We’ve now wrapped up the 2011-12 America’s Cup World Series, and the AC45 fleet is headed into the 2012-13 series with the first regattas set to take place on San Francisco Bay—the site of the Louis Vuitton Cup and America’s Cup finals, which are now one year away. So what have we learned so far?
Racing in wing-sailed catamarans is fast and exciting: check. Racing in wing-sailed catamarans is tactical: check. TV prefers fleet racing over match racing: oops.
Reinventing this game is complicated, and already we’ve seen the first custom AC72 wing break—in 13 knots of wind, about half the strength of a typical afternoon breeze on San Francisco Bay.
Noticing that the ban on testing an AC72 prior to July 1 did not prohibit testing a wing on a different platform, Sweden’s Artemis Racing stole a march on the competition by launching its first wing on March 15 in Valencia, Spain, on a modified ORMA trimaran. The 131-foot three-element structure, which according to Artemis CEO Paul Cayard represents 40,000 man hours of work, then failed in late May when the upper portion dropped onto the deck, fortunately without injuries and without destroying the entire wing. Artemis hopes to begin testing the repaired wing on San Francisco Bay in October.
Cup insiders, meanwhile, are speculating as to how many of the AC72s might go down the design route established by the SD35s that race on Lake Geneva, Switzerland. SD35s are catamarans—only two hulls hit the water, and only two hulls have foils—but they have a center spine for rigidity. Come to think of it, the giant trimaran that won the Cup in 2010 was sailed much like a cat, with its center hull rarely in the water underway, so much so that its original centerline foils were removed long before Race 1.
The Defender, Team Oracle USA, should be sailing on SF Bay some time this month, after pushing back the launch date from July 1. Oracle’s wing arrived on June 12 to be joined to the boat’s hulls in the Oracle shed at Pier 80, Port of San Francisco. Teams are allowed only 30 days of AC72 sailing in calendar 2012, so every hour is precious.
Photo courtesy of 34th America's Cup/Gilles Martin-Raget