Sailing World - - Contents - BY BOB FISHER

Ken Mcalpine is the mea­surer in the know.

EVERY AMER­ICA’S CUP, with­out ex­cep­tion, man­ages to pro­duce con­tro­versy. Most such con­tro­ver­sies arise from one com­peti­tor chal­leng­ing the com­plex and in­ter­pretable rules that gov­ern the lim­i­ta­tions of the boat. For within the con­straints of the agreed-upon de­sign rules, de­sign­ers and en­gi­neers minutely ex­am­ine every pos­si­ble nu­ance to gain a su­pe­rior edge in speed. And, par for the Cup, such con­tro­ver­sies al­ways hap­pen be­hind closed doors.

No one in the Amer­ica’s Cup game to­day is more up front and per­sonal with gen­er­a­tions of AC yachts than Ken Mcalpine, chief mea­surer to the old­est tro­phy in sports. To say he’s seen it all is an un­der­state­ment.

Mcalpine be­gan “run­ning his tape over” Amer­ica’s Cup boats in the early 1970s, back in the days when Alan Bond was nois­ily chal­leng­ing from West­ern Aus­tralia. It was then that Mcalpine, a qual­i­fied naval ar­chi­tect, came to know War­ren Jones, Bond’s cam­paign man­ager at the time, for whom se­crecy was a by­word. Jones felt that what one’s op­po­nent didn’t know could up­set him psy­cho­log­i­cally — hence the suc­cess­ful keel- screen­ing of Aus­tralia II, which other syn­di­cates fol­lowed sub­se­quently in one way or an­other.

Se­crecy sur­rounded Aus­tralia II from the out­set of the cam­paign — from the build­ing process in Steve Ward’s shed in Cottes­loe, West­ern Aus­tralia, where it could’ve been dis­cov­ered that she was built close to the min­i­mum wa­ter­line al­lowed by the Deed of Gift, thereby en­abling the max­i­mum sail area al­lowed. The 12-Me­ter class rule, like many oth­ers, trades the speed ben­e­fit of ex­tra wa­ter­line length against sail area, and Ben Lex­cen was sure that sail area was im­por­tant af­ter his ex­per­i­ments with a bendy mast had proved as much.

Aus­tralia II’S winged keel, how­ever, which Lex­cen had val­i­dated in test tanks af­ter com­plet­ing his tests on the hull shape, would have im­me­di­ately caught the eye of a cu­ri­ous passerby. The keel was dif­fi­cult to hide for the best part of a year, even while tran­sit­ing from the foundry, through the builder’s shed, and ship­ping to the United States, where se­cu­rity had to be in­creased daily.

The New York YC missed its chance to see the keel when Aus­tralia II was of­fi­cially mea­sured by John Sav­age, of Aus­tralia, Mark Vin­bury, of the United States, and Tony Watts, of the United King­dom, at Cove Haven Ma­rina in Bar­ring­ton, Rhode Is­land. The club’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive, Bill Lud­ers, had not been in­formed by the club of the mea­sure­ment date. The orig­i­nal mea­sure­ment for a class cer­tifi­cate, which should have been suf­fi­cient, was made by Mcalpine be­fore she was shipped.

“You won’t tell any­one what you have seen, will you?” was the in­struc­tion to Mcalpine, who was al­ready ap­praised of his need to pre­serve con­fi­den­tial­ity. To­day, how­ever, he says that while the winged keel was ob­vi­ously speed pro­duc­ing, there were other fac­tors that would help Aus­tralia II’S progress. “I had to check the [class] rule to clear each of them,” he says, adding, “that mea­sure­ment form was the most

Through­out the mod­ern age of closely guarded se­crets and ex­traor­di­nary Amer­ica’s Cup yacht- de­sign ad­vances, one man has been privy to it all.


im­por­tant doc­u­ment I have ever signed.”

He is at pains to point out that the suc­cess of Aus­tralia II in 1983 was not down only to hull tech­nol­ogy, but also to sail tech­nol­ogy, no­tably in its spin­nakers. The ones used were 3 feet nar­rower than those of Dennis Con­ner’s Lib­erty, and thus more sta­ble, credit for which should go to its sail de­signer, Tom Schack­en­berg. The psy­cho­log­i­cal ad­van­tage of the winged keel, how­ever, was no doubt an el­e­ment of its suc­cess.

The va­ri­ety of 12-Me­ters that ap­peared on his doorstep in Fre­man­tle for the next Cup se­ries in 1987 as a re­sult of Aus­tralia II’S suc­cess in­cluded the first fiber­glass boat and Con­ner’s huge Stars & Stripes, which was faster as the strength of the wind in­creased, to win the Cup in the process. Here, once again, Mcalpine was in the thick of it, drilling holes in the Kiwi Magic boats at the re­quest of the Chal­lenger Se­ries or­ga­niz­ing au­thor­ity, and re­port­edly “over Michael Fay’s dead body.”

But the next boat to rock Mcalpine was the gi­ant New Zealand, the Michael Fay Deed of Gift chal­lenger. Born of the mid-19th-cen­tury de­mands as in­ter­preted by Bruce Farr into a late-20th-cen­tury racer, this 90-foot wa­ter­line race­boat would have been a shock to even the most so­phis­ti­cated naval ar­chi­tect of the day. Mcalpine’s first sight of the boat was when it was pre­sented for mea­sure­ment in San Diego.

Go­ing to the max­i­mum (for a sin­gle-masted boat) 90-foot wa­ter­line gave Farr and his part­ner, Rus­sell Bowler, a broad can­vas, and while the boat is now an ev­ery­day sight to vis­i­tors of Auck­land’s Viaduct Basin, it was an eye-opener for Mcalpine.

“I had never seen a car­bon-fiber struc­ture of this size be­fore,” he says. It was, af­ter all, 120 feet over­all, with a beam a few inches be­yond 26 feet. And that alone pro­vided Mcalpine with a chal­lenge. “Just how were we go­ing to mea­sure this beast, with a draft of 21 feet and sit­ting on a barge, which rocked and rolled every time an­other boat went past?”

When the de­fend­ers, San Diego YC, an­nounced Con­ner would meet the chal­lenge from Fay’s Mer­cury Bay Boat­ing Club, it re­sulted in a case for the New York Court of Ap­peals on the mat­ter of the ap­par­ent mis­match. Fay had the sup­port of John Bonds, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of United States Yacht Rac­ing Union, who wrote in that or­ga­ni­za­tion’s news­let­ter: “Win­ning is im­por­tant to be sure. But it isn’t ev­ery­thing. Los­ing is prefer­able to cheat­ing, to beat­ing the rules. Win­ning by an un­fair ad­van­tage is not prefer­able to los­ing in am­a­teur sport.”

Nev­er­the­less, the court ruled in fa­vor of the “un­fair” cata­ma­ran de­fense, and Con­ner’s team de­signed and built two 60-foot (the min­i­mum wa­ter­line length al­lowed) cata­ma­rans. The game was over then and there, but the two teams had to com­plete the pan­tomime, and Con­ner re­tained the Amer­ica’s Cup by 2-0 over the Deed of Gift cour­ses. It had al­lowed the


world to see the folly of the Cup’s ways and for a group of de­sign­ers and en­gi­neers to for­mu­late a de­sign rule that would en­sure more-com­pet­i­tive rac­ing in the years to fol­low — the Amer­ica’s Cup Class Rule (ACC).

One look at the boats that were ap­pear­ing in the America3 com­pound for the 1993 Cup was enough to con­vince Mcalpine (the event’s of­fi­cial mea­surer and a mem­ber of the tech­ni­cal com­mit­tee of the rule-for­mu­la­tion group that gave birth to the ACC) that there was every chance that sci­ence would pre­vail over art in that event.

Bill Koch, who gained a doc­tor­ate in fluid flow from MIT, led his team to that ideal un­wa­ver­ingly. “We are now see­ing boats that are not hard against the rule lim­i­ta­tions,” Mcalpine com­mented at the time. “Clearly Bill Koch and his team had looked at a dif­fer­ent side of the box. Their faith in the sci­ence shone though.”

For Koch, there were no bud­getary con­trols, and he made full use of his fi­nan­cial se­cu­rity to ring changes as and when he thought fit. Be­hind it all was his un­wa­ver­ing phi­los­o­phy: “Boat­speed is a sci­ence; sail­ing is an art.”

To start his cam­paign, Koch had pur­chased Skud from the French as a bench­mark for his own de­signs, the first of which was Jay­hawk. She was noth­ing more than a step along the path­way — three min­utes faster around the cup course than Skud. De­fi­ant, the third boat for the syn­di­cate, showed an­other two min­utes im­prove­ment, while the fi­nal sci­en­tif­i­cally de­signed boat, America3, was a sim­i­lar ad­vance­ment. Mcalpine watched these suc­ces­sive im­prove­ments and felt cer­tain the sci­en­tific ap­proach would prove suc­cess­ful.

“All the early ACC boats were hard against the max­i­mum beam lim­i­ta­tion of 5.5 me­ters ( 18 feet), as the think­ing at the time was that sta­bil­ity would drive the per­for­mance,” says Mcalpine. “It was the sci­en­tific ap­proach of the America3 syn­di­cate that cor­rected this mis­take. They scored by ac­cept­ing the re­sults they were ob­tain­ing from sci­en­tific ex­per­i­ments and then fur­ther­ing them in prac­tice. America3 was dev­as­tat­ingly fast straight out of the box.”

The boat en­tered the sec­ond round robin of the de­fender tri­als and dis­played its speed, be­ing beaten on only one oc­ca­sion by its team­mate De­fi­ant in the hands of Buddy Melges. But things didn’t al­ways go the way of this boat. A cash-strapped Con­ner tried des­per­ately to be­come the de­fender and was con­stantly up­grad­ing his sin­gle boat. Stars & Stripes had sev­eral keel changes, even in mid­series (when this was agreed by Koch), but to no avail.

The sci­en­tif­i­cally de­signed America3 was su­pe­rior and be­came the de­fender in 1992, by a mar­gin of 7-4. Koch was over­joyed, Melges was muted, and it needed start­ing helms­man and tac­ti­cian, Dave Del­len­baugh, to put the re­la­tion­ship be­tween art and sci­ence into per­spec­tive. “I think

our de­sign­ers and ev­ery­body in­volved have done a great job in get­ting the boat to be very quick, and that makes you look smart as a tac­ti­cian,” he said at the time. He was right, and America3 re­tained the Cup by beat­ing Il Moro di Venezia 4-1.

It was never quite fully un­der­stood ex­actly what the New Zealan­ders were try­ing to achieve in 2003 with NZL 81 and 82. They were go­ing head to head with the mea­sure­ment of “length be­tween girths” with what they called the “hula” (hull ap­pendage), but it cer­tainly didn’t do any­thing prac­ti­cal to im­prove their speed. At least, if it did, they must have been slow to be­gin with. Yet, their boats were de­vel­op­ments of the highly suc­cess­ful NZL 60 that, in the hands of Rus­sell Coutts, had white­washed the chal­lenge of Prada by 5-0. Too much time — both in the de­sign of­fice, and in the con­struc­tion of the boats and en­sur­ing com­pli­ance with the rules with the mea­sure­ment com­mit­tee — was wasted in this ex­er­cise.

Dur­ing the pe­riod from March 1, 2001, to Au­gust 6, 2002, the mea­sure­ment com­mit­tee, with Mcalpine as the ACC tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor, is­sued 27 Con­fi­den­tial In­ter­pre­ta­tions of the ACC Class Rule. They var­ied be­tween ma­te­ri­als al­lowed to de­tails of stand­ing rig­ging, but the most con­tentious con­cerned fixed ap­pendages, and these had to be checked re­li­giously each day.

ETNZ had ex­plored a method of ex­tend­ing the hull wa­ter­line with an in­ge­nious bul­bous-type vol­ume to­ward the aft end of the hull that was within the ACC rules. It was never fully un­der­stood ex­actly what the Ki­wis were try­ing to achieve with the hula. Andy Claughton, one of the New Zealand team’s lead de­signer’s take on this to some ex­tent, ex­plains the the­ory with: “The hula was an at­tempt to com­bine a shal­low counter with a long wa­ter­line length. The ma­jor hur­dle to over­come was that the hula had to qual­ify as an ap­pendage un­der the class rule.”

And, most im­por­tant, that it qual­i­fied as an ap­pendage by be­ing at­tached only on the cen­ter­line and did not make con­tact with the hull at any point.

“We checked the hula every day af­ter rac­ing to en­sure that the 1-mil­lime­ter gap be­tween it and the hull re­mained, and that dur­ing the race it had not closed,” re­mem­bers Mcalpine. The stresses on this ap­pendage, re­sist­ing the buoy­ancy force on the hula, which acted to close the gap be­tween it and the hull were im­mense, and had re­quired mount­ing bolts linked to two lon­gi­tu­di­nal bulk­heads in the boat’s af­ter­body.

While its ef­fi­cacy to con­form to the ACC rules was sat­is­fied, no one in the New Zealand de­sign nor sail­ing teams has ever been con­vinc­ing about its speed-pro­duc­ing abil­ity, but it was eye-turn­ing when the boat was out of the wa­ter for those al­lowed into the New Zealand com­pound. NZL 82, the boat cho­sen to de­fend, did have its mo­ments of close rac­ing, but equip­ment fail­ure in the first race against a Rus­sell Coutts-skip­pered Alinghi, and the loss of her mast in the fourth, gave the Swiss team vic­tory in five straight races. Q


Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.