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Southern Spars - North Technology

Fisher's View- San Francisco is perfect for the America’s Cup

by Bob Fisher on 18 Jun 2011
San Francisco’’s cityscape provides the backdrop 34th America’s Cup ACEA - Photo Gilles Martin-Raget © http://photo.americascup.com/

Any underlying fears that the America’s Cup was off course should have been fully allayed after last week’s tests over the proposed course area for the 34th Cup match in 2013.

The two Oracle Racing AC-45s, skippered by Russell Coutts and Jimmy Spithill, showed the world that the venue is perfect and that Catamarans will provide all the excitement due from the Cup in the 21st Century.

The weather conditions for which San Francisco Bay is justly famous were reminiscent of those in Western Australia in 1987 when the Fremantle Doctor made his house calls at midday. In San Francisco, the mist clears from the Golden Gate Bridge before noon and the sea-breeze kicks in at 265° and clocks five to seven degrees as it settles at 18-23 knots.

The two catamarans provided a spectacular display of racing – a promise of what will be seen during the three months of the Louis Vuitton Cup for the challenger selection trials and the match itself – as they sliced through the waters of the Bay, often in the shadow of Alcatraz, and even provided a pitch-pole capsize by the most successful AC skipper of all time.

Earlier, Coutts had confessed to me: 'I’m too old for this sort of s**t!' He went on to say what we all endorsed: 'We had to decide on the venue and I am glad that it is here in San Francisco – the images are great.'

One of the great assets that the AC Race Management has acquired is John Craig as PRO. As race officer of the St.Francis YC for more than a decade, Craig has well-established relationships with all the local authorities and is familiar with their workings – most important in the planning of the Cup racing throughout the summer of 2013. Alongside him will be the most experienced of Cup race officers, Harold Bennett.

What will help it to be more alive than ever before is the electronics package that will both enhance the broadcasting, but provide the race management with the tools to set and manage courses as well as providing highly accurate (to within two centimetres, fifty times a second) positioning of the boats and the marks of the course together with the interference zones (three boat’s length circles) to assist the on-the-water umpires who will be in constant radio communication with further umpires in a booth ashore monitoring the boats’ progress electronically.

All of this is the work of Stan Honey and his team. They were at work, testing and improving their equipment in the Golden Gate YC and it proved a fascinating study. This will provide on-going, real-time graphic assistance for the television that will give a new perspective to the viewer and an explanation of the nuances of the sport.

Swop the AC-45s for AC-72s with their wings twice as high and their loadings more than five times as high, and the 34th America’s Cup will be everything that Russell Coutts has promised. Somewhat prophetically he declared: 'The closer you design to the edge, the faster you will go, but please not over the edge.' And with every crewman ‘miked’ for sound to provide an additional dimension, Coutts admitted: 'I’m going to have to learn a whole new language.' And that was before he capsized!

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