WITH THE 36TH AMERICA’S Cup kicking off in March 2021 with revolutionary foiling monohulls, Learning to Fly is a fascinating insight into how the America’s Cup transitioned from monohulls to multihulls and then back to monohulls again.

Written by well-known American sailing writer and commentator Roger Vaughan, with photography by Giles Martin-Raget, this book tells the story of the 33rd America’s Cup and its lead-up from the perspective of Larry Ellison’s BMW Oracle Racing team.

Sailed off the coast of Valencia, Spain, the 2010 event was the first America’s Cup contested between multihulls, though in a travesty the Cup was defended by a multihull in San Diego in 1988.

The back story of Ellison’s involvement, first in sailing and then in the America’s Cup, and his long and fruitful involvement with New Zealand sailors and boatbuilders is enlightening: Ellison loves Kiwis and hugely admires our sailors.

Because this book is about the America’s Cup, it’s full of intrigue, rule breaking, deal making and legal challenges. The behind the scenes detail is immense.

There are many larger-than-life characters, including Aussies Glen Ashby and Jim Spithill – Ellison is a fan of both – and Kiwis Russell Coutts and Brad Butterworth.

The development of Oracle’s maxi trimaran for the 33rd edition was groundbreaking, aided and abetted by Kiwis, including ex-TNZ, ex-Alinghi super-designer Mike Drummond and US-based Kiwi boat builder Tim Smyth.

As the event got closer there were more legal updates, venue changes, sail, mast and rigging redesigns, the addition of a BMW engine to trim Oracle’s sails, and so much more. This book covers it all.

Rig loads on such a huge multi-hull were immense and failures frequent. Eventually, an expensive wingsail was agreed upon, constructed by Core Builders, then fitted and tested. The match was only months away.

In February 2010 BMW Oracle Racing’s 115-foot trimaran USA 17 faced off against Alinghi’s smaller catamaran in Valencia. Each race is covered in detail in an historic but ultimately one-sided struggle.

The era of super-fast America’s Cup racing had begun.

– John Eichelsheim