A look at Team New Zealand’s riddle

Published on December 27th, 2020

Duncan Johnston, Stuff, takes a look at the Team New Zealand riddle – what we know and what we don’t know.


Team New Zealand answered many questions for themselves and their competitors with a relatively dominant performance at the America’s Cup World Series regatta in Auckland.

But, as is the way with the America’s Cup, they left just as much intrigue hanging in the breeze as they headed off for 11 weeks to train on their own to get ready for the defense of the Auld Mug.

They were never going to reveal the full potential of their new boat Te Rehutai at this early stage and its performance was puzzling as it was pleasing. Team New Zealand’s Te Rehutai made a winning start to its racing career at the world series regatta. Here are some key areas where points were made but mystery remains.

Speed
This boat is fast and, crucially, comparatively fast lined up against the challengers. They have all admitted that, saying the Kiwis are “a click ahead”. Te Rehutai is more than that. Radically different in so many features, the Team New Zealand designers look to have delivered a third generation boat when their opponents have just launched their second generation craft in this new AC75 class.

The Kiwis opened the world series with an absolute blitzing of challenger of record Luna Rossa, instantly recording the regatta’s highest speed of 49.1 knots in a win by 3m 13s. That was a statement performance, something to silence the lippy Italians.

The Kiwis then seemed content to ride the handbrake a bit, knowing there was more to gain in the information department by keeping closer to their rivals. Yes, these were contests with a build-up trophy on the line, but more importantly they were information exercises where the Kiwis were wanting to get more than they gave. Undoubtedly the true speed potential of Te Rehutai remains locked away in the Team New Zealand data bank.

Foils
So much has focused on the futurist shape of Te Rehutai’s hull and its ability to lift out of the water so efficiently. But it’s what’s left in the water that will probably be the key to the winning boat in this 36th edition of the America’s Cup.

The few square meters of foils and rudders holding the boat to the surface are crucial. This area was where Team New Zealand dominated in Bermuda in a successful campaign where so much emphasis was placed on their “cyclors” as a point of difference.

During the world series victory, Team New Zealand again had noticeably different foils to their rivals. Theirs were T-shaped and much smaller in surface area than the Y-shaped foils operated by American Magic, Luna Rossa and INEOS Team UK.

It’s an incredibly technical area, but smaller foils are faster, producing less drag. They’re more difficult to operate, requiring greater co-ordination from the sail package and often stronger winds. Manage that and you’re on to a winning combination.

In a golfing analogy, the T-foils are like the blades the professionals’ use, while the Y-foils are more forgiving like the cavity backed clubs of the regular player. Teams are allowed six foil packages. Alarmingly for their opponents, the Kiwis have more to come.

Who’s foiling and who’s failing?
Ultimately the foils need to be fast but have all-round ability across the broad wind range of 6.5 to 23 knots for the America’ Cup match. – Full story

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