After the shock of last night's announcement on the three elements of the 34th America's Cup, we spent an hour at the Emirate's Team NZ base this morning talking mainly with skipper Dean Barker, as to the team's initial take on the changes.
First reaction from several, is that the claims of cost reduction don't stand up. 'This reeks of cost', Barker says and others echo his words.
Of course, the costs of owning and running a four catamaran campaign maybe more expensive that a two monohull campaign, but if the addition revenues are to be had - and the cat does wash its face financially, then certainly the game does change.
This morning, Emirates Team NZ were still reading through the Protocol and trying to understand its implications and requirements. It seems to be a very new document to them.
When asked if they had been consulted, Barker laughs, and then not quite knowing what say, says 'we met with Russell Coutts and Stephen Barclay during the Louis Vuitton Trophy in Auckland, but at that point with the draft Protocol we thought we were looking at a monohull.'
But he adds that in the end the catamaran choice was not a real surprise. The most surprising announcement was the year as being 2013 , as most expected 2014. 'But its not a big deal, there has been a lot of talk about the 45fters and they will be great for next year. But there are more questions than answer that came out of this morning, in terms of how the whole thing works, what the rule entails. We know there are 11 people on the AC72, but not how many are allowed on the AC45.'
'There are so many little details that you need to be able to put the whole thing together.
'With the first AC72 going in the water in January 2012, you have got your work cut out to design and build your boat and wings by that time. You would need to be building at least by the middle of next year.
'There's plenty of work to be done.'
Looking at getting a design team together, Emirates Team NZ are in a good position, given that they have multiple campaigns running with the TP52's and also the Volvo Ocean Race boat Camper, being built at Cookson's yard on Auckland's North Shore.
Emirates Team NZ had observers at the recent Little America’s Cup in New York. - .. .
'It s been reasonably obvious that catamarans were the direction they were going to take. In the last couple of months in particular we have been working hard on adapting to a multihull around the hulls and wingsail, and have been talking to a number of parties. We are well down the track with those deals, but until we have confirmation with the way that it is going, we have almost had to continue down the monohull and multihull paths. We are now at the point we we have to start looking at our resources and how we get to put a boat in the water in January 2012.
'In two or three weeks we will have the key people in place and then start with conceptual meetings and work out how to allocate our resources and work out how to get to the point of having a boat in the water by January 2012.'
'From what we understand the multihull design world has been a bunch of guys who are very enthusiastic about what they do, but they probably haven't had the same refinement in terms of CFD and computer based refinement which we have had in the monohull world where you are trying to extract small performance gains.
'Multihulls seem to be more about developing and extending concepts which have worked in the past, and they probably haven't gone to the same lengths as a monohull designers. What we will be looking to do is to take the concepts and ideas of the multihull people and see what makes them successful and why some have not been successful. We need to understand that, because we only get to build two boats and we need to make certain that we don't make too many mistakes along the way.
'We've only got two cracks at building a Cup winner.'
Turning to wingsail technology Barker says that the technology has been around for a long time in C-class cats, and Emirates Team NZ had observers at the recent Little America's Cup in New York. 'The way we see it at present the game seems to be 90% wingsail and 10% platform.'
Some with more experience in multihulls might disagree with that. However few would disagree with his view that there is a crucial interaction between the wingsail and hull shapes and the platform.
Barker comes back to the point that Emirates Team NZ does not have a lot of time to develop their first AC72 and with the shift to a multihull they have a lot more work to do in terms of analysis than they would have done, to produce a new development of a Version 5 AC yacht. 'The two design exercises are as different as chalk and cheese. With the monohull we spend a lot of time to develop advantage of seconds, or even parts of a second per mile. With the multihull we are talking about getting an advantage of a knot or several.'
He is in no doubt that Emirates Team New Zealand will Challenge. 'We have always said that we will be part of it. But we will Challenge only if we believe we have a good chance of winning.'
'Part of the Team is that we are excited by challenges - and this is the start of something new, and we are going to push ahead. This is a very exciting new challenge - quite different from what we have been involved in before', he adds.
'If the event is bigger and better, then this can only be better for sponsors.
'Grant has done a brillant job with all our current sponsors I would imagine they would all be keen to continue.
'The choice of venue does have some impact on us, as if it is Valencia, Rome or San Francisco then that means we approach different companies to come on board as sponsors.
'We can't afford to here and wait around for a couple of months for more decisions to be made.'
No-one we spoke to at Emirates Team New Zealand believe that the new class was going to be any less expensive that what has gone before. 'The whole thing reeks of money to me', says Barker, a comment which is echoed by others.
Like BMW Oracle Racing and Alinghi before them, Barker believes there will be little issue with converting what many argue is the top monohull sailing team in the world to be multihull sailors. 'It does mean that we will be spending a lot of time on the water.'
The Newstalk ZB Poll was less than flattering to the announced changes in the America’s Cup - .. .
Same with the design group within Emirates Team New Zealand who have been heavily involved with the design of the 2009 Audi MedCup winning TP 52, which is a clear leader on the 2010 regatta circuit, and then with the Volvo Ocean race with the VOR70, Camper. 'We are going to capitalise on the momentum we have in the design group', says Barker, ' to get the best boats we can launched in 2012.'
As a top match racer Barker believes this side of the game in multihulls will be fine, but with some significant differences from monohulls because of the characteristics of the boats.
As for the regatta circuits in which Emirates Team NZ have sailed in the past - mainly the RC44 and TP52's, Barker believes that both are past tense with the announcement of the two America's Cup catamarans, the America's Cup World series and the America's Cup itself.
Although there is definitely a new spring in the step of Emirates Team New Zealand, that upbeat feeling does not seem to be shared amongst the Auckland public, with 30% favouring monohulls and a whopping 46% rating the America's Cup as 'Boring'.
While Cup organisers might be keen to move away from what they have marginalised as the 'Flintstone Generation', by Richard Gladwell