The Revenge Of The Monohulls
It′s a sailing revolution! Why should the multihulls have all the fun? What began several years ago with some pretty “butt ugly” boats and designs, has evolved into plastic fantastical technological artistry, fueled by high speed and more than an element of life on the edge.
It′s not the Revenge of the Sith, but it could be close, as in the last few weeks, four of the five teams left in America′s Cup 36 have launched their versions of the AC75, and to say the designers are on the same page would be a stretch of imagination.
What is it going to actually be like when two or more of these trapezium foiling monohulls with their transformative mechanical dagger blade arms and mechanisms actually meet on the water in the same place and space? Rules prohibit such encounters until next year′s America′s Cup World Series event in Cagliari, Sardinia in April 2020 in an attempt to save a few dollars.
When we first saw the monolithic multihulls in the middle of winter off Valencia, Spain a decade (seems like a lifetime) ago, we were “told” that these boats can′t match race and that the “rubbing is racing” rules of the road had gone the way of the dodo.
What was envisioned was that these high-speed creations would just zip away, leaving their opponents high and dry, disappearing beyond the horizon ala mono a mono. What actually transpired was beyond comprehension from Spain to San Francisco to Bermuda.
Oracle Skipper, Jimmy Spithill, dispelled that notion from the moment the starting gun went off in Race 1 against Alinghi, when he set his sights on them like a dagger in the night, leaving the stunned Swiss team looking like deer in the headlights. Race, match, and the America′s Cup was over right then and there!
In San Francisco, the drama was even more intense in 19 epic races which left the Kiwis disorganized and dismayed while OTUSA was on the top of the world, until 4 long years later when ETNZ decapitated them and left them for dead in the Bermuda Triangle.
So here we go, four somewhat whacko designs for the offering as we wait to see if Stars + Stripes has anything cooking in Holland, Michigan for a fifth and final offering of boats number one.
No Wrong Answers Or More Questions
The home team was first out of the box to launch their new boat, which they hope will be able to defend the next America′s Cup, which they will host off Auckland on Waitemata Harbor in March of 2021, as Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) christened their first AC75 at their team base in the heart of the America′s Cup village.
The christening event was celebrated with the team, their families, sponsors and suppliers, as their radical new boat was christened Te Aihe (Dolphin,) by Marcus Gerbich, and blessed by an indigenous Maori native Ngati Whatua.
COO Kevin Shoebridge, who has overseen the development and launch of plenty of boats over the years, was especially proud to be witnessing the Kiwi AC75 emerge for the first time.
“This is a significant occasion for the team, not just because it is another new boat, but really because when we won the America′s Cup in 2017, we very quickly had to come up with a new concept of boat that would really continue to push the boundaries of innovation and technology in the America′s Cup. So, in the relatively short timeframe since November 2017 when we published the concept, to seeing it in flesh today is an amazing testament to the entire team willing to push things all the way from concept to design to build and fit out,” Shoebridge said.
The Kiwis, who never lack innovation, was witnessed last time around in Bermuda when they opted for cyclors, pedal grinders and an X-Box approach to trimming the wing sail. This success was in stark contrast to the Hula design from the last time, that New Zealand defended the Cup in 2003, which failed spectacularly.
Sean Regan has led the setup of the team′s bespoke production facility on Auckland′s North Shore, from a blank factory floor to producing the first AC75.
“We have had the pressure on since the moment we decided to establish our own production facility very early on in this campaign. We have built up a really great team of 42 fully committed people at the yard, who have been working full-on to get this boat out the door,” Regan said. “Even for the most experienced boat builders on the team, this has been a very unique build because it is such a sophisticated boat. But it is really encouraging that for a number of our junior and apprentice boat builders, their first build has been on a boat that is really on the cutting edge of complexity in build, design and performance.”
ETNZ Head of Design, Dan Bernasconi, was a central figure in the development of the AC75 Class Rule, before turning his team of designers′ attention to the specific design of the Kiwi boat.
“There′s a huge amount of innovation in the design and build of the AC75, more than we saw in the AC50′s in Bermuda,” Bernasconi said. “The AC75 is a completely new concept and has presented plenty of challenges across many areas, but this is precisely what the rule was designed to do, push development to the extreme.
“We haven′t been conservative in any aspect of our design. It′s not long until we need to commit to the design of our second boat, which we will ultimately race in the 2021 America′s Cup. So, we need to test as many of our ideas as possible, in the yacht we′re launching today.”
Unlike the other main Challengers, ETNZ has focused the development of their first boat entirely with their in-house simulator, as opposed to building a smaller scale test boat to validate concepts on the water.
So, once the AC75 goes for its maiden sail, it′ll be the first time the team has collectively sailed since winning the America′s Cup on June 26, 2017.
“It won′t be without nerves the first time we go sailing, but I am sure that is no different for all of the teams.” Glenn Ashby said. “The AC75′s are big powerful fast boats, so they will be a handful. But from our understanding through our simulations, they are inherently a safer boat to sail than what we have sailed in the past two America′s Cups. As with any new boat, it is all about slowly getting it up to speed, learning how to sail it most efficiently, pushing the development of the designs and then putting in the hours in getting ready to race for the ACWS Sardinia in April 2020.”
The Kiwis will now focus on a busy period of testing on Auckland′s Hauraki Gulf over the spring and summer months, having the advantage of developing and training on the race area of the America′s Cup Match.
CEO Grant Dalton concluded: “I wish to thank every single team member for the hard work they′ve done to get us to this day. A special thanks also to all our sponsors and partners for all of their valued support so far, and everything they will continue to do during our journey towards the America′s Cup Match in 2021. It is an exciting time, but things are about to get a whole lot more so from now on.”
The name Te Aihe (Dolphin) is based on the Whakatauki proverb: “Ma te Aihe e tuitui ai I te te ngaru moana, ma te Rangatira e tuitui ai i te tangata” or
“As the dolphin sows through the seas, so does a leader sew people together.”
The AC75 Class is a 75-foot high performance monohull, governed by the AC75 Class Rule, which was published on March 29, 2018. The Class Rule is open enough to guarantee a wide margin of freedom to the designers, but also introduces certain one-design elements for cost containment.
The AC75 supplied identical parts for all the teams, including the foil arms and cant system, along with the rigging. The shape and base laminate of the mast is also controlled by the Class Rule.
The AC75 rotating mast is a 26.5-meter long one-design D-shaped section, that weighs about 300kg and serves as the leading edge of the double skinned mainsail.
The team′s mast was built at Southern Spars in Auckland, whereas the rigging package was built at Future Fibres in Valencia. The two other one-design components are key to make the boat fly.
The foil arms, built at Persico Marine in Italy, are the result of a project led by Luna Rossa Challenge, with the collaboration of all the America′s Cup teams and New Zealand based composite engineering consultancy, Pure Design and Engineering. Each 4.5-meter long carbon foil arm has a wing attached to its tip. The foil wings are custom designed and built by each team.
Driving the foil arms is the electronic and hydraulic foil cant system (FCS), another one-design supplied part, which moves the arms and wings in and out of the water. The foil cant system was designed by ETNZ and assembled in Auckland before being distributed to all teams earlier in the year.
The rest of the Class Rule is open and being a new concept, which leaves the design quite open as no proven path has yet been defined for these types of boats. Any shrouding of the yachts in the 36th America′s Cup is prohibited, so teams won′t be able to hide their different design approaches and subsequent developments.
The most visible differences will be seen in the hull shapes and deck layouts. Despite a number of basic constraints such as the length, the hull has few significant limits on shape or structure. Design teams will be looking for a shape with minimal drag in light wind displacement mode, while also addressing the stability required to generate thrust for takeoff.
Evident differences will be displayed also in the foil wings and wing flaps, as they are also open to design. Being T-style foils, their shapes have been less explored than the L-foils used in the last two Cups.
The double-surface mainsail is a new innovation of the 36th America′s Cup Class Rule, and will be key in the performance of the boat. A lot of hours have been invested in its design.
The hydraulic and electronic control systems powered and controlled by the crew, operate key components of the boat, such as the foils and have been subjected to important developments as well, but will they remain a very guarded secret by each team.
The New York Yacht Club entry American Magic, christened their new entry in Newport, RI shortly after the Kiwi launch before a rabid turnout of locals and distinguished luminaries. The team named their first boat Defiant, which will be the first America′s Cup class boat built to represent the New York Yacht Club in over 16 years. The boat has gone with its initial testing on Narragansett Bay.
Defiant was constructed at a dedicated facility in Bristol, Rhode Island, the site of America′s Cup boat building efforts since the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company′s first Cup defender, Vigilant, was launched in 1893. American Magic will continue to train in Rhode Island waters during the fall of 2019, before relocating to Pensacola, Florida for the winter. Of all the new launches, the American Magic design takes on a bit of a different approach with its cylindrical shape, though it appeared quick from the get-go.
The NYYC effort hopes to shake off the demons of their last few challenges since relinquishing the Auld Mug in 1983, when the Australians completely stole the headlines and the Cup with their winged keel design. The much-anticipated launch of the first two AC75 foiling monohull yachts from the Defender ETNZ and USA Challenger NYYC American Magic respectively, did not disappoint the masses of America′s Cup fans waiting eagerly for their first glimpse of an AC75 in the flesh.
Meanwhile, the Americans somewhat broke the protocol by carrying out a series of unannounced test sails, and were the first team to foil their AC75 on the water, prior to a formal launch ceremony when their dark blue boat was given its curious name.
But it was not just the paint jobs that differentiated the first two boats of this 36th America′s Cup cycle. It quickly became apparent that the New Zealand and American hull designs were also strikingly different.
On first comparison, the two teams′ differing interpretations of the AC75 design rule are especially obvious in the shape of the hull and the appendages.
While the New Zealanders have opted for a bow section that is for want of a better word, pointy, the Americans have gone a totally different route with a bulbous bow. A bit of a flying bathtub, that some have described as “scow-like” – although true scow bows are prohibited in the AC75 design rule.
The differences between the two AC75 hulls do not stop there, with the two design teams taking significantly contrasting approaches on the underwater profiles of their AC75s as well.
While the American Magic AC75 appears to have been built with an all but totally flat underwater section, ETNZ′s boat has a pronounced longitudinal bulge underneath, running almost from bow to stern.
These two different approaches have set the sailing world alight with fans speculating over the thinking behind each of them, and pondering what the sailing characteristics of each boat might be.
Despite being very different, the images of the two boats reveal some similarities as well such as the cockpit layout. Both teams have their cockpit divided in two by a central extension to the forward deck, creating two pits in which the crew can operate low down and out of the airstream.
There′ll be plenty of improvements to come on how teams will maneuver the boats, but so far both teams seem to have decided on fixed positions for their grinders who won′t cross sides during tacks and jibes.
With foiling now established for the America′s Cup, a key focus for designers has been to make the foils more efficient. Once again designing the shape, width and thickness of the foil wing is a trade-off between speed and stability.
The path chosen by the two teams has been very diverse. ETNZ has two different foils, one with anhedral angle and the other one which is straight. American Magic, on the contrary, seems to have two very similar foils wings in terms of shape, and that′s probably because the Kiwis are still testing solutions. Whereas the Americans having been sailing consistently with their test boat, might have already got to some key conclusions.
Given that we can expect the teams to build and test a multitude of shapes in the run up to the 36th America′s Cup, there is probably little to be gained from too much analysis there at this stage. After almost a decade, soft sails are back in the America′s Cup, and a lot of effort has been put in by the teams adapting the twin skinned mainsail concept to the new Class Rule, with the main difference between the two AC75s appearing to be the boom position in relation to the mainsail foot.
The Americans are sporting a conventional boom, whereas the Kiwis have opted for a deck-sweeper mainsail foot, not unlike those used on the latest A-Class catamarans.
Despite all their differences in their bows, underwater sections and other design features, it is worth noting that both boats were foiling and seemingly stable within hours of going sailing for the first time. That is a remarkable achievement for both syndicates and a testimony to both the designers and builders, as well as to the efficacy of the AC75 design rule itself.
The Next Two To The Party
And it seems we will not have to wait very long for the next two AC75s to see the first light of day. The Italian official Challenger of Record, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team, hit the water with all the pizazz that you would expect from the Italians, with the British INEOS Team UK syndicate following suit two days later. Could we see two more surprising design ideas on show then?
After 18 months of heavy secrecy shrouding anything to do with the AC75s, the 75-foot foiling monohull is quickly becoming an open affair as two more new boats were unveiled less than 48 hours apart. This brings the total to four and provides us with plenty of opportunity to analyze the differences that are already apparent.
The Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team was the third team to launch their boat after the Defender Emirates Team New Zealand, and the USA Challenger NYYC American Magic. The Italian boat was christened Luna Rossa by Miuccia Prada, CEO of the Prada Group together with her husband Patrizio Bertelli, during a ceremony at the team′s home base in Cagliari, Sardinia.
A couple of days later in Portsmouth (UK), Julia Ratcliffe, the daughter of the syndicate owner Jim Ratcliffe, did the honors to name Ineos Team UK′s AC75 Britannia in homage to one of Britain′s most famous racing yachts.
As the Protocol of the 36th America′s Cup doesn′t allow the teams to shroud their boats, the new 75-foot monohulls were quickly snapped and grammed around the world for everyone, teams and fans to comment and draw their first conclusions.
The new launches have only added to the diversity of ETNZ and NYYC American Magic′s interpretation of the AC75 Class Rule, confirming once again the high level of freedom allowed by the current design rules. Design teams have spent a lot of time exploring different hull shapes within the Class Rule limits, looking for a shape with minimal drag as well as the stability required for take-off.
With the hull having no significant limits on structure other than a handful of standard AC rule limits, the shape of the hull is where the differences are most evident. In broad terms, it′s possible to pair the four boats with the Kiwis and the Italians choosing one approach and Ineos Team UK and American Magic going in another direction. However, experts may consider pairing the boats too simplistic. So, what has been revealed so far that′s out there for everyone to see?
The Brit′s hull shape is probably the most radical in appearance (looks like a river barge in the back) while the bottom has a very clean scow-like line, similar to NYYC American Magic and opposite to ETNZ and Luna Rossa. The deck layout has a completely new design, with a very flat and low bow, slab sides and a straight shearline toward the stern.
The British hull seems wider, with the foil rotation points (whose distance is fixed as per the Class Rule) appearing to be inside the hull compared to the other teams that have a dimple treatment, where the carbon foil arms stick out from the hull.
Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli′s design has gone in the opposite direction with a boat similar but more radical than the Defender′s. Despite a more traditional bow that gives a nod to those of the old America′s Cup boats the shearline is quite pronounced and tapers towards the transom. The bottom has a rounded V structure in the center ending just ahead of the rudder.
What the four AC75′s have in common is the cockpit, where they′re all divided in two by a central extension to the forward deck, creating two pits for the crew, all with variations to the layout, which will lead to interesting comparisons of crew dynamics while sailing for each of the teams.
In the foil world, it was interesting to notice that both Luna Rossa and Britannia have also opted for a tapered central bulb similar to Defiant, leaving the Defender the only team going against the tide in that aspect of foil design. But there the similarities end. Ineos Team UK appear to have bigger wings and two different foil shapes per side, whereas Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli have the smallest wings seen so far and, although it is not possible to know what is happening at a systems level, their shapes look very much alike.
Last but not least, the approach to regulate the new double mainsail concept showed some significant differences with Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, appearing to have the most intriguing system so far. As declared at the Luna Rossa launch “the boom is there but you can′t see it,” which made everyone think the Italians won′t have a standard boom. Britannia has been launched without her mast, so it is not possible yet to determine what solution they have opted for.
There is still much more to be revealed, for example nothing has been nor will be revealed about the highly sophisticated flight-control systems that will be key in the performance of these boats. Syndicates are allowed to build two boats and this first generation will be a major testing platform for the second generation which will be raced in Auckland. The question is, will we see such a diverse spread of designs across the second iterations of each team′s AC75s?
The ACWS event in Cagliari will provide the first real opportunity by which teams can measure themselves and their first boats against each other, to see who has chosen the best path so far.
In the meantime, syndicates can only rely on their recon reports to gather information, analyze data and feed the findings into the design of their second boat as the construction of the second generation of AC75s is just few months away.
With four AC75s now successfully launched and actively foiling, what have we learned about the outcomes of the various design strategies chosen by each of the teams for their first-generation boats?
One thing seems clear that there is more than one way of creating a 75-foot monohull that flies above the water on foils, a fact evidenced by the four distinctly different looking yachts that the teams have independently come up with.
There are so many ways to compare and contrast just how different all four boats look. For instance, the cigar-shaped bow of American Magic′s Defiant and the striking cutaway foredeck and slab sides of Ineos Team UK′s Britannia. Then there is the comparatively flat bottoms of the American′s and British boats compared to the rounded and v-shaped longitudinal bustles underneath the ETNZ and Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli boats respectively.
The closer you look, the more the differences you find, and it is tempting to oversimplify things by falling back on the comfortable, well-worn adage that somebody is going to be right, and somebody is going to be wrong.
But is that really the case? What if in fact at this stage nobody is 100 percent right, or 100 percent wrong? Given that all four teams have been up and foiling on these revolutionary boats within days on launching them, isn′t it possible that all four have come up with competitive designs the performance of which may vary only marginally based on weather conditions, and the speed with which the crews get to grips with sailing them?
Although the teams and their spies will have a gut feeling for who amongst them is fast or slow and in what conditions, they will be keeping that information close to their chest right now. That means that the rest of us will have to wait six months until the teams all come together for the first time for four days of racing at the opening act of the ACWS in Cagliari, Sardinia next April 23-26, 2020 to learn who if anyone has stolen a march on the rest.
For now, though we can happily continue to pore over every photograph the teams release and squint as we step frame-by-frame through their videos for evidence to support our speculative theories about what the crews are trying out as they battle to master their AC75s. However, the reality is that there are so many differences between the four boats that we cannot hope to see even if we were charging alongside in a chase boat. Those are the hidden differences in the systems that control the flaps on the foils, determine the constantly shifting 3-D aerodynamic shape of the ground-breaking double-skinned mainsails, and a myriad of other complex elements that make up these highly technological AC75s.
How to effectively balance the complexity and functionality of these systems with the overall reliability of the boat will no doubt be high on the list of problems keeping the design teams and the sailors awake at night. We may not get to know much about those critical concepts before this 36th edition of the America′s Cup is all played out, but they could easily prove to be the difference between success and failure when the competitive phase begins.
One question that is yet to be definitively answered concerns the crew logistics when maneuvering the AC75s. Given the centrally divided cockpits on all four boats, and the trend towards deck-sweeper mainsails, who amongst the crew will be changing sides and how will they be doing it?
With 11 on the crew, clearly not everyone is going to be running from one side to the other on the tacks and the gybes. Some teams are rumored to be moving just a handful of sailors each time, while others it is believed are experimenting with two helmsmen, one on either side of the boat.
It′s a radical approach for sure but given that the team that can keep its boat in the air the most in a race will likely emerge the winner, it is a technique that is likely well worth trying.
Now that four boats are in the water, it′s time for the dramatic part of our story as the soap opera riddled World Sailing, the world governing body of the sport, and the Defender and Challenger of Record of the 36th America′s Cup presented by Prada have reached agreement for the next edition of the America′s Cup. The agreement was signed at the World Sailing Annual Conference in Bermuda, where Emirates Team New Zealand representing the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron won the 35th edition in emphatic fashion.
Signing the agreement, World Sailing President Kim Andersen said, “As one of the pinnacle events within the sport, it is vital that World Sailing and the Defender and Challenger of Record work collaboratively to ensure a fair competition on the water. We have worked closely with Grant Dalton and Laurent Esquire on this agreement which will ensure the America′s Cup is delivered to the high standard the sailing community has come to expect. We look forward to continuing and strengthening our relationship with both the Defender and Challenger to ensure a memorable competition for fans of our sport.”
The agreement sees the America′s Cup re-established as a member of World Sailing′s family of Special Events. World Sailing will continue its role in ensuring the fairness and integrity of the America′s Cup through the appointment of Race Officials, the approval of the specialist Racing Rules of Sailing (America′s Cup Edition) and management of the anti-doping program.
World Sailing, the Defender and COR will also work together on implementing sustainability programs throughout the Cup, Prada Cup Challenger Selection Series and other preliminary events. The organizations will also work closely together on promoting and enhancing the media coverage of the sport globally.
Commenting on the continuing partnership between World Sailing and the Defender, Grant Dalton, CEO of America′s Cup Events said, “For a sailing event of the magnitude of the America′s Cup, there is no end of detail which needs to be organized.
“But one of the most important foundations is to work with World Sailing to put in place the sanctioning agreement to help govern the rules on the water, which we are pleased to have now achieved with them.
“The agreement and terms are in line with previous America′s Cup cycles and we are looking forward to maintaining the long standing and valued relationship with World Sailing.”
“This agreement is a significant milestone in this 36th cycle of the America′s Cup and we are grateful for Kim Andersen′s unwavering support in bringing it to fruition,” said Laurent Esquire, CEO of COR. “As a World Sailing Special Event, we have access to a vast pool of experience and expertise within the World Sailing organization. We look forward to working closely with Kim and his team to deliver exciting world class competition at all the events in this 36th America′s Cup cycle.”
As part of the agreement, World Sailing has confirmed the appointment of Richard Slater (AUS) as the Chief Umpire of the 36th America′s Cup. Slater continues this role from the 35th America′s Cup and will lead a team of World Sailing International Umpires, afloat and ashore, throughout the next two years as the Cup implements electronic officiating and the well-established high speed rules edition of the Racing Rules of Sailing.
That′s it for this month and look forward to next as we welcome Daniel Witte as our new Editor. Congrats Daniel!! Letter me at mark@yachts manmagazine.com H