This week, Emirates Team New Zealand revealed their long-awaited concept for the 36th America’s Cup design. Not to fear monohull purists, sailing has been saved. No more foiling cats!
Well, sort of.
At first glance, the new AC 75 looks like an almost-standard grand-prix monohull, but it has no keel. Rather, two swiveling appendages jut from either side of the boat with wings, or foils, at their ends. The boats are expected to sail at speeds close to 50 miles per hour. But because of those speeds — and like the foiling cats — the new monohulls will not have spinnakers, but will have ‘human power’ to operate the foils via a bevy of grinders spinning some sort of apparatus to charge the boat’s ‘accumulators’, or stored-power cells (wait, are we still talking about sailing?).
The new design has been met with a fair degree of skepticism, as well as some (but notably less) enthusiasm, according to our extremely unscientific poll from a few Internet sites. ETNZ called the new design — which has been forged in consultation with Challenger of Record Luna Rossa — a "bold and modern vision," "an exciting new era in America’s Cup racing," and a concept that "could become the future of racing and even cruising monohulls beyond the America’s Cup."
Regardless of your feelings about the AC75 design, there is no question that the America’s Cup continues to pursue the cutting edge of technology. Whether that pursuit takes us farther away from our concept of what sailing ‘should’ be is another question. Should sailing’s biggest event go where the wind blows, and evolve into whatever it may? Has the America’s Cup become more about foiling than about sailing, and should we even bother make a distinction between the two? We will tackle some of these questions in a feature in the January issue of Latitude.
For now, we’ll review a few technical aspects, tell you what a few commenters are saying, and solicit your thoughts.
"The AC75 combines extremely high-performance sailing and great match racing with the safety of a boat that can right itself in the event of a capsize," an ETNZ press release said. "The ground-breaking concept is achieved through the use of twin canting T-foils, ballasted to provide righting-moment when sailing, and roll stability at low speed. The normal sailing mode sees the leeward foil lowered to provide lift and enable foiling, with the windward foil raised out of the water to maximise the lever-arm of the ballast and reduce drag."
New Zealand’s stuff.co.nz wrote a fairly gushing review: "The AC75 monohull unveiled on Tuesday certainly projects everything that is sexy and exciting about the America’s Cup . . . Yes, there will be doubters as the concept is digested around the world and potential syndicates get a second opportunity to ponder a challenge following the release of the friendly protocol released in September.
"But who would dare doubt the geniuses in the Team New Zealand design room who have dominated the last two cycles of the cup and constantly pushed the boundaries since Kiwis first got involved in yachting’s biggest spectacle way back in 1987?"
We have heard that the ‘cyclers’ will be banned, but we’ll wait to see how that develops. ETNZ CEO Grant Dalton spoke about the ‘stored-energy’ aspect of the AC75s in an interview on stuff.co.nz: "There’ll still be an element, probably, of stored energy within the boat — the foils are quite big, and will need some mechanism of moving them, which will probably be human. But we will never introduce a combustion engine into this world, that’s not an option." Was anyone really talking about putting an engine on a race boat?
We’ve already had a few comments on our Facebook page from people who aren’t exactly stoked about the new design: "This is even more stupid than the cats," wrote Adam Borcherding. "Ladies and Gentlemen, prepare to ignore yet another America’s Cup," said Ben Ford. "Outlaw hydraulic controls and stop this silly shit," commented Brian Mertz. "Racing twitchy semi-trucks with no seat belts or crash compartments. People gonna die . . ." said Phil Rink.
But there was a fan out there: "Awesome! Let the haters hate," said Matthew Peterson.
As we said at the conclusion of the 35th Match, we don’t necessarily care what type of boats race for the Cup. Rather, we hope the event takes advantage of its spotlight, and showcases the sport of sailing as a whole, especially the Olympic dinghy-sailing roots from which nearly every AC sailor hails.