Please select your home edition
Edition
Barz Optics - Melanin Lenses

America's Cup- 'We will keep learning, even in the Match' - Simmer

by Richard Gladwell on 5 Apr 2013
Oracle Team USA training in their modified AC72 off San Francisco. COO Grant Simmer says they will keep the development and learning running right through the Match itself. Guilain Grenier Oracle Team USA © http://www.oracleteamusamedia.com/

Part 2 of the interview with Oracle Team USA's COO, Grant Simmer, a mechanical engineer, whose experience spans nine America's Cup campaigns, including three wins in 1983, 2003 and 2007.

The story so far, is that while Oracle have suffered their setbacks, Simmer is of the view that they are well positioned to successfully defend in September. But as with all America's Cup campaigns, time is the one commodity whih is limited and can't be bought.

That was true in his first America's Cup campaign in 1983 as the 26-year-old navigator of Australia II. And even more so in his previous gig as design team co-ordinator for the 120ft giant catamaran Alinghi 5, which lost the 33rd America's Cup Match, to Oracle Racing's 120ft wingsailed trimaran.

Simmer picks up the story, revealing that the launch date for Oracle Team USA’s second AC72 will be prior to the end of April, and elaborates on the program through to the end of the America's Cup Match.

'It will take a while to commission the new boat, then we will have two boats capable of lining up against each other. There will be some one-boat sailing, particularly with the new boat, and there will be days when we take both boats out and we will be able to test certain configurations.

'This Cup is not like in Version 5 monohull boats, used in the 2007 America’s Cup in Valencia. We are looking for big developments. There will be no argument to stop the development of our Boat 2. We are trying to make that boat the best boat possible.

'It has been evolving during its construction process, and I think it will continue to evolve, with appendages and various other changes and new equipment as we head towards the Match.

'I think we will keep learning even in the America’s Cup Match.

'We are set up to be open and able to discuss what’s happening on the water, the mistakes and what you the other competitors doing. If you can keep doing that to the very end, then you’ll keep getting stronger and stronger.'

[Sorry, this content could not be displayed]Simmer points out that it is difficult to do one boat testing because it is a fraught exercise trying to accurately determine windspeed because of the variation in wind profile above the water.

'That is why historically people go through the expensive two boat testing process,' he says.

Simmer believes that the big speed differences between boats will make two boat testing less important. For Oracle Team USA, the main purpose of the two-boat sailing is to help get the racing crew ready for the Match.

'We don’t get to sail against all the other Challengers throughout the Louis Vuitton Cup. So that is a disadvantage for the Defender and we have to try to mitigate that,' he explains.

The Challengers are expected to run single boats only in San Francisco. Logistics are cited as being a significant barrier to launching and retrieving two AC72 catamarans a day.

Simmer is confident that Oracle Team USA can get the job done with one shore crew and a single crane.

'It takes us 45 minutes to launch. We don’t have to pull the boats out each night. They are reasonably well behaved on moorings. The logistics of dealing with two boats in a single day is still a big task. We are going to ease ourselves into it and see how it goes.

Performance comparison difficult

Right now the conundrum facing the four teams is how make accurate comparisons between two groups 8000nm apart, in San Francisco and Auckland, sailing in high performance AC72’s.

[Sorry, this content could not be displayed]'Emirates Team NZ seem to have a hotwire to us,' says Simmer. 'Every time we go to leave the dock, they are here. Rod Davis has been here for a couple of weeks. There have been various people with him on the chase boat. They use a Laser (speed tracker) to measure our performance.

'They have our track and speed, but wouldn’t know the windspeed and direction accurately. I expect they would know our tacking and gybing angles.'

Simmer says they have a similar set up in New Zealand used on Emirates Team NZ and Luna Rossa.

Having all that data is one thing, but making sense of it is another. 'You make what you can out of the data. You can get the speed quite accurately, but you don’t get the true wind angle that accurately.'

Being able to eyeball your competitors, as well as measure performance, is vital.

'I think it is good to have well-informed observers. Right now there is a lot of effort by Emirates Team NZ and us on gybing. Can you make it through the gybe on foils and come out the other side still foiling? Those techniques are being developed by the teams and it is good to watch your opponent. You’d be nuts if you ignored what you opponents are doing.'

Computer grunt no substitute
While the increase in computer power, together with improved performance prediction software, the process of has made performance analysis more accurate and extensive. Simmer is unconvinced that the computer has taken the place of the second boat on the water – particularly in the AC72.

'It is pretty complicated now with foiling,' he explains. 'We have added a dimension to the way the boat sails, and accurately predicting how the boat is going to fly, is not at the level of a 747 flight simulator.

'I can imagine that could be the situation in the future. But we are certainly not there at the moment. We need to get on the water to learn some of this stuff. We have put a lot of effort into the tools, and developing the tools, and trying to predict the effect of changes.

'The other thing you do is you nudge your predictions based on your sailing performance. In other words, you are constantly adapting your projections to more closely match the sailing performance. That is a way of getting more confidence in your tools.

'But we are not all the way there yet with our tools and predicting performance,' Simmer believes.

One big difference in the 33rd and 34th America’s Cups, both sailed in multihulls, has been the shift in team makeup as the sailing teams reduce in size, only to be replaced with an increase in shore crew numbers – be it in the design office, engineering, building teams, sail and spar makers.

'It has become a bit of a boat building fest,' says Simmer.

'The One on One Match - the 2010 America’s Cup between Oracle and Alinghi 5 - that really was a boatbuilding fest.

'Because we are in a brand new class of boat with the AC72, performance development is more important than the actual match racing skills of the sailors, particularly at this stage in the project.

'Our sailors are much more involved in the development of the boat than they are thinking about actual match racing techniques – like we used to focus on in the Version 5 boats.

'Part and parcel about the big focus on development is design performance prediction – having the right tools to be able to predict your performance. And then of course, execution – trying to be able to build stuff that is highly loaded.

'Obviously there is a lot of carbon involved, and you are trying to build that as fast as you can, so that the time between design and testing is minimized.'

There are three key groups in the design and build process - being the geometry designers, the boatbuilders and the engineering staff.

'The engineers have to figure out with the boatbuilders how we are going to make the part in the most efficient way possible. That will typically be a tradeoff between weight, stiffness and build time,' says Simmer.

'The engineers play a really key role and have to have a good relationship with the boatbuilders in sorting out how you are going to build each of these pieces. It is a moving landscape in determining what the best way is, particularly in building daggerboards.

'In my experience with Alinghi 5 we had a bunch of disasters building boards, and here we have sorted it out well. Having the machines to mill the parts accurately during the process is key and is far better than anything I have seen in the past, that is for sure.

Boffin Boats
Have the AC72’s become Boffin Boats?

Simmer savors the phrase, and chuckles. 'You’ll have to ask Jimmy (Spithill), if he thinks that. He is hanging onto the thing, and at times it is a pretty wild ride.

'I really enjoy watching the relationship between the sailors and the designers.

'The risk is that the technocrats could get out of control. It is something we are managing OK here. But there is always a risk that they will design and build something that you can’t use.'

Looking to the next generation of America’s Cup sailors, designers and engineers, Simmer, is greatly encouraged by what he is seeing in the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup trials. 'We are seeing some incredible talent. They are able to sail the AC45’s at a really high level quickly. I think the AC45 is a great development for the Cup.'

For a young aspiring America’s Cup sailor, Simmer waves them in the direction of the non-Olympic development classes.

'You watch people who come out of development classes they are great at sorting out boats. Look at people like Nathan Outteridge and Jimmy Spithill who have been sailing Moths and A-class catamarans.

'In the day, when the 18-footer was a completely open class the guys who were figuring out their own boats – dealing with balance issues, different sail areas and combinations, they really learned a lot quickly. I think development classes still have a role.

'The game we are playing with the AC72’s, it is all about development.'

One thing that hasn’t changed in Grant Simmer’s 30 years of America’s Cup campaigning, is time management.

'Time is the one resource that you can’t overcome if you run out of it', he explains.

'There will always be projects that you haven’t quite finished. Deciding and prioritizing the various projects that we have running, is an important part of my role and a few of the guys here - deciding where we put our resources.

'Ultimately the America’s Cup game is limited by time. That was true in 1983 and still is today.'

'These campaigns are largely about people and the ability to work together and the ability to really use the resources that you have. The two most important ones are people and time.'

© This story is copyright to Richard Gladwell and Sail-World.com, it may not be republished in part or in full without permission





Guy Nowell - Blue 660Barz Optics - San Juan Worlds Best EyewearT Clewring One Design

Related Articles

America's Cup - Oracle Racing win in Court but with collateral damage
Oracle Racing have had another claim against them by a former crew member dismissed. Oracle Racing have had another claim against them by a former crew member dismissed. Mitchell focussed largely on the circumstances of the matter and introduced into the public arena some interesting documents to support his claims.
Posted on 23 Apr
Terrific battle in Oyster Regatta Antigua finale
On the final day, two of the three Classes were so close that the winners were decided on the last race. On the final day, two of the three Classes were so close that the winners were decided on the last race. Spectacular sailing conditions prevailed with a brisk 20 knots of wind from the south east. Oyster yachts are built to sail the oceans and revelled in the conditions.
Posted on 12 Apr
34th America's Cup - Oracle pumping claims are flawed - Update
Claims that Oracle Team USA broke the manual propulsion rules in the 34th America's Cup are seriously flawed Claims by an American journalist, Bruce Knecht that Oracle Team USA broke the manual propulsion rules in the 2013 America's Cup are seriously flawed. The allegations received considerable airplay in New Zealand on Friday and over the weekend.
Posted on 6 Mar
America's Cup - Another win for Oracle Team USA in California Courts
America's Cup Defender, Oracle Team USA has been successful in its legal effort to swat away another complaint America's Cup Defender, Oracle Team USA has been successful in its legal effort to swat away a complaint brought by former Oracle Team USA crew member, Matthew Mitchell. Mitchell's complaint against his former team was dismissed by a San Francisco Court on Wednesday. The amount of damage/injury claimed was stated as $400,000.
Posted on 12 Feb
America's Cup - No action against Kiwi sailor, but rule changes made
The International Sailing Federation has changed the process for Rule 69 Hearings in line with CAS recommendations One of the Oracle Team USA crew members found by the International Jury to have been involved in boat tampering activities with the America's Cup World Series regattas ahead of the 34th America's Cup has not been further penalised by the International Sailing Federation.
Posted on 19 Nov 2015
America's Cup - ISAF and Cup Jury summonsed by California Court
Five members of the AC34 Int Jury and the Int Sailing Federation have been summonsed by a San Francisco Court The International Sailing Federation, the controlling body for world sailing, and the five individuals who made up the International Jury for the 34th America's Cup have been summonsed by a San Francisco Court, to answer a lawsuit.
Posted on 9 Sep 2015
Dean Barker's Blog - Back into the racing
Five times America's Cup helmsman Dean Barker gives his view on his split with Team New Zealand and life since Writing on his blog at Kiwi Yachting Consultants' websites, of which he is a substantial shareholder and director, five times America's Cup helmsman Dean Barker gives his view on life since Team NZ. This is my first blog for quite some time. In fact since September last year when I was still a part of Team NZ racing in Istanbul for the Extreme Sailing Series.
Posted on 20 Apr 2015
America's Cup- Mitchell fires new salvo at ISAF Jury Officials
Matthew Mitchellhas advised that he has filed complaints of Gross Misconduct against all five Americas Cup jury members Matthew Mitchell, previously a member of Oracle Team USA, has issued a media release advising that he has filed complaints of Gross Misconduct against all five Americas Cup jury members with the sport's International governing body (ISAF). This action follows on from his recent claims about the actions of another team member Simeon Tienpont, now with Challenger Luna Rossa.
Posted on 5 Feb 2015
America's Cup- Oracle crew mate lodges ISAF complaint against Tienpont
Last Friday, former OTUSA's Matthew Mitchell issued a media release stating that he has lodged a complaint with the ISAF Last Friday, former Oracle Team USA team member, Matthew Mitchell issued a media release stating that he has lodged a complaint with the International Sailing Federation over the actions of a fellow crew member, Simeon Tienpont, and inaction by the International Jury for the 34th America's Cup, in San Francisco.
Posted on 28 Jan 2015
America's Cup- Oracle crew mate lodges complaint against Tienpont
OTUSA's Matthew Mitchell has issued a media release stating that he has lodged a complaint with the ISAF Former Oracle Team USA team member, Matthew Mitchell has issued a media release stating that he has lodged a complaint with the International Sailing Federation over the actions of a fellow crew member, Simeon Tienpont, and inaction by the International Jury for the 34th America's Cup, in San Francisco.
Posted on 23 Jan 2015