Please select your home edition
Edition
Giacomo Yacht Sale

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





Protector - 660 x 82Mariners Museum 660x82RS Sailing 660x82

Related Articles

An interview with Marianne Davis about the CORK International Regatta
I interviewed Marianne Davis, co-chair of the CORK International Regatta, to learn about the regatta’s state of affairs. While the various CORK regattas' registration lists include international sailors, these events are some of the gemstones in Sail Canada’s yearly championship calendar, making them of extra importance to Canadian sailors. I recently caught up with Marianne Davis, co-chair of the 2017 event, via email, to learn more about the CORK International Regatta’s evolution and its current state of affairs.
Posted on 7 Aug
Ian Walker - Musto Ambassador on the Volvo Ocean Race, America's Cup
Ian Walker on his Volvo Ocean Race win, why food and clothing are so important offshore, his views on the America's Cup We speak to Musto ambassador Ian Walker about his Volvo Ocean Race win, why food and clothing are so important offshore, his views on the America's Cup, his new desk job, sailing for fun, and 20 years of the John Merricks Sailing Trust.
Posted on 23 Jul
Black Jack Yachting. Bigger boat. Bigger team. Even bigger performance
Throughout the iterations of maxis called Black Jack, a strong, consistent and talented team has been their focus Throughout the iterations of maxis called Black Jack, a strong, consistent and talented team has been their focus. Some were sail makers, like Skipper Mark Bradford and also Vaughan Prentice from North Sails’ Brisbane loft. Others were riggers, such as Bruce Clarke, and there are even boat builders, like Gary van Lunteren, as well as Ash Deeks.
Posted on 20 Jul
Gladwell's Line - America's Cup returns to its new home and thinking
Emirates Team New Zealand's win in the 35th America's Cup ends 17-years of wandering in the AC wilderness Emirates Team New Zealand's win in the 35th America's Cup ends 17-years of wandering in the AC wilderness and will open a new era of America's Cup, New Zealand and World Sailing. A rookie crew won the most prestigious trophy in sailing, and one of the most difficult to win in any sport.
Posted on 29 Jun
SuperFoilers Are Go!
SuperFoilers represent many things. Whilst those components are disparate and virtually from different planets SuperFoilers represent many things. Whilst those components are disparate and virtually from different planets in the great scheme of things, they come together in the one form as harmoniously as a Rolls Royce, and also deliver intense energy way past the sum of their parts, just like some amazing band.
Posted on 28 Jun
A Q&A with Don Adams about Sail Canada’s plan to win Olympic medals
I caught up with Sail Canada CEO Don Adams to hear about Team Canada’s High Performance Plan for winning Olympic medals. Sail Canada, Canada’s national sailing authority, is implementing a new High Performance Plan with the aim of improving on their recent Olympic sailing performances. I caught up with Don Adams, CEO of Sail Canada, to learn more about this ambition plan for helping Canadian sailors win Olympic medals while also helping to inspire younger generations to pursue the Olympic-sailing dream.
Posted on 8 May
America's Cup - Southern Spars AC50 build for Emirates Team NZ + Video
The Peter Blake skippered Steinlager 2 put Southern Spars on the map 27 years after Steinlager 2 put Southern Spars on the map with her unequalled clean sweep of the 1989/90 Whitbread Round the World Race, Southern Spars were called on to build Emirates Team NZ's America's Cup Challenger. Here's a look behind the scenes at the composite engineering process Southern Spars employ on projects ranging from Volvo OR spars, to Olympic bike wheels to an AC50
Posted on 1 May
She’s still here with us, and now we can be there for her
Of the many endearing qualities in Lisa Blair, the one that is paramount is her effervescence. Of the many endearing qualities in Lisa Blair, the one that is paramount is her effervescence. Yet it is what lies behind that which could be her most incredible characteristic. Sometimes you can almost overlook her steely determination, but not for long when you start talking with her. Catching up with her live from Cape Town surely was a vivid reminder of not only what this sailor can accomplish
Posted on 24 Apr
Gladwell's Line - Timeout in Bermuda and a decision OTUSA will regret?
With Emirates Team New Zealand's AC50 now in Bermuda and being re-assembled, it is time to take a breath With Emirates Team New Zealand's AC50 now in Bermuda and being re-assembled, it is time to take a breath from what has been a hectic couple of months, both in Auckland and Bermuda. The third major Practice Session has concluded in Bermuda. This was conducted almost entirely if winds of around 16-25kts - starting to get close to the top end of the range for the AC50's.
Posted on 20 Apr
America's Cup - Glenn Ashby on hitting the AC50's sound barrier
These boats are incredible. The performance that can be achieved in light airs is the amazing thing. The big difference between the AC72, the America's Cup Class, used in the 2013 America's Cup in San Francisco and the smaller AC50 to be sailed in Bermuda, lies in their light and medium air performance. 'These boats are incredible. The performance that can be achieved in light airs is the amazing thing. In 7-8-9-10 knots of breeze, you are sailing at 30kts at times.
Posted on 18 Apr