America’s Cup: Does Speed Matter?

Published on October 12th, 2017

by John Arndt, Latitude 38
In a recent statement regarding the 36th America’s Cup protocol, Artemis Racing said the following: “The most important consideration for our team is the need for a cutting-edge boat design, one that results in speeds that are as fast or faster than in the last America’s Cup held in Bermuda.”

To us, this seems to say that if it’s monohulls, the Swedish-based team isn’t racing.

At the Annapolis Sailboat Show last weekend, we heard Ken Read say that for the America’s Cup to keep young sailors like Peter Burling interested — and to inspire the next generation of yachtsmen — the sport needs very high-speed boats.

But is raw speed really the answer? We guess Larry Ellison could spend $30 million developing a high-speed foiling cat that Jimmy Spithill would be interested in sailing, but we also guess if they sailed the America’s Cup in Snipes and paid Jimmy Spithill $10 million, he’d still be interested, and would save Larry $20 mil (not including the cost of the Snipe).

While the foiling cats were incredibly fast (and at times admittedly cool to watch), the response from our readership has clearly been overwhelmingly in favor of going back to monohulls. So maybe there’s more to it than raw speed.

The Blue Angels just visited the San Francisco Bay and thrilled spectators with their supersonic acrobatics. The speed certainly gets the juices going, but what really makes the spectacle so dramatic is the closeness of the jets. Imagine just two F/A-18 Hornets going 500 knots 20 seconds apart. Sounds boring, right?

We think Grant Dalton is on the right track. High-tech, high-speed and high-performance monohulls will no doubt be plenty fast, but what we’re looking forward to is more of a human element involved in tight maneuvers, lead changes, and close finishes.

In Seahorse Magazine former AC skipper Rod Davis also posed some of these existential quandaries:

“Before we talk about the boats, we should be having the same conversation that Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa have been having. Namely, what is the America’s Cup supposed to be? Are we aiming for a massive show with a worldwide audience or is it a ‘friendly yachting competition among nations’? Do you want the sailors to be part of sailing the boat in a normal sense of the word, or do you want the fastest thing we can do?”

As always, we vote for sailing.

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