by Bob Fisher
There was very little beating about the bush at the BMW Oracle Racing headquarters when the announcement concerning the 34th America’s Cup was made. Russell Coutts was positive and clear – the next America’s Cup would see sweeping changes. The first of these was that it would be held in 72-foot catamarans with wing rigs.
The Fish. (Bob Fisher, doing what he does the best.)
This change was the result of cost considerations – Vincenzo Onorato, the president of Mascalzone Latino from the Challenger of Record, the Club Nautico di Roma, said: 'It will reduce the cost to each team by a minimum of 20 percent.'
Coutts then indicated the form the lead-up to the Cup would take with the America’s Cup World Series. Firstly there would be an opportunity for the teams to practice in the AC-45 one-design catamarans, the prototype of which is currently under construction in New Zealand. There will be six regattas in these boats in 2011, beginning in June, and one in 2012, prior to six in that year.
Onorato, with considerable enthusiasm, then announced the year in which the 34th Cup would take place: 'It will be in two thousand and thirteen,' he declared. Then it was revealed that there would be three World Series races in that year prior to the challenger selection series, which would be arranged. Coutts confirmed, entirely by the challengers without any interference by the Golden Gate YC.
It was rapidly appearing that the playing field had been levelled, but the 41-page Protocol is packed with various clauses to endorse this, including some non-sailing periods for the teams, whose entries will be accepted from 1st November to 31st March next year. 'We expect more (new) teams in the multihull format that we would have in monohulls,' said Coutts
Another reason for the choice of multihulls was confirmed by Pete Melvin, the multihull designer who has been responsible for the AC-72 rule: 'Catamarans are easily demountable and could be shipped in Boeing 747 cargo planes.' Coutts added that these were much cheaper than the Antonov 124s that were used for the Version 5 ACC boats.
One new boat could be built to each team’s designs in 2012 and a second, if needed, for the following year. Only then would two-boat trialling be possible. Teams will be banned from using other catamarans under 10 metres long (the use of C-Class catamarans would therefore be acceptable.
The 72-foot class would have wing rigs of up to 40 metres with a maximum chord length of between 10 and 11 metres and there are two options for depowering these wings – removable flaps on the upper leech or a removable mast tip. These would be essential for a boat expected to race between 5 knots of true breeze and 35 knots. They will be powerful craft with a beam of 14 metres and a displacement of 7,000 kilograms, able to fly a hull in 5-6 knots with a target speed of 1.2 times the windspeed in 10 knots upwind and 1.6 times it downwind.
In addition to the AC World Series there would be a Youth America’s Cup from 2012. This would be held in the AC-45 catamarans, and while age limits have yet to be defined, the crew will have to be from the nation of its challenging yacht club. When questioned further on this Coutts said: 'We looked into this for the main event but too many were against it. I did point out that the marketers thought it highly important but that didn’t cut much ice, so we have left it as is.'
Much of what will be organised by the America’s Cup Race Management will take into account the fact that the event has been transformed for online television broadcasting. The courses will be shorter and thus more action packed and the management of the races will be by a totally independent team with a fully empowered International Jury with full access to the pin-point accurate tracking system that will be employed – Coutts said that it will be accurate to within two centimetres.
Add to all this that there will be complete branding freedom for the teams, which will allow them greater access to commercial sponsors.
It will definitely be exciting.