America’s Cup: Better Boats Will Provide Better Racing

Published on July 13th, 2015

When the six teams meet for the very first Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series (ACWS) event on July 25-26 in Portsmouth, UK, curiosity will extend toward the latest entrant – SoftBank Team Japan. The curiosity will be amplified by its crew, with two of the helms from the 2013 America’s Cup now seeking to blend their talents on this newly launched challenge campaign.

Dean Barker, now starting fresh after departing from Team New Zealand, leads the team as CEO and Skipper. Joining Barker is Chris Draper, whose availability followed the withdrawal of his Luna Rossa team for which he was its helmsman. Here Chris comments on the new program…

Fitting into the new team
I’m the sailing director, so I deal with the everyday function of the sailing activities on the water, working closely with Dean along with the other team members. And on the water my function will be tactician.

I joined GAC Pindar last month for the Extreme Sailing Series, as it was a good opportunity for me to get 30+ races under my belt. The event got me to think about tactics a lot more, as I haven’t done a huge heap of racing in the last couple of years, since the Cup, as most of the time had been practicing with Luna Rossa.

I was on the helm for the Extreme 40, which given the short courses, pretty much calls the shots, which helped to accelerate my thinking as we won’t have much training time before the Portsmouth World Series event. Anything we can do to speed up on learning and our sharpness is always going to be useful.

Changing boats from the AC72 to the AC48.

The new boats are going to be very different for everybody, because the control systems have been opened up a lot more and are now vastly improved. Instead of seeing boats that would occasionally foil upwind, we now have boats that will foil everywhere they go.

What’s great too is the changes to the boat should improve the racing, as these new boats are going to be a lot more controllable. The AC72 in the last America’s Cup was like driving a formula one car with an overpowering engine and crappy tires. Where the AC72 rule sought to make foiling very hard, the new rule is about making the boats super-good to sail, and a lot more controllable. It’s not about trying to inhibit foiling, it’s about encouraging it.

I fully expect what the spectator will see is much more spectacular sailing, to be quite honest. The AC48 will be even more maneuverable, just because it’s a little bit smaller, and we will be able to maximize its capability. With the AC72, we were trying to make it work as well as we could. Now we’ve got everything we need at our fingertips.

Will the simplicity of the design rule help a late arriving team?
I think that is correct, yes. As the hulls and the beams are now one design, the focus is on the control system and the foils. Plus we will be getting a design package from Oracle Team USA for the America’s Cup. For sure we have some catching up to do, but the AC48 rule hasn’t been out long which helps us. We know, however, there’s still a lot of challenges to get up to speed with the teams that have been involved for longer.

Any thoughts about Bermuda?
I haven’t spent any time in Bermuda unfortunately. While I’ve studied it a lot, I don’t actually have any practical experience there, which is a shame. But we will be moving there very shortly; I will be out there in August, and Bermuda will be our home for the next two years.

So while we’re not very familiar with it right now, we will get enough time there. It looks like a tight race course, quite small in fact, and how certain wind directions can make the course off-axis and quite tricky to get a balanced course in there. But I am sure they will sort that out, and I expect the sailing is going to be insanely good. As a sailor’s venue, it looks fantastic.

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