What’s it like to ride aboard a new AC45? I found out with Cup holder James Spithill aboard Oracle Racing
As I stepped off Oracle White, (Jimmy Spithill’s boat as opposed to Russell Coutts’ Oracle Black), into the team’s support RIB, the first thing to strike me was how fortunate I had been in bagging the only part of the day so far where there had been a decent breeze. Keen to quantify just how brave I’d been, I asked one of the support crew what the wind speed had been during our race.
“Much as it is now”, came the reply. “Around 8 knots max.”
This was not the answer I was expecting and somehow I felt as if my balloon had been burst. I could have sworn it was breezier as we had blasted around the short and unconventional race course, flying a hull like a teenager pulling wheelies in a shopping centre precinct.
The hum from the daggerboards, the speed with which the water was passing below as our windward hull flew above the water’s surface and the relentless apparent breeze that forced tears from my eyes as we scorched around the course at double figure speeds, suggested that there was plenty of breeze. Yet the fact was that we had been a long way from the edge with barely enough wind to start a race for the previous generation of Cup monohulls, just 8 knots of true wind.
To those more used to monohulls, sailing the new breed of wing masted, supercharged AC45 multihulls is a disorientating yet thrilling experience and one that is completely addictive. Add to this the unconventional courses that are being experimented with and it’s easy to see why those involved are so excited at the prospect of what might be in store for the coming season.
Our race started with a short reaching leg followed by a series of windward/leeward legs. Here’s how the opening sequence looked from on board.
The race was set on one of six new experimental courses, part of major project to explore the new possibilities for the sailors, officials and spectators of future America’s Cup racing. The racing itself was part of two weeks of trials in Auckland in which the objective is to test and experiment with a bold new model for Cup racing.
We’ll be taking a much closer look at this elaborate Cup experiment in the July issue.