Emirates Team New Zealand were always thought to have an advantage by using bike style pedal winches - but there was much more to it than met the eye, as we now know. Elaine Bunting reports
Before the 35th America’s Cup began, one of the biggest unknowns was whether the pedal bike grinders on Emirates Team New Zealand was going to be a big advantage and, if so, how much.
Now we know the answer. Yes, a huge advantage, but not entirely in the way everyone thought beforehand.
Because there’s more to the cycling setup than meets the eye, and it is part of a whole crew and control systems innovation that is one of the big steps the New Zealand team made.
For one thing, the use of legs does indeed produce more power for the hydraulic system that powers the wingmast controls and the rake of the daggerboards. And that ample supply allows the team to carry out manoeuvres with more ease at times and go on the attack more easily.
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But as we were to discover as the America’s Cup qualifiers got underway, pedal power was always about more than just power.
Crucially, this setup leaves other crew members’ hands free to carry out other tasks. In the case of third-from-the back Blair Tuke, his hands are free for controlling foil rake, whereas on all of the other teams this was done by the helmsman using a twist grip on the wheel.
Listen to Andy Claughton, chief technical officer of Land Rover BAR explain exactly how this works and what its advantages are.
So, the cyclors don’t only produce power, they are part of a complete package of innovation. Needless to say, other teams have been putting forward the idea that, when the 35th America’s Cup is done, cycle grinding should be outlawed.
They say it is on safety grounds, as the cyclists are clipped in, but that looks like kite-flying, because when Emirates Team New Zealand pitchpoled at the start of their playoff race against Land Rover BAR it was the cyclors who popped out of their positions.
The debate may continue but one fact is indisputable: the New Zealand team has been kings of innovation in this America’s Cup and the group that has thought most creatively within the constraints of the AC50 class rule. That’s been impressive.