America's Cup yacht races - the Super Bowl of sailing - began Monday off the coast of Auckland on New Zealand's North Island. This is only the second time in its 148-year-history that the races will be held outside the United States. The qualifying races will last four months, and the winner will face a boat from New Zealand in February. Yachts from 11 syndicates and seven countries are competing. One of them is American True, whose chief executive officer, Dawn Riley, is the only woman skipper in the competition.
Ms. Riley describes the scene: "The decks are cramped, and the crew is always running into one another. You get tossed around by the waves, and sometimes you bang into the other boats. It's cold out there a lot of the time, and wet all the time. It's wonderful ... my idea of a good time."
Q: How do teams score?
A: One point is earned for each win in the first of three round robins between Oct. 18 and Dec. 12, four points for winning the second round, and nine for the third. More than 700 races will have been run to decide the challenger in February.
Q: Is there prize money?
A: No, but the winner gets a 24-inch-high silver chalice called the "Auld Mug." (One could argue that it's not a complete mug because it's bottomless!)
Q: How are the teams financed?
A: Cup entries used to be supported by yacht clubs and wealthy individuals. But because of rising costs, corporations often put up millions of dollars in exchange for putting their logos on sails or hulls.
Q: How do spectators watch the races?
A: Most people can't really because the races take place beyond the sight of land. They only way to see them (other than on TV) is to hop in a boat yourself with a skilled captain who knows his way around.
*Please e-mail Lisa Leigh Parney at firstname.lastname@example.org
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