One year from today – on Sept. 7, 2013 – America’s Cup defender ORACLE TEAM USA will line up against one of four challenging teams – Artemis Racing, Emirates Team New Zealand, Luna Rossa Challenge or Team Korea – for Race 1 of the 34th America’s Cup.
The 34th Cup promises to be a venture into the unknown – new venue, new boats, new racecourse, new racing rules, new TV graphics... This isn’t your grandfather’s America’s Cup.
The event will feature 72-foot catamarans with wingsails towering 130 feet off the water. Although multihulls have raced on occasion in the Cup Match before, never has a design rule been created that specifies a multihull as the boat of choice.
With the racing slated for San Francisco Bay, how will the crews handle the large, powerful cats amidst the windy and wavy conditions? Will there be a propensity for capsizing? San Francisco Bay is widely regarded as a wonderful sailing venue, but how will the crews cope with the tight racecourses, which feature boundaries and penalties for exceeding those boundaries?
One thing for sure about the next Cup is that the AC72 is a wingsail speedster, and it seems destined to be riding on hydrofoils. Emirates Team New Zealand debuted its ability to foil this week, and ORACLE TEAM USA’s 17 showed foils on the daggerboard and rudder during its maiden sail last week. (The boat, however, is in the shed for a few weeks while a new daggerboard is built to replace the one that broke during testing.)
It would seem self-defeating if Artemis and Luna Rossa aren’t heading down the foiling path as well. Observers of Team New Zealand’s media day were astonished as the boat approached 40 knots of boatspeed, and viewers of the video were in awe of the chase boat equipped with 1,200 horsepower (four 300 hp outboards) that strained to keep up with the cat.
Some reports place the performance increase from foiling at 20 to 25 percent. Underwater appendages have long been a source of development for America’s Cup design teams – think spade rudder and wing keel – the introduction of hydrofoils just takes it to a new level. Even Emirates Team New Zealand managing director Grant Dalton said all of the teams will be testing foil design.
“The thrust of our testing is to determine if foils enhance performance overall. How will they affect upwind speed? Might that nullify any downwind gain?” Dalton said. “In addition, the effect on boathandling in upper wind ranges needs to be assessed carefully. There is a tendency for the boat to dig in when it is bearing away and the placement of the dagger foils and their shape has a marked effect on this.
“Foiling is only part of the equation. Right now we see as many negatives as positives,” said Dalton.
The event format for the Louis Vuitton Cup, the America’s Cup Challenger Selection Series, and the 34th Cup Match is in its final stages of development between the defender, challengers and America’s Cup Race Management. Recent competitor forums have moved the discussions along to the point where the course configuration and leg length have been agreed.
From the windward gate to the leeward gate the proposed length is 3.0 nautical miles, twice as long as the 1.5 NM used for America’s Cup World Series racing. Similar to the ACWS course configuration, the crews will start on a tight reach to a turning mark and then sail 2.5 NM downwind to the leeward gate, before the 3.0 NM leg upwind.
The races are scheduled to last approximately 35 minutes, which means anywhere from five to nine legs of the racecourse. But with the advent of foils on the cats and the resulting increase in speed, the course might be stretched out to 11 legs. But this course change would need agreement by the teams.
ACRM is working to issue the final format before the end of the year.
The Host City
Around San Francisco, the host city for the 34th Cup, work is progressing on Piers 27-29. The site of the City and Port of San Francisco’s new cruise ship terminal will also host the America’s Cup Village in 2013. The terminal and a 10,000-seat amphitheater will be the centerpieces of the site that will also house special exhibits, interactive features, merchandising and concessions stands.
The first AC concert was held during AC World Series San Francisco last month and drew an estimated crowd of 5,000 to Marina Green. More than 30 concerts are planned for the amphitheater next year, which will include a jumbotron to broadcast the racing to those in the stands.
Recently the official America’s Cup Team Store was opened at Pier 27-29 and is open seven days a week, 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. This will be joined in the coming months by more merchandising and America’s Cup-related exhibits as the “Home of the America’s Cup” expands.
Piers 30-32 housed the teams during last month’s AC World Series San Francisco and will do so again for next month’s ACWS and next year’s Louis Vuitton Cup and America’s Cup, when each team is expected to construct special sheds to house their operations.
Beyond the two sets of piers some events are also planned at Marina Green and Union Square. The America’s Cup Event Authority also is continuing to work on plans and programming for 2013 with the City including refining the People Plan, the master document that outlines the transportation and parking plans for the America’s Cup.
With one year to go, there’s no shortage of activity surrounding the 34th America’s Cup.