Multi, Yes. 2013? Yikes!

Today’s press conference in Valencia surprised no one when hard-winged cats were designated as the platform for the next America’s Cup.

But 2013? That scares me more than all the knee-jerk nay saying about San Francisco as a venue.

Then again, could Italy be ready? Valencia is ready, but would that be transformative?

Here’s my deal. I listened through at 0400 and took notes as best I could. Now as I try to review to fill-in the gaps in my notes, the delivery is spotty. I assume that’s traffic, as America wakes up.

Nonetheless, we’re talking catamarans that will regularly top 30 knots in a race format designed to get them to the top mark together. Acceleration, according to Pete Melvin who produced the design rule, “will be dramatic.”

More than that is a format aimed at creating a “world series” of sailing, a new face to the world for a sport that is otherwise fragmented and confusing.

The new 72-foot cats will have two-element wings—three-element wings are faster but more complicated—with the capability of reducing power for upper wind ranges by removing an upper or trailing wing element. A critical stipulation of the design brief, for the sake of media relations, is to be able to start a race in 3 knots or 30 knots.

Shoreside before launch, obviously, you’re making a bet.

You can have good match racing in slow boats; it’s a chess game. But that doesn’t mean you can’t play “chess” at an accelerated pace. Vincenzo Onorato, skipper of the Challenger of Record Mascalzone Latino team, said, “When I drive, I prefer to drive a Ferrari.”

He also said, regarding the protocol released today, “I strongly believe it is the fairest protocol in the history of the Cup.”

Onorato, representing the Yacht Club of Rome, is also signed on to what the Defender’s CEO, Russell Coutts, envisions as a transformation in which team leaders will become, not patrons, but investors. As in, not your father’s America’s Cup.

Along with, Coutts said, “a bow to stern rethink of media output” and rapid umpiring with the possibility of geostationary spectator boats as turning marks. “The pinnacle of our sport has been like watching a senior tour,” Coutts said. Apparently, that’s not the future. Plans for a tour include an AC45 class that will help bring in new teams while serving as as “launch pad” for new talent.

The 45-footers all will come from one builder, but teams perhaps will build their own wings.

The real Cup boats are the 72-footers.

“From our research,” Coutts said, “we believe we will get more new teams with multihulls, and I believe the best monohull sailors will also become the best multihull sailors.”

From Onorato: “This is a boat for the young people.”

But does it unfairly advantage the Defender, who won AC 33 in a trimaran?

Coutts said, “We’re certainly not relying on that.”


“Near the beginning of the process we were requested to look at a catamaran instead of a trimaran because it’s easier to transport, assemble and disassemble,” Melvin said.

“The difference in the performance characteristics is not significant, and a cat was judged less expensive to build. From there, the experience of two America’s Cups in which wingsails were used (1988 and 2010), coupled with the latest developments in wingsail technology, made it natural to morph the design rule into a catamaran with a wingsail,” said Melvin.

AC72 approximate dimensions:

LOA – 22.0 meters (72 feet)

Beam – 14.0 meters (46 feet)

Displacement – 7,000 kilograms (15,500 pounds)

Wingsail area – 300 square meters (3,229 square feet)

The catamaran will be able to fly a hull in 5 to 6 knots true windspeed. The target boatspeeds in winds under 10 knots were set at 1.2 times the true windspeed upwind and 1.6 times true windspeed downwind.

High speeds are derived from enormous power. The AC72 has a righting moment of approximately 60-ton-meters. Determining the sail plan dimensions was difficult because the boat has to be powerful in light winds and not overpowered in stronger winds.

“It’s been challenging to have the cat fully powered-up and flying a hull in light winds, yet also able to sail in 30 knots,” Melvin said. “We put a lot of time and effort into sizing the wingsail and the platform dimensions in order to sail in that full range.”

The height of the wingsail will be approximately 40 meters (130 feet) with a maximum chord length between 10 and 11 meters (32 and 36 feet).

Two options for depowering are removable flaps on the upper leech or a removable mast tip. Both options would reduce sail and weight.

With such a wide boat, additional structure has been required to optimize the longitudinal stability of the AC72 to dampen flexing and to resist the high forestay loads.

A draft of the AC72 Rule has been completed and the final rule will be issued by September 30.

Other highlights of the new class:

* Ease of assembly: The AC72 can be assembled in two days and disassembled in one to accommodate the shipping schedule for the America’s Cup World Series events.

* Platform configuration: Either a conventional layout catamaran, one with cockpits and helmsman stations in both hulls, or teams will have an option of designing a central pod to centralize all the wing and sail-handling controls.

* Wingsail or soft sails: The AC72 class rule allows for wingsail and soft sail options to promote racing through a broad range of conditions.

* Power source: Engines are banned but electrically driven valves to control the wingsail might be permitted.

* Rudders and daggerboards: The rule limits a maximum of four underwater appendages, two rudders and two daggerboards. To reduce costs, standardized, one-design daggerboards are being considered.

* Construction materials and methods: Limits on high-modulus carbon-fiber have been put in place for hull construction. The class rule outlines a minimum outside skin weight of 600 grams per square meter, similar to other racing boats of that size. Core materials may either be foam or honeycomb. High-modulus carbon will be allowed in the wingsail, to add stiffness and strength.

* Onboard cameramen will be carried during racing.

Suns New Jerseys