Dirk Kramers, Alinghi's chief design engineer, talks to Sue Pelling about the America's Cup defenders' plans during the run up to the Cup 13/10/06

 A couple of weeks ago yachtingworld.com reported on Alinghi’s training plans and their move Dubai for winter see news story here . Now with just a few weeks to go before they pack their bags and head off to the winter sun, America’s Cup defenders, Team Alinghi, rounded off their 2006 tour with a visit to London.

During yesterday’s visit to the UBS offices in the City, Alinghi’s vice president, skipper and tactician Brad Butterworth, gave a short presentation on Alinghi’s plans in the run-up to the Cup. To find out how the development of Alinghi’s new boats is progressing in less than a year before the Cup we caught up with Alinghi’s chief design engineer Dirk Kramers.

According to Kramers the first of the two new boats (91) which was launched this year in May, is looking good. Although Kramers was unable to go in to too much detail it seems that the team is pleased with the test results that have been ongoing throughout the summer. Commenting Kramers said: “We’ve been testing against 75 and 64 since her launch and we’re still testing. But I would say we are happy with the new boat.”

Introducing a new element into a winning combination is always a risk but a necessity to ensure optimum performance over the challengers. The process of research and development on the new boat is a massive task and one which Kramers describes as incredibly complex. Kramers added: “Okay we have the bench marks but when we test we have to make sure that the boats are reasonably similar in speed which sometimes means we have to speed up the old boat or slow down one of the two boats. We’re constantly playing games modifying boats.

“If we want to test a particular feature we want to make sure that both boats are fundamentally fairly close in speed. Boats are always being adjusted. It’s a very complex puzzle because you have all these components and each of these will be better in a breeze and not in light airs and it’s an ongoing cycle. You just have to be very religious about your protocol and the method you are using and you make sure you only change one thing at a time. The puzzle continues because when you change one thing you want to know the effect in a series of wind conditions so once again you’re at the mercy of the weather to see you do get those conditions.”

To continue the testing process in conditions similar to those that will be experienced next year in Valencia, 91 will be shipped out to Dubai with the others in a couple of weeks’ time. Here everything will be tested including sails, rudders bulbs and the team will continue to learn as much as possible.

The team’s other new boat, which is currently in build at Decision boatyard in Switzerland, will be launched in March. “We then have to go through the full process again,” added Kramers. “But first of all we need to find out if the boat is any good.”

The new boat a development and will incorporate all the elements they’ve learned from the previous boats. “Once we’ve found out if the new hull is any good we’ll then need to tune it up, learn about what this boat needs, about the balance, what kind of keel works, and which sails,” added Kramers. “We’ll probably be working off 91 because she’ll be up to the new standard.”

The team will return to its Valencia base in February ready for the March launch of the new one. Then at the beginning of April they’ll need to declare which two boats they’ll use for the Cup. “At that point,” concluded Kramers, “we’re locked in. But even at that stage we can modify the hull as well if we choose. Then the whole test game begins again. We could modify but we then we risk losing X many days of sailing.”