Holroyd: ‘We’re living with decisions made two years ago’

Emirates Team New Zealand so far is the only team to expend the full 30-day allotment for testing and training of its new AC72. Designer Nick Holroyd recently sat down to recap the 30 days of practice and shed some insight on what the team learned.

What’s the state of the union for Emirates Team New Zealand? You’ve done the 30 days in boat 1, how’d it go?

The open answer to that is you don’t know until you line up against other people. We have briefly against Luna Rossa done a bit of racing and start drills… but there are three design groups out there and we’ve all taken different approaches.

© Chris Cameron / Emirates Team New Zealand

I think we’re all to a point where, on a global view, most people are pretty committed to their programs. I’d be surprised if you see any radical changes in direction from any of the teams. In a way it’s a little bit of a case of you’re not going know until the end if you’re on the right road, but right now your job is to run as hard as you can and get as far down the road you’ve chosen as possible. For better or worse, you’re living with decisions made two years ago.

If you look at that 30 days over time we had to sign off on the Boat 2 shapes very early in the process, literally Day 4 or Day 5 we signed off on Boat 2. From my perspective, the first half dozen days were pretty nerve wracking. Your sitting in the chase boat thinking, ‘Is this thing is going to fall apart?’ After a half dozen days, Day 4, we were up foiling and progressively pushing the boat harder and harder.

There was always a bit of honeymoon period in the middle where things were going well. Then your attention gets so drawn into Boat 2. Over the last 10 days on the water I’ve been to three or four. It’s very hard to manage the Boat 1 program.

We’re fortunate we had no major issues in middle of it. Huge amount to learn about… One of the things we hope we’ve paid a reasonable amount of attention to, whether racing against self or Luna Rossa, is decomposing the race laps into where you’re losing a lot of time. After a certain amount some of that will be put into Boat 2, but Boat 2 will never be done either.

What was the biggest surprise over the 30 days?

I think we’re pleasantly surprised that the work we did on the 33s transferred over quite well. You don’t go foiling on Day 4 without having done it a bit on a small boat first. It probably reinforced the surrogate rule at 10 meters, for us, turned out to be a perfect sized boat. We could do a lot of things quickly and relatively cheaply. We went through a lot of board versions and that sort of stuff.

© Chris Cameron / Emirates Team New Zealand

What surprises you as hard are the lead times and the difficulty of changing things in the big boat. You look at where we’re at now, our ability to go through more board alterations, or if want to change wing control system, if you want to change those things you need a five- or six-month lead time to design and build.

That’ll be the hardest thing in the coming period, how much innovation do you allow to carryon trickling down to the boat and how much do you walk it down and test it and make it reliable. They’re not easy boats to engineer. The weight limit in the class is a stiff mistress. You can’t spend weight for reliability. It’s going to be a lot of work. Come race time you hope it isn’t too big a deciding factor, but it certainly could be relevant.