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America’s Cup 35 Sneak Preview

All lit up in a spectacular fashion, Oracle Team USA’s 50-ft ACC catamaran, named 17, made her debut in Bermuda.

© 2017 Janneke Kuysters

The islands of Bermuda are buzzing with activity. Roads are repaved, buildings spruced up, extra docks are built and the team bases are like fortresses. Four team bases are up and running; the last two will be ready in the next month.

Cup racing is less than 100 days away. More than ever, it has become a technology race. The America’s Cup World Series, sailed in 2015 and 2016, gave a first glimpse of the strength of the six competing teams. Those fleet races were sailed in 45-ft one-design catamarans. The teams then trained in 45-ft test boats. In January and February 2017 they all launched their 50-ft race boats.

Spies are everywhere, and testing and training go on day and night. Who has the best control of the boat? Who has made the best design decisions? There are too many variables, and too little time remains to test them all.

“We have come a long way since the boats that we used in San Francisco in 2013,” says one of the designers of the Artemis Racing team. “But we have barely scratched the surface of this kind of sailing.”

Team Emirates New Zealand and Team Oracle USA launched their boats on the same day. “This is the boat we’re using to win the America’s Cup,” announced Jimmy Spithill, skipper for defenders Team Oracle USA, on February 14. 

The footage from New Zealand certainly stirred things up on Bermuda. On five boats the hydraulic system is pressurized by grinders, using their massive arms. The Kiwis chose a different approach: The four grinders use their legs and pedal pressure into the system. “We also looked at using the legs, but decided against it,” says a Team Oracle engineer. “It takes too long to get from a cycling position across the trampoline and back to cycling again.” Xabier Fernandez, wing trimmer for the British Land Rover BAR team says, “I think they are very brave to make this choice. Time will tell if they were right.”

Emirates Team New Zealand launched their Cup boat, named New Zealand, in Auckland. Design Coordinator Dan Bernasconi said, "The benefits of cycling opposed to regular grinding were obvious, but certainly not without issues and difficulty with functionality, and this is what we have been working incredibly hard on overcoming for the past three years."

© 2017 Hamish Hooper

Peter Durhager, liaison between the AC Event Authority and the Bermudian government, says, “We are proud to host the Cup here. The Great Sound is like a natural amphitheater with great sailing conditions year round. We are happy that we’ve been able to offer many Bermudian children the chance to learn to sail and to compete in all sorts of boats. At the same time, their role models zip around in the fastest boats on the planet.”

The races will take place from late May to the end of June. In addition to the Challenger Series and the actual racing for the Cup, there are some exciting extra regattas. The Red Bull Youth America’s Cup will give young talents a chance to compete for positions on America’s Cup boats for the 36th edition. For the first time in many years, seven J Class boats will be competing, next to a regatta for modern superyachts.

We’ll have more about the America’s Cup in the April issue of Latitude 38.

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