Sailing World - - Contents -

AC35 is done and dusted, so what’s next? It’s mono­hulls and pass­ports.

With Team New Zealand in charge once again, there’s a wel­come re­turn to the Deed of Gift.

“The live dy­namic be­tween the helms­man and tac­ti­cian, and per­haps one other crew mem­ber, needs to be a key pro­duc­tion tool,” says Ma­son. “And wear­ing the lat­est high-qual­ity mi­cro­phones must be manda­tory.”

Ma­son also sug­gests aban­don­ing the trend of run­ning races close to land. “Spec­ta­tors re­ally don’t see much,” he says. “The rac­ing — and pro­duc­tion — is bet­ter in open wa­ter.”

I would add that the vir­tual course boundary lines be dropped. The pur­pose of these boundaries is to keep the rac­ing close, but they re­duce the op­por­tu­nity for the fol­low­ing boat to pass the leader.

Hall of Fame Sailor, Stan Honey, who cre­ated the graph­ics used for the Amer­ica’s Cup tele­vi­sion broad­casts in 2013 and 2017, has watched the evo­lu­tion of the Cup with great in­ter­est. He sug­gests Cup or­ga­niz­ers con­sider a mono­hull that is slow enough to re­quire a gen­naker for the down­wind legs. “I would, of course, have a strong ‘build-in-coun­try’ rule,” he adds, “and a strong crew-na­tion­al­ity rule. I would also re­quire man­u­ally pow­ered winches. The mono­hull would be slower than the cats, but it would look fast be­cause there would be lots of spray.”

For train­ing pur­poses lead­ing up to the next Cup match, the Maxi 72 Class could pro­vide a vi­able train­ing plat­form for the race crews. These highly com­pet­i­tive and tech­ni­cal mono­hulls are a good tem­plate for the new Cup yachts. Maxi 72s al­low for a max­i­mum of 20 crew, with no weight limit. Ide­ally, the Cup boats would race with fewer crew. Fif­teen crew on an 80-footer seems about right.

His­tor­i­cally, the Amer­ica’s Cup has been a de­sign con­test with many im­por­tant in­no­va­tions that have ben­e­fited the larger sport of sail­ing. There is al­ways the in­evitable dis­cus­sion of whether to make the yachts one-de­sign or open. Even within class rules like the 12 Me­ter, J Class, ACC and AC50 cats, there was room for cre­ativ­ity. The more ex­otic the de­sign, the greater the chance the boats will be well-sep­a­rated on the race­course. Com­peti­tors and fans pre­fer close rac­ing, fre­quent lead changes, and lots of drama in the heat of bat­tle.

As de­signs evolve over sev­eral Cup se­quences, the de­signs will nar­row in scope. In 1992, when the new IACC rule was in­tro­duced, there was a wide range in speed across the fleet. Fif­teen years later, in 2007, all the boats were re­mark­ably even in speed. It is a tricky bal­ance. Naval ar­chi­tects should have the lat­i­tude to cre­ate break­through de­signs. The quest for speed is a great mo­ti­va­tor.

How­ever, it is worth de­bat­ing the use of ad­vanced elec­tron­ics on Cup boats. What we saw in San Francisco and Ber­muda was sailors re­ly­ing heav­ily upon com­put­ers to guide their tac­tics and per­for­mance at ev­ery stage of the race. At times, it was very much like play­ing a video game. I am an ad­vo­cate of em­pow­er­ing sailors to make judg­ment calls, and my sug­ges­tion is to limit the use of so­phis­ti­cated com­put­ers in fa­vor of lim­ited in­stru­ments, such as a com­pass, speedome­ter and wind in­stru­ments, which will force the sailors to make in­tu­itive tac­ti­cal calls. It will make them bet­ter sailors, and pro­vide for ex­cit­ing mo­ments and lead changes.

Tra­di­tion­ally the de­fender en­joys its hard- earned home­town ad­van­tage, but when the Golden Gate YC in San Francisco moved its de­fense to Ber­muda, the home-court ad­van­tage went away, along with home­town in­ter­est. New Zealand will hold its races on its own waters, and no doubt the en­tire coun­try will sup­port the team with fer­vor. Wrest­ing the Cup away from Team New Zealand will not be easy, but re­cent his­tory helps us un­der­stand what might hap­pen in the fu­ture. Since 1983, chal­lengers have won six of 11 times.

Four of those suc­cess­ful chal­lengers were able to de­fend and then sub­se­quently lost the Cup. This was true for the San Diego YC in 1987 to 1995, the Royal New Zealand YS from 1995 to 2003, the So­ci­ete Nau­tique de Gen­eve in 2003 to 2010, and Golden Gate YC from 2010 to 2017. Will the pat­tern re­peat? It’s im­pos­si­ble to know, but it will be great fun to watch. For now, we can hope that the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and the Chal­lenger of Record, Cir­colo della Vela Si­cilia, will set up an Amer­ica’s Cup that will re­cap­ture the hearts and minds of sailors and non­sailors alike. It’s time to get back to what we know. Q

TIME stops when the sails fill on a J Class yacht. Then she comes alive. Ac­cel­er­a­tion is smooth, reek­ing of power. The rail dips to kiss the wa­ter. It seems so easy, and a non­sailor might ro­man­ti­cize it just that way. A lit­tle trim on, a lit­tle trim off. The boat charges along — un­til it’s time to tack. The jar­ring cry of the loaded genoa sheet as it’s eased around a 14-inch drum shud­ders through the boat. There is no miss­ing the mes­sage that ev­ery inch and ev­ery pound of this beast is wound up tight. Com­mu­ni­ca­tion — bow to stern and stern to bow — is crit­i­cal, and the other end of the boat is se­ri­ously yon­der. Noth­ing hap­pens on the in­stant. And that’s not to men­tion the life of the fore­deck team, in the way of old, man­ag­ing mon­ster sails on a sliver of a deck. But noth­ing com­pares to the view from that deck. Another tack, the head­sail booms as it luffs and sweeps across stain­less rig­ging. Across the way, the com­pe­ti­tion is a pic­ture of grace, boil­ing through the wa­ter. You’re there to an­swer the guns, and you have no one to envy in the world of sail.

This was the scene in New­port, Rhode Is­land, in Au­gust, when six Js raced their World Cham­pi­onship. For the first time in years, I heard the word “majesty” con­nected with boats and sail­ing. Eighty years af­ter Ranger won the last J Class race for the Amer­ica’s Cup, 80 sum­mers af­ter Ranger’s owner-skip­per Mike Van­der­bilt mused, “I won­der how long it will be be­fore five J boats meet again,” the im­prob­a­ble an­swer came loud and clear. Half of the J’s that raced the Worlds were owner-driven, like Ranger. Owner-driver Harold God­dijn, whose for­tune was launched on sat-nav de­vices, has been at it with Lion­heart and the same core crew since 2011. With seven-time Volvo Ocean Race vet­eran Bouwe Bekking whis­per­ing in his ear, God­dijn won the Worlds on con­sis­tency.

To state the ob­vi­ous, this is no or­di­nary fleet. The J’s berthed at New­port Ship­yard, and each spoke for it­self. A mast reach­ing for the sky. The grace of a by­gone era ex­pressed in bold over­hangs, a del­i­cate sheer. A teak deck as a work of art. Dozens of peo­ple busy on deck, where a bat­tery of high-tech ma­chin­ery hints that in­ner dragons wait to fly. For the three owner-driv­ers — the pros too, for that mat­ter — we hold the thrills to be self-ev­i­dent. If this isn’t liv­ing the dream, what is?

Race 1 of the Worlds took the fleet un­der the bridge that con­nects New­port to Jamestown, and it stopped traf­fic. Lit­er­ally. Stopped. Dream­ers are ev­ery­where. Aboard Svea, all 176 feet of car­bon mast cleared the span by plenty, but of course that’s not how it looked. What I learned in three days aboard Svea, the new­est and, at 143 feet, the long­est J ever built, is that while ma­jes­tic, it is still ba­sic sail­ing. But it’s a heap of ba­sic sail­ing. And it’s un­for­giv­ing. Svea’s hy­draulic-pow­ered pri­maries in­hale line at 660 feet per minute, but a sail change is a sail change. Svea’s crew were climb­ing the steep slope of the learn­ing curve of a com­plex new launch. Ken Read, the hired gun of Jim Clark’s Hanu­man, has eight years un­der his belt as skip­per of the dark-blue beauty. “No other boat matches the J’s de­mand for chore­og­ra­phy,” he tells me. “Get one per­son out of synch, and it is chaos. And the loads keep in­creas­ing be­cause we keep push­ing harder.”

Did some­one say loads? The gee- whiz game goes like this: Head­stays carry loads to 36 tons. Runners might carry 30 tons, or a jib sheet, 9 tons. Svea has power take­off ( PTO) hy­draulics that de­liver com­puter- con­trolled flow rates al­low­ing each winch to be cus­tom­ized for each ma­neu­ver. From a driver’s point of view, it mat­ters big-time that the long-keel at­tached-rud­der con­cepts are 80 to 90 years old. The wheel is work. The boat won’t go where you want it to go un­til you show the old girl you mean busi­ness. But, as Svea’s Francesco de An­ge­lis re­marks: “It’s amaz­ing what the orig­i­nal de­sign­ers ac­com­plished. They didn’t have com­put­ers. They didn’t have hy­dro­static cal­cu­la­tions. But their boats are beau­ti­fully bal­anced.”

Svea (lit­er­ally, Swe­den) was de­signed in 1937 to be Swe­den’s first Cup chal­lenger, but the boat was not built. Un­der a new vi­sion to join the mod­ern fleet, con­struc­tion be­gan at Claasen Ship­yard in the Nether­lands, and the bare hull was com­pleted in 2013, but the project was aban­doned. That is where things stood un­til Tom Siebel, of San Francisco, en­coun­tered those se­duc­tive alu­minum

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