The Swiss syndicate reckon it has the design coup of the 2000 Cup

The secret is out. Fast2000 is slow in 1999 because the Swiss crew has not yet figured out how to keep their mutant America’s Cup boat sailing in a straight line.

The Swiss syndicate reckon it has the design coup of the 2000 Cup — two keels under the water instead of one.

But it is hard to follow the syndicate’s logic when they have not yet won a race in the Louis Vuitton Cup challenger series. Not to be rolled over, the Swiss are adamant that they have designed a very fast boat.

“When we learn to sail the boat, we might be faster than anyone else, then we will earn a few points,” helmsman Jochen Schumann said. The Swiss were full of mirth and self-depreciating humour as the underbelly of their yellow boat was unveiled yesterday, revealing the worst kept secret along Syndicate Row.

At either end of the boat is an appendage doubling as a keel and a rudder.

One of the “culprits” responsible for the bizarre arrangement, Peter van Oossanen, must have some idea. He was the guy who helped design Australia II’s revolutionary winged keel in 1983. He says the duel-keel setup means less drag in the waves and more speed sailing in a straight line.

The trouble is, the crew is struggling to keep the boat on a straight path — it keeps sailing sideways. And then there is the problem of making it turn.

In pre-starts, the boat has been left dead in the water when other boats have tried to engage in a little jousting.

So far the yacht has needed two men to steer it. The fins have to be rotated individually, controlled by separate steering wheels, to get the boat to alter its course.

“You will have seen two people working on the wheels,” van Oossanen said.

“When we took the decision to build this boat, we knew it was going to be a difficult boat to steer.

“We are on a very step learning curve and we are learning by the day.”

The Swiss believe they would have had a few wins in round robin one if only they had had more than eight days to test their invention. But because of their financial woes — which they hinted still linger — they arrived in Auckland too late to learn how to sail the boat properly.

Still, van Oossanen proudly brandishes the numbers from their testing.

“We know we’re a certain number of minutes faster than Team New Zealand was in 1995.”

So, if we believe the expert, maybe the Swiss will be fast — but before 2000?