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sail-world.com -- America's Cup: Inside the AC72 hangar with Grant Dalton + Video

America's Cup: Inside the AC72 hangar with Grant Dalton + Video    
Fri, 18 Jan 2013


'Two years ago, we were pretty well gone for all money. We were basically broke and trying to stay alive', says Emirates Team NZ's Managing Director Grant Dalton, reflecting on the team's then dire situation, back in early 2011.

Behind him the shore crew and some of the sailing team are fitting out the team's second AC72, which is due to be launched in early February.

'We managed to get some good people on board, but they all knew that if we didn't have the money by April 2011, then we were gone. But it's moved a huge distance since then', he adds.

Turning to the design approach with this AC72 Dalton emphasises that they have tried very hard not to stifle what he calls the 'wacky ideas'.

'There's always the temptation to stifle the development too early, and kill the wacky ideas.

'I don't know what is right, no-one does, and we won't until this Cup is over. But there is a point where you have to move from a platform of experimentation. That's not really having wacky ideas, but letting the thinking run loose, and then becoming reliable. You don't want to stop development, but with this boat it is going to have to be more regimented and thought through, rather than random ideas on what could be fast.'

Most of the emphasis on this design has gone into achieving structural weight reductions. The hulls are different, too, he says, 'but not massively different'.

Turning to their competition, Dalton talks up America's Cup Defender Oracle Team USA, who capsized their only AC72 three months ago in mid-October, after just eight days sailing.

'With Oracle we are seeing a boat that is particularly quick upwind in all conditions. That thing is going to smoke upwind', he adds. 'We have to get close to them from an aerodynamic point of view - so we have spent quite a bit of the weight gain there.

'On paper this boat is quicker, and we achieved our paper numbers on the last boat, so it probably is faster.'

Dalton says the three teams have gone in quite different directions with their wingsails. 'At one extreme you have got Artemis with a very big leading element and small back - they may have changed that in their next shot.

'Oracle have their 50/50 mix at the front and back, and then there is us who are more 60/40.

Dalton says the biggest issue with the wingsail is to be able to get the weight and centre of gravity down. 'If you get the weight down, usually the centre of gravity is not quite right, and then you have to put lead in the top to get your centre of gravity right.

'The front element is more expensive weigh-wise than the back. So if you have a big front element, like Artemis, then you have weight issues, like we think they have.'

With their latest wingsail, and the re-engineering of their first, the team have made a lot of gains in its operation, our ability to control it, and do so quickly. 'When you gybe the boat, you want to be able to wick it up quickly and scoot it out the other side, and get the flows reattached quickly.

'Things like that will be big improvements in our ability to sail this boat quickly and efficiently.'

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Looking at the competition, and given that two of the teams have had catastrophic incidents, Dalton is philosophical. 'It's as if it is almost our turn', he says. 'They've both had pretty big issues and it's almost time for our one.

'Now we are in 2013, and it is the Year of the Cup, it is probably lucky for us that Oracle put their campaign on its roof for a while, because they were so strong. We really do like their boat. I know there's all the talk about the twist and all that stuff. But we can't tell you that is slow.

'When you are foiling, the twist is not so handy. There is enough going in dynamically to to keep the boat in stable flight. If the boat is twisting as well, that is just another factor which makes it hard.

'I think Oracle are really strong'.

But Dalton adds that he thinks they are under financial pressure and that there is cost being cut out of the event to protect the team, and make sure that OTUSA is well funded for the Defence. He thinks that with Grant Simmer on board and Russell Coutts 'spending a little more time at the ranch' that Oracle will be a very strong team come September.

Swedish Challenger, Artemis Racing, are more of an unknown on the Emirates team NZ radar. Dalton says the two boats are quite different in concept with Artemis not at this stage being a full foiler, which may be fine upwind, but could give them issues around the top mark and downwind in a breeze.

Surprisingly Dalton is comfortable with the changes to the America's Cup World Series schedule, as the only event in 2013 comes in the downtime for Emirates Team NZ, while they are in transit between Auckland and San Francisco, aboard 'the fastest Maersk ship we can find'.

by Richard Gladwell



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