Pedrick: AC72 technology a ‘moon shot’

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America’s Cup luminaries have been visiting the America’s Cup Park this week, taking in the incredible action that the foiling, flying AC72 delivers. This week we ran into past Australian skipper Sir James Hardy and yacht designer David Pedrick of the U.S. To say that these two avowed monohullers were taken aback by the AC72 is an understatement.

Pedrick had the honor of working alongside the great Olin Stephens in the early 1970s as a 24-year-old just out of naval architecture school. He wouldn’t speculate on what Stephens might’ve thought about the AC72, but noted that one of the greatest designers in America’s Cup history was always admirable of other’s innovations.

For Pedrick’s part, he likened the advance in technology with hydrofoils and wing sails to a moon shot. “What this has done for sailing technology is as much of a leap as going from earth orbit to the moon,” Pedrick said.

“The whole idea of foiling cats at this scale is incredible,” Pedrick continued. “It’s not the invention of foiling or foiling cats, but to put it at this size and performance, with very powerful wing rigs and then the balance issues of getting the boats to fly on their foils… they’re just incredible machines that are so far beyond what sailing has ever done before.”

Hardy, recalling the classic national crews of Baron Bich, Dennis Conner and even his own, would like to see a stronger nationality rule. As far as the technology is concerned, he believes the horse has left the barn.

“I’m seeing speed that is blowing my mind apart,” said the 80-year-old Hardy, who was known as “Gentleman Jim” when he skippered three unsuccessful Australian challengers in 1970, ’74 and ’80. “Every second of these races, my heartbeat is right up because anything can happen so quickly.

“I think going back to monohulls, which I prefer, you couldn’t’ get this much exhilaration,” Hardy said. “I love the development. This is quite nerve-wracking to me watching these boats on the edge all the time.”

Pedrick believes the action captivates the attention of the younger generation and the broader non-sailing audience. He echoes Hardy, saying that a move back to monohulls would be difficult.

“In the case of the hydrofoils you need an extremely lightweight platform; it can’t be ballasted, so the multihull platform is necessary,” Pedrick said. “From a rig stand point, the weight and supporting it, being able to stay the rig outboard far enough is something where the wide platform of a catamaran or multihull is the way to go.”

Historical context
The path forward is yet to be determined, but the 34th Match for the America’s Cup is in the record books for more than the blistering speed of the AC72. ORACLE TEAM USA’s 8-second victory in Race 4 ranks as the sixth closest race in the history of the America’s Cup Match.

Through yesterday’s race there have been 134 races for the America’s Cup since the first defense in 1870. The closest finish was a dead heat in 1920 between Shamrock IV (GBR) and Resolute (USA). The full list is below.

No. 1: Dead heat
1920, Race 3: Shamrock IV v. Resolute – This result came after more than four hours of sailing (the official elapsed time was 4 hours, 3 minutes, 6 seconds). Like all Cup races before 1930, this race was scored on ratings and Resolute won on corrected time. But the two massive yachts – Resolute measured 106 feet LOA and Shamrock IV 110 feet – still got around the 30-mile course at exactly the same speed.

No. 2: 1 second
2007, Race 7: Alinghi (SUI-100) d. Team New Zealand (NZL-82) to win 32nd Match, 5-2 – Alinghi scoots across finish line with jib hoisted after a huge wind shift, making the run a reach/beat and with TNZ doing penalty turn on the finish line. It was the closest race in the closest Match in America’s Cup history; average delta 21 seconds.

No. 3: 2 seconds
1901, Race 3: Shamrock II d. Columbia – Like the dead heat race in 1920 this delta is based on elapsed time, but Columbia won on corrected time by 41 seconds.

No. 4: 3 seconds
1992, Race 2: Il Moro di Venezia d. America3 – The first Cup Match featuring the America’s Cup Class sloop; both boats ghosted downwind across the finish line with spinnaker sheets eased and mains nearly luffing the wind was so light.

No. 5: 7 seconds
2003, Race 2: Alinghi d. New Zealand – Hosting its second defense, Team New Zealand had been leading after its demoralizing WD in Race 1 (when the yacht nearly sank on the upwind leg), but Alinghi won a downwind duel to the finish line, gaining 33 seconds.

No. 6: 8 seconds
2013, Race 4: ORACLE TEAM USA 17 d. Aotearoa – The closest race in perhaps the most spectacular America’s Cup Match.

No. 7: 19 seconds
2007, Race 5: Alinghi d. Team New Zealand – Second closest race in the closest match in history.

No. 8: 23 seconds
2003, Race 3: Alinghi d. Team NZ – Team NZ finished only three of the five races in ’03, and made two of them memorable.

No. 9: 25 seconds
2007, Race 3: Team New Zealand d. Alinghi – The Kiwis take a 2-1 lead when they win their second consecutive race in the 32nd Match off Valencia, but it would be their last victory in the closest Match in Cup history.

No. 10: 26 seconds
1962, Race 4: Weatherly defeated Gretel – One of the rare occasions when the faster boat lost.

—Sean McNeill

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