The America's Cup will never be the same again

Click the thumbnail for the AC72 photos

ORACLE Racing sailors to serve as “crash test dummies”. And these are the “little boats”, the AC45’s — can you comprehend what the AC72’s will do to America’s Cup racing?

(…) “Today we achieved a huge step,” said Smyth. “The logistics of getting the boat with the wing sail in and out of the water is often the trickiest part. We lifted a wing with a single crane for the first time today (the USA 17 trimaran required a two-crane system), so we now have proof of concept on our one-crane lifting system. We still have some fine-tuning to do but now we have a comfort level with the process. This will help streamline the logistics for the America’s Cup World Series regattas later this year.”

The prototype yacht is set to be handed over to ACRM on Friday, Jan. 21. It will serve as the backup yacht at the ACWS events throughout the year. Before the handover, shakedown sailing is planned this week with skipper James Spithill, de Ridder, Mason and Newton, among others, serving as the “crash test dummies.”

Dummies indeed. And don’t miss the Oracle video of their testing Round Rangitoto on Anniversary Day and ex-Team New Zealand Murray Jones helming the AC45 — an opportunity for Murray when James Spithill called in sick. Put your seat-belt on before starting the video:

Also summing up the new class after his first outing was ORACLE Racing CEO Russell Coutts, who sees the boat’s agility and speed as opening up many new options for course configurations in America’s Cup racing.

“With a light displacement boat, when you get changes in windspeed there are bigger performance differences,” Coutts said. “If you’re behind and carrying a gust you can ride it better than a heavier displacement boat. In a high-performance boat, the opportunities to pass are greater downwind.”

The VPP (Velocity Prediction Program) of the AC45 class, designed and engineered by ORACLE Racing on behalf of the America’s Cup teams, has been supplied to ACRM Regatta Director Iain Murray to help him create courses that test crews, excite spectators and suit the multiple venues in which the AC45s will be raced as part of the America’s Cup World Series regattas from mid-2011.

“These boats are physical and demanding,” Coutts said. “We want to end up in a situation that challenges the crews, that makes the boats hard to sail. The best crew work should be a factor. There’s a lot of thought going into the racecourse configuration.”

Yet since its first outing nearly two weeks ago on Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf, it is the performance of the AC45 that has stood out.

“The performance upwind is impressive,” Spithill said. “The boat goes through a big wind range, which was a primary goal. The maneuvering part is good. Tacking is quick. You can go from flying a hull into a tack to flying the new hull before the guys are even on the high side. The people who say tacking will be a problem will be surprised.”

For the background on how the 34th Americas Cup came to be contested in multihulls, please see our earlier post “Morrelli & Melvin wins Americas Cup design competition“.

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