BMW Oracle raises its wing

As I was led into the giant marquee at the team’s base in San Diego just over a week ago, the scale of their secret project was breathtaking. The monster wing, at 57m tall just short of a 747’s total wing span, was staggering in its scale and complexity. The team that had designed and built the rotating wing sail was clearly and justifiably proud of its achievement, yet one issue remained of major concern – could they step the mast safely?

Yesterday, (Tuesday 10 Nov), the answer was yes as the wing went up and the trimaran headed out for its first sailing trials. The system for raising the mast, which had been practiced several times with mock up models during the weeks beforehand, had worked. The exercise also demonstrated how the team will handle the wing sail when the tri is in the dock. Leaving a 57m sail up overnight is not an option. In 1987 Stars and Stripes used a complex canting cradle to tip the boat and it’s wing mast over to one side each evening. Doing the same to a 115ft trimaran would hardly be practical.

Instead, the team appears to use a lifting gantry mounted on the boat to lower the mast out to one side. Still a major exercise, as is the process of working up this amazing rig in preparation for the Cup match in Valencia.

Late last night the news broke that the longstanding issue of the venue has been all but decided. Valencia will host the event assuming that the SNG’s appeal over the court’s decision not to allow Ras Al Khaimah, UAE goes no further. The chances seem unlikely.

For the full story on Alinghi’s decision to accept Valencia and an early analysis of the event’s Notice of Race which was also announced yesterday, see previous story.