AC34: A Ride On Board

If being made to sign a waiver before you hop on board Team New Zealand’s second super-sleek AC72, Aotearoa, isn’t enough to make one nervous, being thrown a helmet and oxygen bottle as you leave the chase boat certainly is. But in this brave new world of extreme sailing, even we reporters need to adjust.
Author:
Publish date:
 AC72: Impressive to look at; even more impressive to sail

AC72: Impressive to look at; even more impressive to sail

If being made to sign a waiver before you hop on board Team New Zealand’s second super-sleek AC72, Aotearoa, isn’t enough to make one nervous, being thrown a helmet and oxygen bottle as you leave the chase boat certainly is. But in this brave new world of extreme sailing, even we reporters need to adjust. So, as I gingerly climb aboard NZL05—the boat Emirates Team New Zealand hopes will win them the America’s Cup—I steel myself with the knowledge that this will be a mere pleasure cruise around the Hauraki Gulf.

Moving around the boat takes some getting used to. As I stagger about on the netting like a new-born foal, clambering from one side to the other with each tack, the crew sprints past me, easily traversing the distance between the two hulls in a couple of bounds. While the sailors appear surefooted as they scurry around, grinder Chris McAsey later tells me he has nearly been “tipped off” the boat a couple of times after over-balancing; grinder Rob Waddell, too. The easy bit, he says, is getting across to the other side; the hard bit is slowing yourself down when you get there. McAsey says one slight bump and he could easily end up in the drink.

Fortunately, I never get close enough to the edge to get thrown in. Instead, I’m seated in the driest spot on the boat, right in the center, although that doesn’t save me from the odd dousing. Still, it’s the windward crew that are most in the firing line, with Richard Meacham, the team’s bowman, often hunkering down to avoid the massive shower of spray as the windward foil kisses the water. Today is considered a calm day, with a flat sea and moderate winds, but full wet-weather gear is a must.

Then the real ride begins as we head downwind.

As we round the top mark off Tiritiri Matangi Island, I steel myself for a sudden jolt as the boat takes off, but it never comes. Instead, it’s the silence that catches me off guard—all at once everything is incredibly peaceful. The crashing through the waves has stopped, and all you can hear is the wind whistling and the gentle creaking of the wing as the boat smoothly accelerates. Moments later, when Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton tells me to look down, I’m amazed to see both hulls are flying clear and the turquoise water of the Hauraki Gulf swishing 15 to 18 feet below.

Sitting so precariously above the water, the expectation is that when the boat loses its lift, it will violently crash back down into the waves below. But this also proves not to be the case, and instead, when we harden up again, NZL05 smoothly glides to the surface like a mythical sea creature.

According to the onboard data, we get up to around 38 knots at one stage during a run. But while it certainly feels like we’re going exceptionally fast, there is never the sense that the boat is on the verge of losing control. In fact, it doesn’t feel as though NZL05 is even close to being pressed.

Boat One reportedly reached speeds of 48 knots, and there is a strong belief there is plenty of untapped speed potential in the revised model. In other words, speeds of over 50 knots are very much within reach. I can only imagine what it’s going to be like aboard this boat as it duels with another super-sized racing machine in actual Cup competition in the tight confines of San Francisco Bay.

AC34-Dana-0713

Dana Johannsen has been reporting on sailing for the New Zealand Herald since 2007 and in 2012 was named New Zealand Sports Journalist of the Year, based in part on her America’s Cup coverage

CupWatch34-Banner.tiny_

Return to CupWatch coverage here

Related

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell. Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com No chafe, safe stay  If you’re leaving the boat unattended for a longish period, there’s a lot to be said for cow-hitching the shorelines, as this sailor did. They’ll never let go, and so long as the ...read more

belize600x

Charter Special: Belize

It would be hard to imagine a more secure spot than the Sunsail base on the outskirts of the beachside community of Placencia, Belize. The entire marina is protected by a robust seawall with a channel scarcely a few boatlengths across. It’s also located far enough up Placencia ...read more

DSC00247

DIY: a Top-to-Bottom Refit

I found my sailing “dream boat” in the spring of 1979 while racing on Lake St. Clair in Michigan. Everyone had heard about the hot new boat in town, and we were anxiously awaiting the appearance of this new Pearson 40. She made it to the starting line just before the race ...read more

01-oysteryachts-regattas-loropiana2016_063

Light-air Sails and How to Handle Them

In the second of a two-part series on light-air sails, Rupert Holmes looks at how today’s furling gear has revolutionized sail handling off the wind. Read part 1 here. It’s easy to look at long-distance racing yachts of 60ft and above with multiple downwind sails set on roller ...read more

HanseCharles

Video Tour: Hanse 348

“It’s a smaller-size Hanse cruiser, but with some big-boat features,” says SAIL’s Cruising Editor, Charles J. Doane. At last fall’s Annapolis Boat Show, Doane had a chance to take a close look at the new Hanse 348. Some of the boat’s highlights include under-deck galleries for ...read more

amalfitown

Charter Destination: Amalfi Coast

Prego! Weeks after returning from our Italian flotilla trip last summer, I was still feeling the relaxed atmosphere of the Amalfi Coast. It’s a Mediterranean paradise, with crystal-clear waters, charming hillside towns and cliffside villages, plenty of delicious food and wine, ...read more

image005

Inside or Outside When Sailing the ICW

Last April, my wife, Marjorie, and I decided to take our Tartan 4100, Meri, north to Maryland from her winter home in Hobe Sound, Florida. This, in turn, meant deciding whether to stay in the “Ditch” for the duration or go offshore part of the way. Although we had both been ...read more

MK1_30542

SailGP: There’s a New Sailing Series in Town

San Francisco was the venue of the biggest come-from-behind victory in the history of the America’s Cup when Oracle Team USA beat Emirates Team New Zealand in 2013, so it seems only fitting that the first American round of Larry Ellison’s new SailGP pro sailing series will be ...read more