Dubbed the Formula One of yachting, the America's Cup is the world's ultimate test of yacht engineering. The first race was held in 1851, the year Commodore Perry and his black ships arrived in Japan. The cup is known as the world's oldest sports trophy, predating the British Open and FIFA World Cup. This race with over 150 years of history is held once every four years and attracts the participation of countries with rich seafaring histories. The America's Cup is a fierce competition of yacht building technologies and sailing tactics in which countries battle each other with their prestige on the line.
Japan first participated in the race in 1992, it 28th staging. The country also entered the 29th staging in 1995, and for both races, Yamaha was commissioned with building Japan's entry, the Nippon. Yamaha established the America's Cup Section within the company and assembled a project team. For the two races, five high-tech yachts were constructed at the Arai Factory. The team conducted fluid analyses with CFD (computational fluid dynamics), structural analyses with FEM (finite element method), and performance analyses with VPP (velocity prediction programs). Based on these, the team came up with designs for the hull, keel, rudder, and other parts that were highly advanced down to the smallest detail and were geared toward winning the race.
The team also painstakingly applied cutting-edge technologies, such as building technologies for carbon prepreg yachts using a nomex honeycomb core.
In the America's Cup, the victor of the previous race determines the location of the next race, so both races in which the Nippon was entered were held in San Diego in the US. The Nippon's crew had also polished their sailing skills, and both yacht and crew put up a good fight against experienced America's Cup powerhouses like the US, Australia, and New Zealand. The yacht advanced all the way to the semifinals, garnering the attention of yachting fans around the world.
The Whitbread Round the World Race, the envy of yachting enthusiasts everywhere, is the world's longest open-sea yacht race. It covers a distance of 32,000 miles (about 60,000 kilometers), the equivalent of one and a half times around the globe. In other words, it is the maritime version of the Dakar Rally. Held once every four years, actual sailing days number some 120. Counting the time spent at port along the way, the race takes nine months from start to finish, making it the toughest yacht race in the world.
Yamaha was a main sponsor for the 1993-1994 race, which brought together a bevy of world-class teams. Japan entered the race for the first time that year, and with Kazunori Komatsu from the company's Marine Promotion Office aboard as a crew member, the Yamaha Round the World raced to a heroic victory.
Fifteen yachts from 12 countries were entered in the race, which started on September 25, 1993 from the UK's southern port town of Southampton. The grueling course traversed the Atlantic Ocean, continued on past the equator to the rough seas of the Antarctic Ocean, circumnavigated Antarctica, then headed north in the Atlantic Ocean toward the US, where it turned to cross back over the Atlantic to return to Southampton. The course presented all sorts of potential difficulties, including the doldrums of calm equatorial zones, where ships may flounder even at full sail, the whirlpools of tropical depressions with their unrelenting severe winds in the Roaring Forties, and the feared southern oceans. Amid fierce competition from elite sailing teams, though, the Yamaha Round the World raced to a dramatic victory in the new W6 class, setting a course record in a time of 120 days, 14 hours, and 55 minutes.