Wing technology trickles down to youth sailors
By ORACLE Racing Comms // May 2, 2011
The America’s Cup is such a technology-driven event that it often
benefits the sport of sailing as a whole. Past innovations such as the
wing keel have helped cruising yachts achieve shallower drafts so that
they can get closer to shorelines. And advancements in sail technology
benefit every layer of the sport.
When it was announced that wingsails would be used in the 34th
America’s Cup, many wondered how the technology would trickle down
through the sport. While the final applications are far from decided,
the technology has trickled down to the youth sailor in the form of a
wingsail for an Optimist dinghy.
The optimist is one of the oldest, most used trainers for youth
sailors. It was designed in 1947 by Clark Mills, and the square bow
design with gaff rig has withstood the test of time. The International
Optimist Dinghy Association has national associations in 126 countries
and there are more than 130,000 Optimists registered worldwide.
It is such a popular trainer that the children of some of ORACLE
Racing’s teammembers own an Opti as they start what could be a career
long path towards the America’s Cup. Several of the design team took the
initiative to adapt a wingsail for the Optimist that was trialed
recently ahead of the New Zealand Optimist Nationals.
“The idea came about when talking with some 470 sailors at Wakatere
Boating Club, who are always building things for boats or skateboards or
surfboards,” said Mike Drummond, a designer with ORACLE Racing. “The
top section of our A-class catamaran wing is removable, and about the
same size as an Opti rig. It was very easy to add a standard Opti mast
tube to be able to step it into a normal Opti.”
The wing was constructed with the aid of James Turner and Logan Dunning-Beck, the 470 sailors from the Wakatere Boating Club.
“James made up the plywood control arms, Logan rigged it up; then it
was stepped and sailed within a couple of days,” Drummond said. “The rig
is a little far forward so the helm is a bit light, but it sails
easily. It hasn’t lined up against a conventional rig though – as you
can see it is a bit smaller in area.”
When it was trialed ahead of the nationals Drummond was impressed the
sailors asked very good questions about how the wing works and why it
has a slot. The wing isn’t class legal so it won’t be seen on the
racecourse in the immediate future, but down the road wingsail
technology will undoubtedly become widespread.
Link to article: Wing technology trickles down to youth sailors
President of IODA, Peter Barclay (left), with 2011 Optimist Worlds
Committee member, Peter Dawson and the mysterious wingsailed Optimist
(courtesy Terry Nicholas).
From Opti to AC45 – the stuff of dreams
By Tim Adair, Sail-World.com // Apr. 28, 2011
On a damp Wednesday morning on 27th April 2011, six excited young
sailors – selected from the recent 2011 NZ Optimist Nationals – were
lucky enough to be invited to crew on the AC45.
We met at 0900 for an introduction to the boat by ORACLE Racing’s
Design Team member, Mike Drummond. We learned many facts and figures on
the mammoth wing-sail and its design origins from the C-Class.
We then changed ready to hit the water for the sail of a lifetime. It
became apparent to us when being towed out to the racing area that we
were in for an amazing ride. I was aboard one of the two Oracle Racing
boats and it shone out from the other four boats due to its distinctive
To my surprise, skipper James (Jimmy) Spithill invited me to take the
helm as we entered the Hauraki Gulf. Shortly after, I put in the first
tack of the day! I was very nervous but with Jimmy by my side, my nerves
were calmed and I started to feel like this is what I could do in the
future. It was an amazing piece of machinery / art, you could feel every
little adjustment made by the crew, with the helm surprisingly light
Tacking was like a military exercise as you had to crawl over all the
ropes and the central spine which is like a long beam running the
length of the boat. One intimidating moment was crawling over the spine
and seeing the huge boom and wing-sail above that could fall on you
After my turn on the helm, my two friends William and Leonard had a
go to skipper. After we had all had a shot on the helm, Jimmy showed us
how to really control the big Cat. Day 2 practice racing followed, so we
were put on the big ORACLE Racing support RIB.
Watching first hand, close-up, full-on racing from the comfort of the
RIB was an amazing spectacle, like a clash of the Titans. It was a
great day that I’m sure none of us will ever forget. That’s one of my
'things to do before I die, ticked off'!
Thank you, ORACLE Racing,
Photo above: Optimist sailors get a thrill ride aboard ORACLE Racing’s AC45 (Gilles Martin-Raget).
Photo gallery: AC45 test event, Day 2
Piet muscles around the AC45
By ORACLE Racing Comms // Apr. 29, 2011
If the AC72 turns out to be anything like the AC45 in terms of the
sailors’ physical requirements, the 34th America’s Cup will be as
draining to watch as it is for the sailors who bounce around the
trampoline from one job to the next.
“It’s a really tough boat to sail,” said ORACLE Racing bowman Piet
van Nieuwenhuijzen. “Everything is big and the apparent windspeed is
Watch the video: Match racing pre-start
“The hard jobs are grinding and pulling the sheets,” van
Nieuwenhuijzen continued. “A lot of different people are doing those
jobs. Because there’s so much happening and the boat is so wide you
can’t be in the right place at the right time, you have to do the job
that’s in front of you. We’re all filling in for each other and that
makes it more difficult.”
Watch the video: Simeon Tienpont, on board ORACLE Racing
The dynamic movement of the AC45 adds another layer of complexity. A
displacement monohull is predictable in its acceleration and
deceleration, but not so for the AC45.
“The whole platform moves around so much that you struggle to stay on
your feet,” said van Nieuwenhuijzen. “If you take a tumble you have to
get back up and finish the job.”
So what’s the telltale sign that all’s well on the yacht?
“If we’re hiking out that means all’s going well,” van Nieuwenhuijzen
said. “If we have a chance to sit down, we’re in good shape.”
Photo above: Piet van Nieuwenhuijzen has one hand for the boat and one for himself as he secures the gennaker (Gilles Martin-Raget).
View a photo gallery: Total match racing