AC34: Facing the Music

Published on May 23rd, 2013

Mark Twain wrote, “If you don’t like the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes.” Same can be said for the 34th America’s Cup. This event has seen more changes than a teenage girl has moods.

The event – which has repeated ad nauseum that it will feature “The Best Sailors on the Fastest Boats” – has realized the anticipated break-neck speeds can actually break necks. The death of Andrew Simpson has been a reality check that this extreme event might be a bit too extreme.

Changes announced Wednesday were introduced as ‘recommendations’, which might prove to be merely semantics. The list of items are either happening, or soon will be. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Buoyancy aids worn by crew to have a quick release mechanism for when pinned underwater.
  • Support boats following each AC72 with rescue divers, rescue swimmers, and paramedics.
  • Crew to have support restraints for bearing-off maneuvers, pitchpole or capsize.
  • Equipment to allow the crew to lower themselves off the boat after a capsize.
  • Improved helmets, body armour, underwater breathing tanks, and knives.
  • Specifications for rudder elevators (foils) to limit pitchpoling.
  • No guests onboard when racing.

While most of the safety measures will not be noticeable to race fans, some of the changes will affect the ability to watch the races:

  • Reduced wind limits (July – 20kt, Aug – 21kt, Sept – 23kt) at the start of a race could mean races are postponed or held in the morning to ensure moderate winds.
  • Course location to be moved away from land and spectator boats to ensure safe buffer zone.
  • Less racing during the challenger series to provide more time for maintenance.

Click here for the current list of recommendations. More changes are anticipated.

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