America’s Cup: On the Learning Curve

Published on July 30th, 2013

By Michelle Slade, Sailing World
When Chris Draper tells you his team’s working very hard, you’d better believe it. After waiting a week for the opportunity to chat to the amiable Brit and only then squeezed in between late-in-the-day meetings, Draper’s excuse was hard to challenge, “I’m really sorry but I am just so busy …”

But, the long hours of training often done after racing is paying off. The team’s seen some 20% increase in boatspeed over the past 10 days and enjoyed a vastly improved race against ETNZ on Sunday with a final delta of just over 3 minutes. Sounds like a big gap, and it is a big gap, but as any of the four AC72 skippers will attest to, these boats are not easy to learn. Here, the helmsman of challenger Luna Rossa shares his experiences and expectations.

While you had an almost even start on Sunday, you haven’t been as aggressive in the pre-start as may be expected.

CD: Yeah, their (ETNZ) maneuvering and boathandling, their boat speed and acceleration is so much better than ours. I’ll be the first to put my hand up and say I haven’t done a great job there, but it’s not easy when the other boat accelerates a lot quicker than you and its top speed is a lot higher. It’s something we’re working on, and we probably should be a bit more aggressive than passive. From the on-looker’s point of view it may look like the pre-starts need work, but the reality is we’re finishing 3-5 minutes behind them so whatever we do on the start line it, it doesn’t mean much.

What are your problem areas and what are you doing to improve?

CD: Our major losses are turning corners and upwind. Those are the areas we are working on every time we’re on the water. Looking at the performance numbers, our performance was a lot better in the race on Sunday and downwind was a lot closer to them. Our jibing is much better, but we are lacking quite a lot on the reaches. We definitely want to be faster, but our boatspeed is getting better.

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