​The evolving challenge of the America's Cup

The America's Cup competition has always been about big money, cutting edge design and, of course, speed.

Sailing historian John Rousmaniere says the New York Yacht Club won every race during the first 132 years, from 1851 to 1983:

"At first, they used New York harbor. When New York harbor became crowded and dirty, they moved to Newport, Rhode Island."

The club also gave the trophy its name; The America's Cup is named for a boat called America.

That wooden yacht, Rousmaniere says, shared a design philosophy with every America's Cup boat since: "The yacht America was at its cutting-edge. It was an entirely original design. She had a sharp bow that seemed to cut through the waves better than most shapes of boats at that time."

In the 1970s, America's Cup designers moved on to aluminum hulls.

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The yacht America.

Library of Congress

In 1977, Ted Turner skippered his Courageous and won. "I just do it, 'cause I gotta do somethin'!" Turner explained.

And what the latest boats do is FLY.

Oracle Team USA designed catamarans that sail above the water.

Scott Ferguson is a senior designer for the Oracle team preparing for the 2017 America's Cup in Bermuda.

"Once the boat gains speed," said Ferguson, "the horizontal surfaces begin to create lift, the faster it's going. And that allows the boat to slowly come out of the water."

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Oracle Team USA's catamaran.

CBS News

But this break from tradition has made waves with some critics. "Change is always controversial," laughed Rousmaniere.

And, he says, change will be part of the America's Cup always.

"It seems more dramatic now because these boats, when you put 'em side by side with the older boats, looks so different," he said. "But that's the story of the America's Cup, and the catamaran is just the latest chapter in that story."


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