Fast, close action and thrilling racing, but what do the designers think of their creations and the future for the Cup?
While people might talk about a buzz around the AC park, the sound that will characterise the 34th America’s Cup will be the high pitched whistle of dagger boards singing in their cases as the boats slice along at 30-40knots brought to us courtesy of the three effects microphones in each the hulls. Not only can we see the staggering jump in performance for this Cup, but now we can hear it too.
The performance hike in the new world of Cup racing has taken everyone by surprise, even the designers. With no racing on Tuesday we had the opportunity to talk to two of the key players in the design teams at Oracle Racing and Emirates Team New Zealand,
Here are some of their views on the current state of play and what the racing and leap in technology might mean for the future.
“I still get a shiver down my spine when I see these things accelerate around the top mark and the sheer excitement of seeing something you created, especially as it was never clear that speeds would go from 33 to 43 knots,” said Emirates Team New Zealand technical director Nick Holroyd. “The boats are way faster in both directions than we ever envisaged at the start of this campaign.
“I’m a nervous wreck in the chase boat. As a designer you do your absolute best to keep the concentration and ignore the emotions and look for what you can contribute back to the team after the racing.”
Given that foiling was never part of the original concept for these boats, would foiling be here to stay?
“Well foiling wasn’t an accident,” said Oracle’s Dirk Kramers, design executive for Oracle Racing. “I think both teams intended to do this and even as the rules were written it became clear was something you had to pursue. If we want to sail a smaller boat with fewer people in the future, I think some of the rules would probably have to change to make it possible, but as far as the speeds we see, if the boats get smaller they will go slower. But our 45s, when we had them on foils, have seen speeds in the high 30s which is not too shabby.”
So now we’re seeing far better boat handling and higher speeds, should the wind limits be raised to prevent the postponed races that we’ve seen?
“I’m very happy with where it’s at,” said Holroyd. “Certainly after the racing was cancelled today [Tuesday] we went past the SW corner of Alcatraz and across the shoal which is a pretty rough piece of water. To be honest, after a day like today I’m always happy to see the boat back at dock in one piece with all eleven guys on board.”
What is the future for the Cup now foiling cats have played such a big part in challenging conventional match racing?
“My guess is something similar to this is definitely the future,” said Kramers “I think if we’re going to let the Americas Cup grow as an event we need more teams that’s pretty clear and that the only way to do that is to get the cost of running a campaign down. As far as pure spectacle goes, it doesn’t get much better than this. But when it comes to the size of the boats, I think no matter what happens you’ll probably never see these particular boats again.”
But will the cost of these machines and the campaigns behind them rule the technology out in the future?
“I don’t think that’s necessarily a problem,” said Kramers. “I see the costs as a size of the team problem. You will always spend as much money as you can raise. You’ve just got to be able to get to a competitive level for the money you have. Be it the complexity of the sport or the boat, I don’t think it’s a big deal. Form my point of view the more complex it gets the more interesting the sport gets.”
Holroyd felt the same.
“To answer this point from a purely selfish point of view,” he said, “I’ve never had so much fun working on such a technical problem in my life. In essence we’ve taken a 2D sport and taken it to a 3D sport and that’ pretty cool.”