America’s Cup History Through the Lens of the Camera


There are very few photographers in the world of Sailing and the America’s Cup like Gilles Martin-Raget, Daniel Forster, and Carlo Borlenghi who have brought the Cup to life through thousands of photos over 40 years. Their challenge: Pick a single memorable photo from each edition to tell the history of the Cup as seen through their eyes.

Newport 1977 


Daniel Forster – Ted Turner Returning Victorious
The 1977 America’s Cup was the first of my many professional stepping stones. It was the first America’s Cup I covered out of 13 events. I was still living in a small village in Switzerland and just started my, by now 50-year, photography career. Having covered the 1972 and the 1976 Olympic Games, I thought, if I wanted to be a yachting photographer, I had to cover the America’s Cup in Newport, Rhode Island. Going out to sea on the photo boat, a coast guard cutter, I noticed the blimp above. So I went to the airport the next day to inquire about a spot on the TV blimp. They told me to return the next day and my aerial photographs made the magazines and a worldwide advertising campaign for Rolex in 1980. Not a bad start for a landlocked photographer…. 
The included photograph of Ted Turner returning to Newport after his victory, with Gary Jobson as tactician, will definitely never be repeated! To see the public waiting, and then cheering from the rooftops is certainly unique. The photograph is a scanned and edited slide, like all of my photos from my archives until 2003.
Newport 1980 
Copyright 1980 Daniel Forster


Daniel Forster – The Last Defence

1980 was the last successful defence by the US when Freedom defeated Australia 4-1 in Newport.

Newport 1983 


Gilles Martin-Raget – Where it All Began
Australia II as seen from the rig of France III during a practice start in summer 1983. As I was a member of the sailing team and also the rigging team of the French challenge, and doing a bit of photography, Bruno Troublé – skipper of France 3 – agreed that I would climb into the rig for some shots with the idea the Australian keel would be visible. I still do not understand why the Australians agreed to join this session, maybe they were just confident that the painting of their keel would be efficient enough to hide everything. And it was. A few months later this photo was the cover shot of “Sail”, the leading US sailing magazine announcing the historic defeat of the NYYC. That, plus the $500 payment that came with it, led me to the idea that being a sailing photographer could be a real job.


Carlo Borlenghi – The Challenger’s Dock
Azzurra was the first Italian Challenger in the history of the America’s Cup, and that was the reason why I went to Newport in 1983. I picked this photo, not because it’s a beautiful nautical photo but because it’s representative of how different the America’s Cup was in that period. This was the Challenger’s dock, and you can see all the boats sitting side by side, with no one worried about spies. Only Australia II had a keel cover that was hiding the Ben Lexcen designed winged keel. Subsequently in the next Cup in Fremantle, each team had its own base.
Copyright 1983 Daniel Forster


Daniel Forster – Party Like You’ve Won the America’s Cup

The victory party for Australia II was  one to remember, here is Designer Ben Lexcen dancing on the transom of AUSTRALIA II, Alan Bond with wife Eileen and John Bertrand behind him, and even Dennis Conner in an NYYC straw-hat, far back in the center of photo:

Fremantle 1987


Carlo Borlenghi – The Freemantle Doctor
In Fremantle, I was the Official photographer of the Italian challenger ITALIA backed by Maurizio Gucci. Fremantle was a fantastic place, even more so for us photographers. The mists of Newport were gone and the days were sunny with big waves and big spray. The “Freemantle Doctor” showed up punctually every day at 1pm bringing with it great wind conditions. I will forever remember our New Year’s on the streets of Fremantle.


Gilles Martin-Raget – The Best Cup Ever?
At least for photography, but the racing scenario of Denis Conner’s and Stars & Stripe’s revenge was not bad either. The daily 20-25 knots “Fremantle Doctor”, clear sky and sharp waves set a perfect background for the tight races of the heavy, low freeboard, plenty of sail area, and packed crew 12 meters. 13 challengers with plenty of onshore and offshore actions did the rest. This photo was taken during the final match and features one of the rare crossings the crew of Stars & Stripes had to experience behind Kookaburra. The US boat had plenty of speed in a straight line and its crew led by the legendary Dennis Conner had plenty of experience in knowing how to use it and avoid the uncertainty of falling into close match racing.
San Diego 1988


Gilles Martin-Raget – Trying Other Paths
The cheeky challenge thrown by Michael Fay with its huge KZ1 monohull in 1988 not only sent the America’s Cup into the limbo of the New York Supreme Court for months but also produced two incredible boats that were technically very much ahead of their time, especially the light wing rigged catamaran Stars & Stripes 88 which left no chance to its opponent.
Photo:© Carlo Borlenghi


Carlo Borlenghi – Boring and Senseless
Back from Hawaii for the Panam Cup, I only spent three days in San Diego for what was a boring and senseless America’s Cup between two revolutionary boats, the US Stars & Stripes and the giant NZ KZ1.
San Diego 1992
Photo:© Carlo Borlenghi


Carlo Borlenghi – Il Moro di Venezia
I was the official photographer of the Italian challenge “Il Moro di Venezia”, the eventual winner of the LVC. This shot of the launch of Il Moro di Venezia in the San Marco basin in Venice is majestic and beautiful and was commissioned by the promoter Raul Gardini under the direction of Gian Franco Zeffirelli.


Gilles Martin-Raget – Here comes the ACC Yachts
This photo shows the very first circling of the very first ACC yachts specially created for the America’s Cup. That was in Sete, France between Marc Pajot’s “F1” and Il Moro di Venezia with Paul Cayard at the helm. The Italian boat was launched in Venezia a few months earlier in a fantastic production organized by filmmaker Francesco Zefirelli and financed by the flamboyant syndicate owner, Raul Gardini. Unfortunately for them, those two very wide boats were not heading in the right corner of the new rule as a much narrower America3 won the Defender series easily and the final match in San Diego.
San Diego 1995
Copyright 1995 Daniel Forster


Daniel Forster – Mighty Mary
Bill Koch declared that he did think about a different approach, after successfully defending the America’s Cup for the San Diego Yacht Club in 1992. (You noticed that I used “successfully defending” instead of “winning. It is a matter of semantics, but I like to be precise.) He wanted to stir the pot and announced “The Women’s team”! I got asked again to document the campaign after photographing the 1992 “crusade”. It meant spending one week a month in San Diego for one year and then three months full time on-site with a supergroup of talented, focused, and ambitious women. Their commitment had no boundaries. To create this iconic image I got the special spinnaker packed before leaving the compound and asked Merritt Carey the “Mast-Chick”, compared to Suzy Leech, the “Bow-Chick”, to check the rig below me standing on the spreader. I was harnessed too of course. The challenge was to incorporate Merritt, the sunflower spinnaker, and the America’s Cup symbol in the whole image. Just could not avoid the little shadow of my lens on the spreader….This historic photograph went around the world and got double-page exposure in many magazines.

Carlo Borlenghi – Red Socks Parade

There was no Italian challenge in this edition of the America’s Cup so instead, I was working with Paul Cayard who hired one of the old AC boats the “Moro di Venezia”, to launch the new TODS – Boat Competition sports shoes. One of the most memorable memories of Team New Zealand’s winning the Cup was the wonderful and impressive reception in Auckland they received, the Red Socks Parade.


Gilles Martin-Raget – The Photo Nobody Ever Took
Bad weather days are very rare in San Diego, and believe it or not, when the bad weather hit, none of the numerous photographers who were in San Diego in 1995 to cover the America’s Cup went on the water to follow the race between One Australia and Team New Zealand in the 4th Round Robin of the Louis Vuitton Cup. But the TV was on-site and transmitted live the images of the incredible moment when One Australia broke in two and sunk in a few minutes. As Communication Director of the event, Bruno Troublé invited the ashamed photographers – that’s including me – to take photos of the screens of the media center TV, copyright free. Lesson learned: Always go at sea when there is the least racing, and more certainly when the weather is bad.
Auckland 2000
Copyright 2000 Daniel Forster


Daniel Forster – The Long Lens and The Finish Line
 Carlo Borlenghi and I were actually on the same photo-boat, racing from turning mark to turning mark and back to the finish….until the photo-boat broke down !! I almost starting to cry: The documenting of the crossing of the final finishing line, which was the culmination of five months of work in New Zealand looked ruined by a boat breakdown. Something that has never happened before. That’s when the very long lens came into action. We limped into a decent angle, far away, and I kept taking pictures with the CANON F1 body, loaded with Velvia Fujichrome film. This was before high-resolution digital cameras! The diapositive has been scanned, cropped, and edited in Photoshop.

Gilles Martin-Raget – Hold Your Course

That was probably the most intense, wild, radical, aggressive series of match racing America’s Cup fans have ever seen, and probably the same for the crews of Luna Rossa (Francesco de Angelis) and America One (Paul Cayard). The final of the Louis Vuitton Cup in Auckland 2000 was absolutely thrilling with the two boats never separated by more than a few boat lengths, race after race, mark after mark. In the end, the US entry was inevitably slowed down by a torn spinnaker. Maybe they were not quite designed for this kind of usage after all!


Carlo Borlenghi – Luna Rossa
I was the official photographer for the new Italian Challenge “Luna Rossa”, with Patron Patrizio Bertelli and sponsored by PRADA. This was a very beautiful campaign from a new team that immediately stood out and won the Louis Vuitton Cup.
 Auckland 2003
Carlo Borlenghi


Carlo Borlenghi – Old Meets New
I was the official photographer for “Luna Rossa”, when Ernesto Bertarelli entered the America’s Cup and his new Swiss Challenge Alinghi won the LVC and the America’s Cup. This is one of my favorite photos, the meeting of the Italian naval training ship ‘Amerigo Vespucci’ with Luna Rossa on the Hauraki Gulf after six months of sailing.


Gilles Martin-Raget – The Bucket Drama
 A very strange feeling started floating in the audience during the first race of the final match in 2003. Sailing in top-of-the-range conditions, the crew of Team New Zealand started to empty their super high-tech boat with a simple bucket. It took more racing days with more drama, including a broken rig, for the Kiwi team to lose its beloved America’s Cup to another kiwi team led by Russell Coutts enrolled a few years before by Swiss billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli. As often in the America’s Cup, the story was written well in advance.


Daniel Forster – Alinghi Spinnaker
February 15th, 2003 was the first race of the Team New Zealand America’s Cup defense. I decided to cover it from the air and went to the heliport after booking a Robinson 22 helicopter, cheap and small. Just when I arrived, Michael Fay, the original TNZ backer from 1987 and 1988, walked through the door and asked me what I was doing there? I told him about my plans and he said: “You don’t want to fly in this little “flying lawn-mover”?” He had just arrived from the airport with his Bell 407 helicopter after visiting the king of Tonga. He quickly talked to his pilot, asked him to file a flight plan to watch the races, and told me to hop into his luxurious upgrade. I documented the full two hours of racing. It was not the best day for TNZ, considering they had a crew member bailing the water out of the aft cockpit….
Valencia 2007


Gilles Martin-Raget – A Forest of Bowman
The Valencia edition was great in every way, onshore and on the water. With so many teams involved, the great idea of the Swiss Defender was to organize many regattas all around Europe, giving more opportunities to the public to see more races sailed by more teams, and supported by more sponsors. That’s when the IACC yachts in their Version 5 reached the top of their career with the funny spotters sent at the top of the mast to help the mainsail battens to go from one side to the other and give a more accurate vision of the wind blowing over the racing course. Alinghi won in a spectacular rush in the last meters of the final leg of the final race Vs Emirates Team New Zealand. However, it was right after the finishing line that things went wrong, with a plan for the following Cup that was not satisfactory to many other teams, pushing the Cup toward a more unstable period.


Carlo Borlenghi – Exploring Different Angles.
In 2007 in Valencia I was the official photographer of the Cup, working with Michel Hodara, the brilliant head of Communications. This was one of the more interesting cups for me from a photographic point of view. Michel was a volcano of ideas and encouraged you to always find different themes and ideas with your
Valencia 2010
©2010 Kaufmann/Forster go4image


Daniel Forster – Another Epic Loophole Event

The Alinghi team discovered too late that Oracle built a trimaran with a fixed wind. They had already designed a catamaran with a soft sail and their only hope was for light breeze. Since it was a Deed of Gift match, there were only three races planned. AS we know now, Oracle won twice and that was the end of it….and of Alinghi….for a few years at least: Watch out 2024! I was covering the event with my Swiss colleague Jürg Kaufmann to get two different angles. I was going to be in the helicopter for the second race, so I covered the first race from the official media boat. These monsters were so fast that we got only the entanglement at the start and had to let them go-ahead to the first mark. This photo from behind shows the size and difference between the two multi-hulls.

Carlo Borlenghi/Alinghi


Carlo Borlenghi – Where Few Cats Go
Another Lawyer’s Cup. I was the Official Alinghi photographer during the Alinghi Vs BMW Oracle Racing Cup that saw Oracle win the Cup and take it to San Francisco USA. This Cup gave me a unique opportunity to document the incredible transport of the Alinghi catamaran from Geneva SUI to Genoa ITA flying over Monte San Bernardo and the Matterhorn.


Gilles Martin-Raget – On a Wing and a Prayer
Two men, passionate about yacht racing, going at each other with no limit except what is written in the Deed of Gift could well be the real essence of the America’s Cup, at least this was the case for the 33rd edition. Again the two boats produced for this DOG Match were totally extraordinary, even though none of them was able to complete a full course (20 miles upwind/downwind) in racing mode before the first race because of permanent breakages. I was lucky to follow the Oracle Racing effort as team photographer, an amazing campaign because of the quality of the people involved and the incredible machine produced. In this photo, USA 17 is training in San Diego and testing “flying high” modes under a conventional rig. A few days later the mast broke, with nobody hurt, a true miracle. The team set a giant wing sail the following week and the boat radically changed to become a winner. Ten days before the final in Valencia, the wing crashed on the ground during a manipulation, but the shore team went at it again, miraculously fixed the damages allowing the boat to sail two full races with no breakage. Talk about luck…
San Francisco 2013
©2013 Daniel Forster


Daniel Forster – The Speediest Racing So Far
Best out of nine was lucky for me: Because I had to cover the Rolex NYYC Invitational regatta in Newport for Rolex, I only arrived in San Francisco
when the result was ETNZ: 8 – Oracle: 1. I just made it from the airport to the wall at the St Francis Yacht Club to get the first mark rounding. But ETNZ did not win, and did not win ever again in San Francisco! The biggest comeback meant that Oracle won eight races in a row and kept the trophy. The iconic photo shows a classic day’s racing in the bay: The Golden Gate Bridge shrouded in fog.
© LR/Carlo Borlenghi


Carlo Borlenghi – The Comeback
My memory for this Cup is of one thing. The historic comeback by Oracle Team USA in the Final against EmiratesTeam NZ. A feat like that almost felt impossible.


Gilles Martin-Raget – A Golden Opportunity
Being an official AC photographer (as a part of the Team that won the previous edition) puts you in a position to become a servant of the prestigious America’s Cup Trophy and send you alongside it on many occasions, to many places (including the White House), with many people around, some of them being famous. It’s a funny feeling that you have become a close relative to this venerable object that carries 170 years of history and has been a dream for so many people for such a long time. But shooting the America’s Cup Trophy at the top of the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge ahead of the fantastic endless match between Oracle Racing and Emirates Team New Zealand in 2013 was certainly one of the most amazing experiences I had in 40 years of AC photography! You go up there one by one in a ridiculously small old noisy elevator, wondering about the last time it has been serviced, and when you’re out in the freezing wind you discover the most spectacular sight over San Francisco Bay. When the trophy arrives through the same path in the hands of its bodyguard, there starts the real deal: better be good and quick while truly enjoying every second of this incredibly privileged moment that will never happen again!
Bermuda 2017
©2017 Daniel Forster


Daniel Firster – The Cyclor Cup

The 2017 America’s Cup coverage was another challenge because the speed of those machines was breathtaking! Luckily the water was flat and the photo boats fast, but we had to cut the corners and could not cover every mark rounding. This is my best catamaran photo so far! A Bermuda background with the two cats crossing and everybody wondering who is ahead 😉


Carlo Borlenghi – the Majestic J’s
I was in Bermuda as the Official Photographer for Oracle Team USA when Emirates Team NZ dominated the whole regatta and brought the America’s Cup back to New Zealand. This is a great reminder of the historic World-Class J’s, a rare event to see 7 of them in the beautiful waters around Bermuda.


Gilles Martin-Raget – Wild Weather Action
Another bad weather day in a place of usually perfect weather. But now, with a bit more experienced, you know something wild can happen any time, especially with the new volatile AC50 foiling catamarans. Two minutes before this photo I was stuck in the rear seat of the TV helicopter with doors closed because it was raining and the onboard TV equipment could not afford to get wet, the world was watching through this pile of laptops and wires after all. Miraculously, the rain stopped 15 secs before the start and the pilot agreed to open the sliding door, and that’s when Emirates Team New Zealand nose-dived in spectacular fashion.  Again, hopefully, nobody was injured, and certainly no negative impact on the final result of this Cup for ETNZ either!Auckland 2021 

© COR 36 | Studio Borlenghi


Carlo Borlenghi – The Spectacular AC75

As the official photographer for the Prada Cup and the America’s Cup, at a time when the great pandemic was affecting Europe, I was lucky enough to spend 4 months in New Zealand. You couldn’t ask for anything better. The new generation of AC75 was waiting to be discovered, very beautiful, very fast.


Gilles Martin-Raget – Spectacular Splash Downs

The actual AC yachts are now so fast that we have to follow the same technique used by our colleagues who specialize in racing car photography. Gone are the days when the loaded photo boats were rushing from one mark to another to catch the action. Now the game is to stand by near a mark hoping something interesting will happen if, by chance, the boats come in your direction. With the use of gates, you’re never sure you have chosen the right side. With nearly invisible crews wearing helmets and armor hidden behind aerodynamic panels, no more sail changes, shorter pre-start action, fewer tacks and gybes, all executed in a blink of an eye, the only spectacular action you can hope for is an unexpected landing with a big splash when the foils cease to work as planned. Thank you Luna Rossa for doing that in style.

Next Stop… Barcelona 2024…