Yacht Club's schooner America wins a 53-mile race around England's Isle of Wight organized by the Royal Yacht Squadron. It is awarded a "100 Guinea Cup" or "Queen's Cup," as it was variously known. Later the trophy comes to be known as the "America's Cup," in honor of the schooner that won it.

  14. The ultimate guide to the 35th America's Cup

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  15. J Class World Championship returns to America's Cup 2024

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  16. PUBLICATION OF THE AC75 CLASS RULE AND AC ...

    The Defender and Challenger of Record are pleased to announce the official publication of the AC75 Class Rule and the AC Technical Regulations today. These documents will govern the technical aspects of the 37 th America's Cup, and define the specific parameters to which every competing AC75 yacht must be built. The development of these rules ...

  17. America's Cup: J Class to hold 2024 World Championships in Barcelona

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  18. AC75

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  21. The America'S Cup Class Ac75 Boat Concept Revealed

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