Weekend Herald

Se­cret weapon in­spires nerves

- Sail­ing Mark Orams com­ment Sports · United States of America · New Zealand · Auckland Region · Auckland University of Technology · YACHT · Team New Zealand · University of Auckland

Amer­ica’s Cup teams have al­ways been in­flu­enced by the se­duc­tion of se­cret weapons.

The de­vel­op­ment of a new de­sign fea­ture that gives a team a com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage is a nat­u­ral ten­dency be­cause, as the old adage states, the fastest yacht al­ways wins.

Over the com­ing weeks, the teams will be mak­ing de­ci­sions about when to launch their sec­ond gen­er­a­tion boats and when to re­veal their key bits of “go faster kit”.

Ex­pect Amer­i­can Magic to be the first to launch, fol­lowed by the Bri­tish and Ital­ians. Team New Zealand will prob­a­bly wait a while longer.

There will be in­tense in­ter­est in the fun­da­men­tals of these new de­signs, but I’m not ex­pect­ing any great sur­prises, with one ex­cep­tion — Team New Zealand.

The Amer­i­cans’ new hull form will look sim­i­lar to the ones Team NZ and Luna Rossa Prada Chal­lenge have been sail­ing in their first­gen­er­a­tion AC75 yachts. Ex­pect the same when the Bri­tish and Ital­ians launch their new yachts.

The whis­pers I am get­ting sug­gest Team

NZ have a new boat that is a bit rad­i­cal.

This is an ex­cit­ing prospect, but also makes me a bit ner­vous.

There is both po­ten­tial risk and re­ward in such an ap­proach.

Get it right, and it could be a re­gat­taw­in­ning move. Get it wrong, and you may have a hard- to- sail, er­ratic or un­re­li­able boat. If it is a de­sign that pushes the rules, it may also fall into a dis­tract­ing con­tro­versy of a rules protest.

A key as­pect of get­ting the best out of a new de­sign and re­duc­ing these risks is test­ing time.

Team NZ have al­ready been able to re­fine and op­ti­mise their first boat, Te Aihe, so that it is now 15 to 20 per cent faster than when it was first launched. This is the sort of op­ti­mi­sa­tion that all four teams will be seek­ing as rac­ing draws near. There is a long list of things to test and prac­tice, which is why the de­ci­sion on when to launch and be­gin on- water test­ing is such an im­por­tant one.

The aim is to keep any se­cret weapon hid­den from the com­pe­ti­tion un­til it is too late for them to copy it.

The tricky as­pect for the teams is that any ma­jor new de­sign fea­ture takes some time to turn into re­al­ity. The process of con­cept to de­tailed de­sign, en­gi­neer­ing, build, fit- out and test­ing takes weeks to com­plete.

Be­cause Covid- 19 has led to the can­cel­la­tion of the first two Amer­ica’s Cup World Series re­gat­tas in Europe, there has been no rac­ing.

This has cre­ated more un­cer­tainty re­gard­ing the teams and the rel­a­tive speeds of their de­signs.

As­sum­ing all teams choose their sec­ond- gen­er­a­tion yachts as their rac­ing ma­chines, the first gen­er­a­tion boats may never ac­tu­ally race one an­other be­cause the rules pre­vent any or­gan­ised prac­tice rac­ing.

So the Amer­ica’s Cup World Series from De­cem­ber 17- 20 in Auck­land looms as ex­tremely im­por­tant, par­tic­u­larly for Team NZ, as it is the only rac­ing they get be­fore the Cup in March.

The re­al­ity for all teams now is that time is rapidly run­ning out to de­sign, build, fit and test any sig­nif­i­cant new com­po­nents.

Any team that finds them­selves off the pace in the pre- Christ­mas re­gatta will have lim­ited op­tions avail­able to be­come com­pet­i­tive.

● Pro­fes­sor Mark Orams is the Dean of the Grad­u­ate Re­search School at Auck­land Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy and is a for­mer mem­ber of Team New Zealand. He was also part of Sir Peter Blake’s win­ning Whit­bread Around the World Yacht Race crew aboard Stein­lager 2.

 ?? Photo / Richard Glad­well ?? Team NZ and Amer­i­can Magic come close to­gether dur­ing test­ing on Auck­land Har­bour.
Photo / Richard Glad­well Team NZ and Amer­i­can Magic come close to­gether dur­ing test­ing on Auck­land Har­bour.

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