Racing

America’s Cup: New Look, Fresh Start

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Although we don’t yet know the venue, we know a good deal more about what the 34th America’s Cup regatta is going to look like following Monday's press conference in Valencia, Spain. First and foremost, it’s going to be aboard 72-foot catamarans with wing sails.

Let me say that again: 72-foot catamarans with wing sails.

According to officials, the new AC72 class will regularly attain speeds of 30 knots, “excite fans” as they “zip around the racecourse” and leave their 11-member crews “exhilarated and drained after a day of adrenaline-fueled racing.” I’ll bet!

The next round of Cup competition will also feature an annual World Series starting in 2011, a “youth” America’s Cup starting in 2012, extensive media coverage including on-board cameramen, and a shorter more “action packed” race format. The America’s Cup World Series will be raced aboard a new class of AC45 catamarans, to allow competitors to ramp up their programs as quickly as possible.

The next America’s Cup regatta will take place in 2013, not 2014 as many had speculated.

The new class of America’s Cup catamaran will be governed by a tightly defined “box rule.” Certain parameters have been set, such as overall length, beam, displacement and sail area. Other factors are limited to keep the competition close across all wind speeds. So that no team would have an unfair advantage in creating the rule, US SAILING and Morrelli & Melvin Design & Engineering were tasked with creating it.


“The AC72 Class adds a new dimension to America’s Cup design and technology,” said Morrelli & Melvin principal Pete Melvin. “The AC72 will place exacting demands on the helmsman, crew and support team that the vast majority of us who call ourselves ‘weekend racers’ could never hope to develop.”

Melvin added that one of the reasons his organization and US SAILING went with a catamaran, as opposed to a trimaran, is because a catamaran will be easier to transport, assemble and disassemble. For a month now, defenders BMW Oracle Racing and the Golden Gate Yacht Club have said that they want to bring down the costs of an America’s Cup campaign.

“The difference in the performance characteristics is not significant, and a cat was judged less expensive to build. From there, the experience of two America’s Cups in which wingsails were used (1988 and 2010), coupled with the latest developments in wingsail technology, made it natural to morph the design rule into a catamaran with a wingsail,” said Melvin.

AC72 approximate dimensions:

LOA - 22.0 meters (72 feet)

Beam - 14.0 meters (46 feet)

Displacement - 7,000 kilograms (15,500 pounds)

Wingsail area – 300 square meters (3,229 square feet)

The AC72 will be able to fly a hull in 5 to 6 knots true windspeed. The target boatspeeds in winds under 10 knots were set at 1.2 times the true windspeed upwind and 1.6 times true windspeed downwind.

High speeds are derived from enormous power. The AC72 has a righting moment of approximately 60-ton-meters. Determining the sail plan dimensions was difficult because the boat has to be powerful in light winds and not overpowered in stronger winds.

“It’s been challenging to have the cat fully powered-up and flying a hull in light winds, yet also able to sail in 30 knots,” Melvin said. “We put a lot of time and effort into sizing the wingsail and the platform dimensions in order to sail in that full range.”

The height of the wingsail will be approximately 40 meters (130 feet) with a maximum chord length between 10 and 11 meters (32 and 36 feet).

For more on the recent America’s Cup announcement, click here.

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