Things are starting to heat up

Emirates Team New Zealand's AC72 practicing on the Hauraki Gulf, Aug. 8, 2012 (Chris Cameron/Emirates Team New Zealand).


Emirates Team New Zealand was the first team to launch its AC72, and now ORACLE TEAM USA has followed suit. The Kiwis launched their boat last month and the defenders launched theirs yesterday in a private team ceremony.



ORACLE TEAM USA hopes to go for its first sail tomorrow, but on Wednesday Emirates Team New Zealand took its AC72 out for the fourth day of practice (of 30 maximum through the end of January). The veteran team members expressed astonishment at nearing 40 knots boatspeed in just 20 knots of wind.

An image of the boat foiling hit the blogosphere this week, which prompted many to cry foul, saying it was a result of Photoshop. Regardless, team CEO Grant Dalton expressed delight with the performance on the fourth sail.



A third AC72, that belonging to Artemis Racing, is at the team’s base in Alameda, and skipper Terry Hutchinson says it’s “realistic” to think the boat might sail before the next regatta in October. The team is still rebuilding the wingsail that was damaged in late May during testing off Valencia, Spain.

Representatives of Italy’s Luna Rossa Challenge said they expect their AC72 to hit the water in New Zealand sometime before the end of October. The Italian challenger this week announced that it has signed Franck Cammas, the recent winner of the Volvo Ocean Race, as a coach. Cammas has a long history in multihulls and previously skippered the trimaran Groupama 3 to a 48-day, non-stop circumnavigation in the Jules Verne Trophy. (The record was eclipsed by three days last winter by Energy Team’s Loïck Peyron and crew aboard Banque Populaire V.)

There have been many feel good stories coming out of last week’s AC World Series San Francisco from the point of view of the organization. But what about the sailors? What have they been saying? Here’s a sampling of some skippers’ thoughts from the sphere of the Internet.

Ben Ainslie, J.P. Morgan BAR
“I knew that sailing these boats would be really tough physically, especially for the crew. From a sailing point of view I’ve been watching quite a few videos of the racing for a while now, knowing that I would be involved. What has struck me is the difference between what I thought was obvious and what it feels like on board. You look at people making mistakes and question why they are doing that, surely it’s obvious. But now I can tell you for sure, when you’re on the boat it’s not that easy. In fact it’s really hard. You can’t just tack on a shift or pop in a maneuver. It really is a lot harder than it looks on the telly, but I’m also really enjoying it.”

Dean Barker, Emirates Team New Zealand
“It is very hard to explain when things aren’t going well. It doesn’t feel like we have prepared badly or done anything obviously wrong… When you have a bad event it is very easy to make random changes. Sometimes it feels like you just try [too] hard to make things right. Trying to analyze where things have gone wrong is important and often the answer is not always clear cut. We will now take a few days to clear our heads and debrief the result. The focus is firmly back to the 72, but we also need to figure out how to race better in this venue.”

Chris Draper, Luna Rossa Piranha
“I never thought we’d be up there in this event. I thought the build-up to the event has gone well for us, the team did a great job building it up. We felt weak when we got here but managed to convert some good results and win the last race again, so I’m really pleased. We saw in last few days that Nath’s (Outteridge, Team Korea) gone really well, myself, Yann’s (Guichard, Energy Team) gone well, Jimmy (Spithill, ORACLE TEAM USA) we all knew would do well with his time spent here. It’s a lot about high-speed boat racing. The people who’ve been doing that all their lives have done well here. But everybody’s going to improve. We’re not going to rest on laurels. We want to come back here and train hard and get ready for the next event.”

Terry Hutchinson, Artemis Racing
“Some highlights followed by some lowlights, unfortunately. So, we have to continue to trust in ourselves and trust that we have the right process in place. We put a lot of effort into getting off the start line leading up to this event, but all in all a bit disappointed having the start we had today. There’s a lot of work to do and I can’t say enough about the effort onboard. We have some more technique development to work on.”

Bruno Peyron, Energy Team
“4th overall in this first event of the ACWS 2012 / 2013… We can do better than that, but it was a fine week for the team, who once again showed that they are able to compete at the highest level with the top teams. For the start of this second season, the standard has moved up a notch. You can see it in every aspect of the racing. We’re going to have to keep hard at it and continue to make progress. We look forward to coming back here in a month from now to compete again on this great race course in San Francisco.”