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America's Cup update part 2

Iain Murray explains why there will be more emphasis on fleet

Wednesday December 1st 2010, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

This article follows on from part 1 published here

More fleet racing

The racing format for the America’s Cup World Series events will surprise many. Typically racing will take place over nine days, taking in two weekends, with the first weekend and the final Friday to Sunday being fleet racing rather than match racing. The format for the remaining four days has yet to be decided, but one expects that there has to be some match racing in there somewhere...

The reason for this emphasis on fleet racing stems from advice they have had from potential television broadcasters. “It is largely driven by the fact that we want to get all the boats together,” says Murray. “It is not really my turf, it is the event authority, but the TV stations are saying ‘if you want to be on television for an hour on Sunday afternoon live’ we want all the boats and we want the winner of that weekend’s racing decided at that point. It is very much taking the car racing model. The overwhelming response is fleet racing: lots of boats, tight action = good pictures.”

The courses themselves will be venue-dependent and will be close shore, however Murray says they are working on a format that includes seven marks – a leeward gate, a start line two thirds to three quarters of the way up to the top mark, a single top mark plus two others – a reaching mark out to the right of the top mark and another mark in the middle of the course.

“Our plan is to adjust the two bottom marks to tailor the length of the course to get the timing to the right length, so depending on the runway we have and the wind speed, it will determine the configuration of the course. The other thing that is important is that we will be putting boundaries on the sides of the course because the last thing we want is two boats to go around the two bottom marks, one go left, one go right, they go out to the laylines, tack and we see them again at the top. So we will be forcing boats back into the middle and will have boundaries on each side of the course so that we don’t have that situation developing.”

What about windward-leewards? “I’m not precious about that at all, just provided it is a fair race,” says Murray.

The optimum duration of a race is expected to be around 40 minutes, which is in fact slightly longer than some of the matches that took place at the Louis Vuitton Trophy Dubai, which also featured a start line just over half way up between the leeward gate and the top mark. However what proved vital in Dubai was that the wind direction didn’t shift too much otherwise the course became skewed and as a result processional. But that was in a Version 5 boats.

“If you are trying to create a made for TV event you have to work with realistic broadcast schedules to tell you what fits in that,” says Richard Worth of the race duration. “If you are really ambitious about providing live TV coverage to go longer than that is not a commercial option.”
Murray continues: “Traditionalists would like the racing to be longer. My first races in the America’s Cup were around 4.5 hours to sail 20 something miles in Newport. They were long days. We progressed down to approximately three hours in Fremantle and two hours in San Diego in relatively short periods. At the Olympics 49er races are taking 10-12 minutes. We do have to be mindful of the heritage of the America’s Cup and we certainly don’t want to lose the values of high quality racing, so we have to balance all those things out.”

Racing rules

A set of specialised racing rules is currently being circulated among umpires and ISAF officials and this also seems set to be a major departure. “They are tailor-made to racing a catamaran, high speed type of boats on the courses that we want, in a simplified manner that is understandable and relevant to the type of racing that we want to do,” states Murray.

The concern is that the rules that end up being used for the 34th America’s Cup may have little bearing on ISAF’s match racing rules used throughout the rest of the sport. However this doesn’t concern Murray: “I think match racing has been an evolving thing for a period of time. When I started match racing we didn’t have a thing called a ‘dial-up’. We used to chase Dennis [Conner] around and he was the master of the timed run to the leeward end. Before computers, etc he used to bring dust up in the leeward corner with great regularity. Today we have the dial-up and the circles and all of that – it has changed as the rules have changed.”

He continues: “We saw when the two multihulls came together [in the 33rd AC] we had dial-ups and it was probably a little bit terrifying, so we are looking at the rules for America’s Cup sailing. The rights of the boats will change as a lot of rules in the current rules aren’t relevant to these high speed multihulls. We are trying to very much simplify it so that there are less rules that are clearer and more understandable. So I’m sure it is going to change. We are not going to have tacking duels, with boats tacking every 40 seconds when they have got to top speed; left-right-left-right fist fights that are hard work and generally don’t result in much lead changing. We will see probably a lot more overtaking around the marks and downwind. Courses will be more orientated to downwind opportunity. It is going to be different.”

One designs

The AC45s will compete on the America’s Cup World Series as one designs with the exception of the soft sails of which four will be carried.
At present the AC45 class rule hasn’t been written but Murray says this will be one of the first jobs for the newly appointed Measurement Committee.

Major teams are expected to purchase two AC45s as this will allow them either to campaign two boats on the World Series (AC45 have five crew while AC72s have 11) or one of the boats could be used as a design test bed.

“In the first year we elected to use the ‘keep it simple; approach and to limit it, because we want good sailing as opposed to a development race,” says Murray. “We need to learn about the racing of this America’s Cup – that is our focus. The teams are allowed to make those developments and they can do that in their own time, but it is not as easy as you think. Putting a development wing on is relatively easy because you unbolt one and put another one on. Development foils are possible, but if they are curved foils or they are different angle foils or adjustable angle foils that will be allowed in the 72 class, it is a fair old boat building operation to re-engineer the middle of the boat. That is unlikely to happen in the process of the World Series. There is nothing to stop a team from having a second boat that is working in a developmental role but it won’t be able to compete in the World Series.”

Nightmare docking logistics

Much concern has been expressed by teams in how a solid wingsail catamarans, regardless of whether it is 45 or 72ft long, will be able to get rigged and in and out of port in strong winds. According to Murray they have expended considerable brain power on attempting to tackle this issue.

“One of the first things we did was employ a team to manage the logistics. We have designs to be able to lower the rigs on the water. We have made a design so that we can tow the boats out and put them on an outside mooring, hoist the rig in 25-30 knots of wind and deal with it outside. The logistics of handling the wing – it is tricky.”

Among the manpower addressing this is BMW Oracle Racing and International 14 designer Paul Beiker and British ex-Team Philips crewman, Graham Goff. “He is a registered crane driver and a sailmaker - a good guy for this job,” says Murray of Goff. “He has been down in New Zealand for months trying to sort this out. Not only have we got to figure it out, but it has got to be integrated into the construction of the AC45s, so that there are attachment points, lifting points, solid parts where we can put them down, etc. It is not a case of build the wing and now what are we going to do?

“We are throwing everything up in the air. We have had mobile swimming pools on the land to put them in so that they feather around on their own. We have got trolleys with wheels on, we have got lowering things. We had re-locatable mooring chains and blocks. We have had big think tanks on what we’re going to do with this. It is going to be a work in progress, but we have listened hard to the issues from the USA 17 guys, the stories of being up all night, the boat tied on in reverse – we are listening and we think we’ve taken the best people we know to the job and we are right up from trying to solve it.”

World Series venues

Rather than the three America’s Cup World Series events to be held in 2011 as was originally proposed, there are now to be five, with the first expected to be in Europe in June. If San Francisco does become the host for 34th America’s Cup then this will certainly be one too. The venues for the America’s Cup World Series in 2011 are to be announced by the end of the year.

According to Richard Worth there are around 40 different choices of World Series venues on offer but there are a number of criteria each must meet: “Is the weather good enough, is it a place where we want to take the event, is it somewhere which fits into a marketing strategy, is there a team from there? There are many different considerations about how we would look at the ambition of a city to host an event. And it would be nice if they paid some money into the pot so we can pay some bills.”

Of the 40, says Worth, there are 10-12 credible places. If the World Series in 2011 is to wind up in November or December then obviously the final venues will have to be somewhere with suitable conditions for that time of year – say, Dubai for instance...

The price to host a World Series regatta is “several million”. The World Series venues are to be announced by the end of January 2011.

Team budgets

Iain Murray reiterates what Russell Coutts has stated about the range of team budget for the 34th America’s Cup and that Sir Keith Mills/TeamOrigin estimates of 100 million Euros are on the high side.

“Keith Mills’ budget was bigger than it was ever going to be - I struggle to see that. It is not the boats that are expensive, the major cost in any AC syndicate is the personnel. That is a factor of where they are, where are we taking people, do we have to domicile them in a place, do we have to take their family, where have you got to build the boat, what are you paying these people? All that is immensely variable.

“The bottom line is that an AC72 shouldn’t cost more than 6 million Euros (ex R&D and design). The consumables on these boats - with the furling sails and lack of equipment, you are not going to be burning through the $40/m rope. We are not pulling headsails down and trampling all over them on the foredeck or letting them fall in the water, we are just furling them up. My experience sailing on Wild Oats with furling sails is that they last. And you are talking about four sails. You can only have four masts, only 11 crew. We are moving the boats around. All of that is cost saving.”

As to the range of budgets Murray says that a young, enthusiastic (ie cheap) crew could do the America’s Cup and the World Series on a budget of 20 million Euros. “How many boats are you going to have? Are you going to have two wings, four wings, softsails, what hotels are they staying in? How much are you paying them? There are a lot of variables.”

Team bases

Another cost saving is in the team bases. As previously stated in these pages, the logistics of the 34th America’s Cup is going to be very different from the 32nd. Rather than have team bases permanently located in one venue, America’s Cup teams will become more like those in Formula 1 where the focus is on the travelling road show, teams operating out of movable bases.

ACRM have had created a standard design for these portable bases to be used in the World Series, costing 200,000 Euros apiece.

Murray shares his reasoning for this: “The reasons we are doing that is because we want the look and feel and consistency, we want to create a pit lane and for it to look good. We don’t want a bunch of old containers. From our point of view, because have to take responsibility for shipping these things, we want to make sure they are designed and manufactured and certified and insurable and there is no liability to the America’s Cup.”
The bases for the AC45 World Series in 2011 will comprise a four container set-up but cleverly these are designed into morph into an eight container base come the advent of the AC72s in 2012. “You shuffle them around and you don’t throw any bits out. We don’t want any waste of money and we want the bulk buying power of the group to get these things done.”

The containers won’t go to New Zealand, but straight to the first venue says Murray.

We apologise for the length of our America’s Cup features recently – however, as you can see, it is one monster subject.

Latest Comments

  • benremocker 02/12/2010 - 18:32

    49ers are doing similar things with fleet racing these days. Aiming at having the event conclude in about 1.5 hours with a winner through fleet racing. Check out 2 vids from the recent trial in Fremantle:
  • KiwiKeith 01/12/2010 - 22:36

    Long is good! Real english sentences and detailed quotes, not soundbites. If it's interesting, let it run!
  • stingray 01/12/2010 - 21:43

    Obviously, Murray was talking about a possible scenario that took a big bite out of it, by removing the biggest part - the personnel costs. It is hard to say who is being disingenuous around here sometimes. Read the Grant Dalton interview: “I think it is less than Keith Mills thought [100 million Euros]. Even if he is right - and he might be because you could easily spend that - there is no way in a million years that we could get anything close to that.
  • KingMonkey 01/12/2010 - 13:33

    Quite. Long is good. I worry deeply about Murray's handling of the budget situation, however. He is going around saying you could do an AC on E20m if you take away the personnel costs by using dinghy sailors. And then says that the most expensive thing is the personnel costs. Disingenuous to say the least.
  • Mike Stannard 01/12/2010 - 13:08

    No need to apologise James! Great article and fascinating stuff. What else are we supposed to read in our lunch hour on a cold December day in Blighty!

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