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America’s Cup: Air time is key ingredient

Published on June 21st, 2020

Iain Murray’s career in the America’s Cup has included roles as skipper and designer, and now for the 36th America’s Cup he will be taking his third turn as the event’s Race Director. Having been engaged in the event with 12 Metres, IACCs, Multihulls, and now the AC72, Murray offers observations in this interview with Tip & Shaft

Having talked to various sailors from different teams there are very different opinions as to how these races will unfold and what the keys will be. Some talk of a return to engaged match racing, upwind tactics, others are skeptical. What will the shape of the courses be and the racing?

With the America’s Cups 34 and 35 we were on crosswind starts which was largely driven by the World Series to begin with, with the fleet racing and the desire to get the boats equal round the first mark and then let them sort themselves out on the downwind run and not suffer from winners and losers off the start.

But in match racing I think what is changed with these foiling boats is their ability to sail upwind now, the effects of other boats is very, very different to what we knew back then. And these boats can sail efficiently when their apparent wind is so far forwards, that traditional match racing covering and pushing back, drawing to laylines and double tacks and stuff like that is different now.

The return of the upwind starts match racing. The part out of the start is going to be a vital piece but I don’t think the race will be won or lost coming out of the start. With these boats, like all foiling boats, time on the foil is a key ingredient. And if we have competitors who are sailing high percentages on foiling we will see some great racing.

The vagaries of different hull shapes and the aero effects, the ground effects, the splashdown stops, there are a lot of interesting stuff which can happen and which will probably change with the racing style of competitors.

The upwind downwind course is the rectangular football field, it is another version of the stadium racing on a simplified course area will be good for people to understand and get in close proximity to the racing. That will work well for the America’s Cup.

So where do you see races being won and lost then, will it be much different to Bermuda?

First and foremost staying out of the water. The start, approaching the start on foils and going upwind doing 20+ knots is going to be important. If you get fouled or pushed or come down off the foils, that will be a big loss, but likewise a maneuver which does not go to plan will see big losses. In the lighter breezes these boats will be up and down on and off the foils and if they need to carry downwind sails as opposed to jibs downwind it will be really mixed up.

36th America’s Cup
In addition to Challenges from Italy, USA, and Great Britain that were accepted during the initial entry period (January 1 to June 30, 2018), eight additional Notices of Challenge were received by the late entry deadline on November 30, 2018. Of those eight submittals, entries from Malta, USA, and the Netherlands were also accepted. Here’s the list:

• Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL)

• Luna Rossa (ITA) – Challenger of Record
• American Magic (USA)
• Malta Altus Challenge (MLT) – WITHDRAW
• Stars + Stripes Team USA (USA)
• DutchSail (NED) – WITHDRAW

Of the three late entries, only Stars+Stripes USA remains committed, however, it is unclear what entry payments have been made, nor is there knowledge of a boat being actively built or sailing team assembled.

Key America’s Cup dates:
✔ September 28, 2017: 36th America’s Cup Protocol released
✔ November 30, 2017: AC75 Class concepts released to key stakeholders
✔ January 1, 2018: Entries for Challengers open
✔ March 31, 2018: AC75 Class Rule published
✔ June 30, 2018: Entries for Challengers close
✔ August 31, 2018: Location of the America’s Cup Match and The PRADA Cup confirmed
✔ August 31, 2018: Specific race course area confirmed
✔ November 30, 2018: Late entries deadline
✔ March 31, 2019: Boat 1 can be launched (DELAYED)
✔ 2nd half of 2019: 2 x America’s Cup World Series events (CANCELLED)
✔ October 1, 2019: US$1million late entry fee deadline (NOT KNOWN)
✔ February 1, 2020: Boat 2 can be launched (DELAYED)
✔ April 23-26, 2020: First (1/3) America’s Cup World Series event in Cagliari, Sardinia (CANCELLED)
✔ June 4-7, 2020: Second (2/3) America’s Cup World Series event in Portsmouth, England (CANCELLED)
December 17-20, 2020: Third (3/3) America’s Cup World Series event in Auckland, New Zealand
January 15-February 22, 2021: The PRADA Cup Challenger Selection Series
March 6-15, 2021: The America’s Cup Match

AC75 launch dates:
September 6 – Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL), Boat 1
September 10 – American Magic (USA), Boat 1; actual launch date earlier but not released
October 2 – Luna Rossa (ITA), Boat 1
October 4 – INEOS Team UK (GBR), Boat 1


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