America’s Cup: Is Cost Containment a Myth?

Published on February 16th, 2016

In the previous America’s Cup, a cost containment provision was in place to limit past practices of building many boats. Nothing beats real scale testing, but with the immense cost, build time, and complexity to sail the AC72 used in 2013, only defender Oracle Team USA was able to execute two-boat testing.

It was, however, permitted to use the AC45 for training, and when the defender discovered the Kiwis had solved the foiling conundrum, they quickly were testing appendages on their 45s. But whatever they learned still had to be significantly scaled up to their AC72 design. Not a no-brainer.

For this next America’s Cup in 2017, training limitations still allow use of an AC45, but it can also be a boat that resembles one. With the America’s Cup Class (ACC) yacht now reduced to 15 meters, which is just a click over 49 feet, what had been a significant size gap between real scale and test scale has been nearly eliminated.

With no limit on how many 45-foot test platforms can be built, Oracle Team USA is doing what well-funded teams can do. They are spending money.

The defender launched their third test platform on February 15. The Swedes have two boats while the Kiwis, Brits and Japanese have only first generation platforms. The French have none.

“There is a big step up with this boat in terms of the systems we are developing and now testing in real world use,” says Scott Ferguson, design coordinator for Oracle Team USA.

“We think we will see a significant jump in performance with this boat,” said defense general manager Grant Simmer. “The systems we are testing now will translate directly into the design of the America’s Cup boat we race in 2017.”

While ACC racing won’t start until May 2017, it will soon be time to make critical decisions.

“The design lock-in dates for the first America’s Cup Class boat are staggered to a certain extent,” Simmer said. “But we are coming up to the time when we need to make some hard decisions.”

In the history of the America’s Cup, the fastest boat wins. Right now bets it will be Oracle Team USA.

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