America’s Cup Game Changer

Published on August 25th, 2016

America’s Cup challenger SoftBank Team Japan has cracked a code that is destined to change the upwind game: foiling tack.

Long regarded as the “Holy Grail” of the America’s Cup, the maneuver has been the last significant barrier preventing America’s Cup teams from hypothetically foiling around an entire racecourse – a feat that if proven could potentially define the outcome of the 2017 America’s Cup.

“We know now that it’s achievable and it’s a real game changer,” said Skipper and CEO Dean Barker. “We think most of the teams know we did it so the race is on now. The trick with the foil gybe was learning the different settings and techniques for different wind conditions and that’s going to be the same with the tacking.”

The maneuver has the potential to reshape the upwind strategy of the next America’s Cup as it reduces the deficit of tacking.

“The boat needs to be doing a certain speed to stay on foils – typically in the 16-18 knot region – as when you’re going into a tack, the bottom speed is usually around 13-14 knots. So what you end up doing is using the speed you have going into the tack to make sure you don’t drop below. You typically would lose a lot in the tack – up to four boat lengths even – but if you can stay on the foils the losses are heavily reduced.”

In preparation for the 2013 event, it was Barker and his team who first foiled their AC72 class yacht and then proceeded to develop the breakthrough technique for gybing the boat downwind while staying on foils.

Now at it again, Barker is pushing his team even further to use the new tacking technique to try and achieve a perfect flight around the racecourse without getting the hulls wet.

“The absolute ‘Holy Grail’ would be to pop up on foils at the start and then keep the hulls dry all around the racecourse. It’s certainly not inconceivable. It’d be quite the achievement to pull it off.”

Calling it a “game changer”, tactician Chris Draper was confident that the new technique – once mastered – has the potential to change the entire playbook of the America’s Cup.

“If it’s anything like Moth sailing, this starts to open up the race course a lot more, your options are a lot wider. It’s not about sailing boundary to boundary anymore, you can tack on the shifts a lot more on demand. It will make the racing a lot more exciting for the public as well.”

Source: SoftBank Team Japan on August 25, 2016


Video by Oracle Team USA on August 26, 2016:

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