Designers back to the drawing board
The revised class rule for the 35th America’s Cup has presented team designers with another obstacle to overcome in their quest to build the fastest boat capable of winning or defending the “Auld Mug”.
The majority of America’s Cup teams agreed to change the class rule from the AC62 catamaran to the smaller AC48 at a recent competitor forum. Those changes, organisers said, were aimed at significantly reducing costs for the 2017 America’s Cup to be held in Bermuda’s Great Sound.
It is the first time in America’s Cup history that the class rule has been revised in midstream and the smallest boats to be used in the event’s history.
But not everyone agrees with the revision.
Luna Rossa, the Italian challenger, withdrew after criticising decisions by organisers as “unprecedented and illegitimate”. They were backed by Emirates Team New Zealand whose own involvement in the next instalment of the Cup remains in doubt amid a dispute with America’s Cup organisers over the venue for next year’s America’s Cup Qualifiers.
The new America’s Cup catamarans will feature certain one-design elements, something which ruffles the feathers of sailing purists who feel that the Cup is being “mellowed out” with this radical approach.
Loick Peyron, a designer with Swedish challenger Artemis Racing, views things differently.
“There are some one-design elements in new America’s Cup Class, but one area that is free is the appendages and the controls and there is a lot of room to refine and improve here,” he said.
“The main area of importance on this boat is the drag — aero and hydro. So the appendages are so much more important. The small little details in shape and surface are problems we need to solve. Getting this right can make such a big difference.”
Oracle Team USA, the defender of the America’s Cup, and Artemis launched foiling 45-footers this year that turned heads and convinced the majority of teams they would be good enough for America’s Cup racing.
The class rule change has sent team designers scurrying back to the drawing board to figure out the best approach to the improved hull shape and configuration and tighter restrictions on manual power on the AC48.
“Everyone is thinking all the time on how to make things work better,” Peyron, a multiple Ocean Racing Multihull Association champion, added. “You have to defend your opinions and test the options and sometimes learn to accept another point of view. But with this process, the best ideas win out and the boat goes a little bit faster.”
Peyron is well versed in designing multihulls having sailed with Alinghi 5, defender of the 33rd America’s Cup, which was then regarded as one of the most incredible boats ever built at the time.
“When you look back, it’s hard to believe that was just five years ago,” the Frenchman said. “We have learned so much since then.
“Each time the America’s Cup becomes interested in something, it forces a huge jump as a lot of clever people focus on that area and start pushing the progress. A century ago we can imagine this was happening maybe with winches and aluminium masts. Today it’s foiling.
“The funny thing with foiling is that speed isn’t related to size. In a classic scenario, speed is related to the waterline length of the boat. But the foiling world is different.
“Speed is restricted by drag and by righting moment. That’s why a smaller foiling boat can be quite fast compared to a bigger one. That’s why the boats we have today are so much faster than those monster boats we built in 2010, for example. But it all started from there.”
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