AC34: Boat layout contributing to performance differences

Published on September 11th, 2013

With questions about the tactical decisions onboard Oracle Team USA contributing to their four losses, broadcast commentator Gary Jobson has empathy for the challenges faced by the American team’s  signal caller.

“(Tactician) John Kostecki is one of the most successful sailors in the world, with an around the world race victory, an America’s Cup win, and an Olympic medal,” noted Jobson. “He grew up sailing on San Francisco Bay and is very familiar in these waters. Throughout the race, Kostecki constantly grinds one of the winches to power the hydraulics, and helps trim the sails. It is hard, exhausting work.

“Over on the New Zealand boat, the tactician Ray Davies, does not have grinding duties. He looks around and studies the wind, the current and his boat’s performance vs. the USA. As a former America’s Cup tactician, I like to listen to them and watch their performance. Of course, it is easy for me as a television commentator to critique their moves, but I think the physical work for Kostecki (who is 49) might be hurting his ability to look around.

“The New Zealand boat is set up so the tactician does not grind a winch.”

So how did the Kiwis free up their tactician from grinding duties? Look no further than their self-tacking jib, allowing the Kiwis to essentially free up one of their crew to power a grinder while his Oracle opposite is busy manually working the jib.

”Our jib system is a lot better than theirs,” said Kiwi tactician Ray Davies. ”The self-tacking jib is a huge advantage and I’d say they’d be kicking themselves for not having a self-tacking jib in these conditions.

“It’s a decision we made right at the beginning,” said skipper Dean Barker. “You only have 11 guys on the boat, you have to throw a huge amount of resource at hydraulics and sheets and things to keep the wing under control. We just figured it’s too hard to have a conventional tacking jib like Oracle has gone for and it has proven itself to be a good decision based on this course.”

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