Racing

Cup Watch: Calm Before the Storm

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According to Emirates Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton, April is the month for ETNZ and training partner Luna Rossa to pack up “cats, chase boats, base structures, workshops, offices, gym, kitchens and stores for the move to San Francisco.” In other words: no sailing for a while.

But if things seem quiet on the America’s Cup front, the reality is otherwise. The defender, Oracle Team USA, and Challenger of Record Artemis Racing have been looking to continue testing their custom AC72 catamarans in the waters of the America’s Cup 34—figure two days in the shed for every one day on the water—and a wrap-up event on the one-design AC45 tour is scheduled for Naples, Italy, starting April 16. 

Oracle and Artemis are the only teams intending to have two AC72s come race time. Luna Rossa has built only one, and the Kiwis retired boat #1 after 30 days of sailing, scavenging and repurposing winches and other gear for use aboard boat #2, which was launched in early February within days of Oracle’s re-launch of the boat that capsized last October. 

Oracle’s do-over included switching from tillers to wheels and enhancing foiling capability. The team also added some stiffening to the structure to lessen the “racking” that perhaps contributed to the capsize that destroyed wing #1 (of the three allowed). General manager Grant Simmer says the racking, or twisting, was the result of a “trade-off” made between weight and windage. “We’ve made subtle changes, but the trade-off is still there,” Simmer says.

At some point, each team has to freeze development to focus on reliability and crew training. The exception will be in the development of soft headsails. The limits placed on headsails are forcing designers to aim at broad wind ranges, an especially vexing problem because AC72s are so fast, trimmers have to look ahead for puffs even when going “downwind.” In short, despite the apparent “quiet,” eight-day weeks remain a reality. 

Photo courtesy of America's Cup 34/Gilles Martin-Raget

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