Sail-World's America's Cup Editor, Richard Gladwell, talks with Team Australia CEO and America's Cup Challenger of Record negotiator, Iain Murray, in this second part of a three part series, updating on the state of the 35th America's Cup, as seen through his eyes. To read Part 1 click here
High speed, close racing and a focus on sailing tighter courses are expected from the AC62’s
Aside from the Protocol and the AC62 Class Rule, which is now in draft circulation between the teams, the venue for the next America’s Cup is the third horse in the 35th America’s cup trifecta.
'The Venue is totally in the Event Authority’s court, and we are not privy to any of that,' says Murray. (Under the deed of Gift, the Challenger gets to name the date and class of yacht for the Match, the Defender names the venue – that aside from the Alinghi Defences have always been in the home waters of the Defending Club.)
'Our thoughts are like everyone else’s – we all like San Francisco,' Murray adds. 'They are looking at their options, I guess.'
That gives Oracle some advantage, playing out the venue options, as they did ahead of the 34th Match, with the Defender saying they are talking to five locations in the USA. Those under consideration may have light winds if it is San Diego or New York, and fresh winds if it is Chicago, Hawaii or San Francisco.
Murray is philosophical about that situation.
'Well, the boats will all be very similar', he says in response, 'and the class rule has the ability to vary the wing size, a little. That will be tailored for the venue. The technical side and the class rule side has been the easiest to agree between teams, and there is a high degree of unanimity to try and come up with a good, nice, safe, high performance boat, which is built on the experiences of last time with the AC72’s.'
'That is very achievable.'
The introduction of one design components for the 35th Match will be a first in America’s Cup history. The move is aimed at reducing design time and design team reduction – particularly for components that have little real effect on boat speed.
Murray confirms that the wingsails used on the AC62 will be essentially one design in shape.
'They will all look the same - bar the colour schemes,' he quips.
The introduction of one design elements significantly changes the options available for the designers of established or well funded teams, limiting their advantage, while making it easier for new teams to catch up in technology terms.
'The whole thing is much tighter controlled, so the research and development doesn’t stretch from East to West. You can have a bit of a look into the NW, and bit of a look into the SW,' explains Murray, continuing his design compass analogy.
'I think you will see the teams concentrate on their foiling packages and control systems, and their ability to race the boats on tighter courses than we had last time.
'The boats will only have eight crew and the whole thing is a much tighter, leaner package.'
'Hulls will be free form in terms of design, but like last time they will have volume requirements and freeboards which has been tightened up, so they will be much closer. The hulls are going to look much more like the New Zealand boat than the Oracle boat.'
'The aero structure will be more like Oracle boat than the NZ boat. We are trying to make them safer with cockpits, relatively high volume for safety considerations and trying to make them as streamlined as possible.'
One of the issues with the 34th America’s Cup, in which high performance wingsailed foiling multihulls were used for the first time, was that the design/speed/performance rate of development was far greater than most expected, and continued right through the America’s Cup. In the end, that rate of progress was the key factor in Oracle staging their comeback with eight consecutive wins in the latter part of the regatta.
Similar speed to AC72's?
Murray expects to see similar Velocity Predictions for the AC62 as for their bigger sister the AC72. The AC62 has been designed as a foiling wingsailed catamaran, while the AC72 evolved into that state after Emirates Team New Zealand were able to exploit a loophole in the AC72 class rules.
'We expect to see pretty similar downwind speeds and not much slower upwind,' explains Murray. 'Obviously the speeds are wind strength dependent. The highest we saw last time was 49.8kts from Emirates Team NZ. Generally we expect to see 34-40kts downwind and hopefully foiling upwind in 12kts of wind.'
The one-design wingsail proposal raises the vexed issue of measurement, which over-shadowed the AC45’s when Oracle Team USA were caught having altered five components on three AC45’s under their shore team management.
There are a number of options to try and control one-design without teams exploiting measurement tolerances, and spending excessively to get very minimal gains.
Murray says they have decided not to have the wingsails built by a single manufacturer to ensure equality.
'The wings won’t be from a single manufacturer. The wings will be a one design shape. The teams can do the construction themselves or buy a product from a manufacturer. The control systems within the wings will also be free-design. It is an aerodynamic one-design only.'
Challenger list and cost reduction
The Class of 2017 is beginning to take shape, with expected challenges from the established teams of Artemis Racing (SWE), Emirates Team New Zealand, and Luna Rossa (ITA).
New teams are expected to be headed by Franck Cammas (FRA), Ben Ainslie (GBR), and of course, the Challenger of Record, Team Australia is already certain.
That is a formidable group, and the Challenger ranks are expected to swell to maybe ten or more.
'There are some teams I’m not talking to that we have heard about,' says Murray when questioned about who is on his Challenger Call-List.
'The ones we are talking to are well known – the ones from last time, plus Franck Cammas who I have spoken to a number of times; there’s Ben Ainslie; plus the Gazprom guys who are sailing in the Extremes; plus the Chinese group from last time, and a second Chinese group. And there are Japanese groups that I have heard of – but had no contact at all. There was also some discussion with Danish guys a while back.
'I think we could have as little as five and as many as ten teams in the end,' he surmises.
A key to pulling in more teams is cost reduction, and reducing the technology gap between new teams and established players. Oracle will be on their third big multihull America’s Cup campaign.
'A big driver for us has been to pull the costs down significantly', Murray says. 'The really hard thing with the costs is how much you pay people and for how long you pay them. I think most of the teams from last time say that 60-65% of their cost was in paying people. There are three parts to that equation – how much, how many, and how long?
'If you got everyone to work for nothing it would be a lot less expensive. When I got into the America’s Cup in 1982, we got $6 per day in Newport. It’s not like that now!'
That begs the question of just how much a competitive and winning campaign could cost in the new era of a one design wingsail, smaller boat, single boat era, and hopefully smaller team era.
'I would be disappointed if you couldn’t save 30% over the last time,' says Murray. 'So if a team did it for $100million last time, at ETNZ’s level, I would hope they could do it for $70 million this time. For a first time team, who were going to start with a low cost of employment, minimum development work, a bought design, I would hope they could do it for $40 or $50 million.'
'If you want to buy the most expensive of everything, particularly people, you’re going to pay..'
'Oracle Team USA has announced they have 15-20 design people already, other existing teams are in the same boat, and they are clearly looking to design a boat from scratch.'
'I think there are options for purchasing design. Southern Spars have great experience with the wingsails now.'
All the construction in country rules will be the same as for the 34th America’s Cup, which meant that only the hulls of the catamarans have to be manufactured in the country of the challenging or defending club. Moulds can be produced externally and flown/shipped in. Wingsails, cross beams and foils can all be constructed outside the country of the club.
The other vexed issue, with the continued use of the wingsailed catamaran, is the numbers to be used to launch and retrieve, including wingsails which may get caught in a gust of wind and smashed during the stepping process.
'People have looked to streamline the launch systems as well, which can be done with the smaller wingsails', says Murray. 'We don’t want to have 40 people involved for two hours in the launch of a boat. It would nice to get it back to a smaller crane, and less loads, getting towards the level of the AC45’s where you have six people involved for 20 minutes.'
AC62 dimensions and foiling
Although the AC62 Class rule is only in draft form, Murray says that in the mixed metric system of the America’s Cup, the AC62 will be 62ft in length, 11.5 metres in beam and with wingsails of between 30-34 metres in length depending on the venue.
In comparison the AC72 was 72ft overall, 14 metres in beam and with a wingsail 40 metres tall.
'To be able to foil upwind, the AC62’s have to be ‘squareish’, powerful boats to get the righting moment. Everyone wants them to foil upwind and to do that they need righting moment.'
Post launch modification of hulls and wingsails will be restricted to the same degree as in the last America’s cup cycle - less than 50%. 'No-one seems to be placing that much importance on being able to modify hull shapes,' says Murray. 'It is all about the foils, and being able to work the foils and work the wings – all integrated with the sailing team.'
There will be surrogate boat use restrictions similar to the last America’s Cup preliminary phase, with SL33’s being the maximum size that will be permitted. These are now available commercially as a production boat, and may be the weapon of choice for many start-up teams to get vital multihull foiling experience, and provide a development platform for systems at least.
The teams that own AC72’s will be prohibited from sailing them. It is hard to see any practical use for these pieces of extreme sailing technology - blacking out a route down which future America’s Cups cannot travel – that of continual class changing and obsolescence of boats and equipment.
'There’s no doubt that Oracle and Team NZ, have placed themselves a long way ahead of the other teams, with the design and performance data they took out of the last America’s Cup . For a new team like us (Team Australia), it is a big mountain to overcome', says Murray.
In Part 3 we look at Murray's thoughts on the task ahead of Team Australia, how the Cup organization will be set up, and when the Protocol will be announced.
To read Part 1 of this three part series click here