Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sailing Report: AC Gets a New Boat

News from the world of sailing. An update on the technology behind the next America’s Cup.

By Sean McQuilken
Special to the Daily Boater

Photo by Gilles Martin-Raget / www.americascup.com

The first AC 45 was launched and test sailed in Auckland, New Zealand last week. This is the one design boat that America's Cup teams will be purchasing and taking on a world tour with stops projected to be in Asia, both coasts of the United States, New Zealand and Europe.

This world tour is expected to start in September, 2011 in Newport, RI and continue for approximately a year (full details will be announced soon). Along the way, we’ll be treated to fleet racing (multiple boats) on short courses up close to the spectators (similar to the Extreme 40 Series).

The new class of boat was designed with input by none other than Pete Melvin and his team; they are the lead designers for the Gunboat series of boats, the Nacra F-20 Carbon and the Nacra F-18 Infusion and many other performance and work boats.

The teams will use the AC45s during tour to get used to sailing high performance boats with wing sails in close quarters. The class is unique in that one of the design criteria was for a boat that could be dissembled easily and fit into a couple of 40 foot shipping containers. This was done to make it easy to transport the boats between venues by standard inter-modal transportation (cargo ship, rail, truck, plane). This will also allow a wider variety of venues to be utilized as no special infrastructure will be required to handle the boats.

Back to the test sail, the skipper of the first AC45 test sail was one of two people to ever skipper a win in the sport's premier event utilizing a wing sail - Jimmy Spithill. The rest of the crew hasn't been announced publicly as of yet. According to Jimmy, "It’s fantastic... everyone at the dock is smiling. It’s an awesome tool and it’ll be a lot of fun. The wing’s big and the boat powers up quickly and is easy to sail and maneuverability is not a problem. Straight off the bat we were talking about going racing and how good it is going to be. We’ll have no problem having close racing. We were doing 20 knots at times. The wing sail is so much quicker to unload (depower) than a main – with the wing it’s instant. Teams will get up to speed quickly with these boats and they should be really happy with them. They are pushing the boundaries and there is a bit of risk in there and that’s what you need in the America’s Cup. I can’t wait to get back out on the water again in this boat. From a boat off a piece of paper to its first sail, it’s the most impressive I’ve ever seen. Within minutes we were flying a hull and fully loaded. We have the latest technology here with the wing and that’s what the America’s Cup is all about.”

Remember these quotes are coming from the man who had the honor of driving the boat carrying the largest wing ever constructed (bigger than an A380 airliner's wing); this was of course BMW Oracle's USA 17 - a 90 foot by 90 foot trimaran used to win the 2010 America's Cup. On its second day out the AC45 hit over 25 knots in 25 knots of breeze.

The sailing team plans to keep testing the boat while the build team produces the 8-12 boats and spare parts needed for the world tour. Stay tuned to the Daily Boater for more news on this exciting class of boats.

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