For months, yachting geeks worldwide (myself proudly included!) have been pouring over images of AC72s foiling, half-foiling, crashing and absolutely flying as the different teams competing for the 34th America’s Cup learn to sail their sophisticated new breed of wingsail-powered catamaran. Richard Gladwell, Sail-World’s New Zealand Editor, recently put together a fascinating, two-part series on contemporary AC yacht design with legendary Cup designer Mike Drummond, who was admitted into the America’s Cup Hall of Fame in 2010 for his work on numerous Cup campaigns. While the jokes about the 'Facebook generation' might be getting a touch tired, trust me when I say that there’s nothing 'Flintstones generation' about AC72s or the intense amount of thinking, calculating and designing that goes into building one of these impressive platforms.
ORACLE Team USA AC72 training
'These boats are very high speed and high on apparent windspeeds,' said Drummond. 'Their windage as a proportion of their total drag is much higher than [on] monohulls and so it needs to be a higher priority in the design'. An example of this, says Drummond, is the platforms on Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ), which features a fairly wide gap between the base of their wing and the water’s surface, and the platform on Oracle Racing’s 'USA 17', which uses a funky-looking central 'pod' to help close this gap and thus reduce drag.
01/10/2012, San Francisco (USA,CA), 34th America's Cup, ORACLE Team USA AC72 training
The other major consideration, says Drummond, is whether to emphasize wing or foil design. According to Drummond’s analysis, Artemis Racing, the Challenger of Record for the 34th America’s Cup, has emphasized their aero package over their foils (hence, why their boat doesn’t fully foil or 'fly'), while ETNZ placed their chips on foil development. Interestingly, Drummond sees foil development as the biggest difference between Luna Rossa and ETNZ, who share a basic design package.
Artemis Racing, Day two sailing the AC72, 15 November 2012, Alameda, USA
'They all know they will be foiling to some degree, whether that is 70-percent of the weight of the boat is on the foil, and 30-percent is by hull displacement, or 100-percent is on foils,' said Drummond. 'The aim has always been to 100-percent [on the] foil, but it is hard to manage without a control system. And you can foil at much lower speeds by having more pitch angle and more camber and more area on your foils. But the big question is, 'is it faster?' Get the full scoop, inside this issue, and stay tuned for Part Two of Gladwell’s great report, which is scheduled to come online in the next day or so. Lastly, don’t miss ETNZ’s sneak preview of the second-generation AC72, which is also inside.
Emirates Team New Zealand. Day 12 of testing for the team's first AC72. Hauraki Gulf, Auckland. 17/10/2012
Meanwhile, in offshore-sailing circles, the top four boats in the nonstop-around-the-world Vendee Globe Race are all looking to be in strong contention to break the race’s existing elapsed-time record of 84 days (set by Michel Desjoyeaux in the 2008/2009 edition of the race), with the top boats poised to seriously improve this difficult metric. At the front of the fleet Francois Gabart ('Macif') and Armel Le Cleac’h ('Banque Populaire') are already north of the equator, with the rest of the fleet giving strong chase. Stay tuned for more, as it unfurls.
Mike Golding, Gamesa - 2012 Vendee Globe
And closer to home, Rolex and US Sailing recently announced the names of the winners of US Sailing’s prestigious 2012 Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year awards, which went to Johnny Heineken (Larkspur, California) and Jennifer French (St. Petersburg, Florida), respectively. Impressively, French earned her proud new Rolex by bringing home the only U.S. sailing medal from the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, where she and crewmember JP Creignou took a Silver medal in the SKUD-18 class, while Heineken was recognized for his impressive (and deep) list of kiteboarding accomplishments.
'I’m extremely humbled and overwhelmed by the honor of being placed in the company of so many fantastic sailors who have had such an influence on me,' reported French. 'It’s a huge achievement, but I wouldn’t be given this award if it weren’t for [Creignou] and my husband, Tim, and a large team of special people in our lives who made it possible.'
2012 Rolex Yachtswoman Jennifer French
Likewise, Heineken was elated at the news of his award. 'To even be mentioned in connection with this award is an honor, said Heineken. 'So many of my role models are on the list of recipients. But it’s also exciting that kiting has been accepted into the world of yachting. It’s pretty amazing how far the class has come in the last five years and exciting for me to be involved in the development of that.' Get the full scoop, inside.
Also inside, get the latest preview from next week’s Key West Race Week, check out the news from the RC44 class, and also check in with skipper Giovanni Soldini and his 'Maserati' crew as the team attempt to break the standing record for the New York to San Francisco run aboard their turbo-charged Volvo Open 70.
May the four winds blow you safely home,