Crash reveals AC40 structural problem

Published on November 21st, 2022

The eagerness of the New Zealanders to technically advance the America’s Cup has gotten derailed again. For the 2021 event, the development of the AC75 parts forced teams to delay their launches, and now the requirement of the AC40 training boat has hit a structural snag.

The Kiwi team was testing on their home waters north of Waiheke Island in around 15-20 knots of windspeed and large waves when the crew lost control of the ride height. While sailing downwind at over 40 knots of boat speed, the result was a high-speed uncontrolled gybe and simultaneous deep nosedive followed by a capsize.

The impact of the water pressure collapsed the foredeck at the bow of the AC40. Fortunately, the watertight bulkhead aft of where the damage occurred maintained its structural integrity, successfully serving the purpose of controlling water ingress so the boat could be righted and towed back to base.

“The designers are analyzing the load cases of the incident and although it might be too soon to tell, it is likely that we will have some retrofit structure necessary to our boat and throughout the AC40’s fleet,” noted Emirates Team New Zealand CEO Grant Dalton.

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The AC40 was intended to be used by teams as a test platform, and for regattas in advance of the 2024 America’s Cup. The boat also has a one-design configuration and automated flight control system for when it get used in women’s and youth events during the 37th edition.

At the time of the accident, the boat was under manual flight control and testing custom equipment.

While envisioned as a cost saving move, the acceptance of the AC40 by the other teams has been mixed. As the boat’s development provided the Kiwi team with an education, the Italians and Brits have designed and built their own 40-footers for similar effect.

Both the Swiss and USA teams are training in AC75s, with the initial delivery date of the their AC40s next year likely being too late to provide much help in the development of their new AC75 race boat. Now with this structural failure, that will delay delivery even further.

Following the publication of the AC37 Protocol and AC75 Class Rule on November 17, 2021, the AC75 Class Rule and AC Technical Regulations were finalized on March 17, 2022. The entry period opened December 1, 2021 and runs until July 31, 2022, but late entries for the 37th America’s Cup may be accepted until May 31, 2023. The Defender was to announce the Match Venue on September 17, 2021 but postponed the venue reveal, confirming it would be Barcelona on March 30, 2022. The 37th America’s Cup will be held in September/October 2024.

Teams revealed to challenge defender Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL):
INEOS Britannia (GBR)
Alinghi Red Bull Racing (SUI)
Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team (ITA)
NYYC American Magic (USA)

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