Thursday, 5 July 2007

90 Footers for the 33rd Cup

So, the rumour was true! New boats after all: 90 feet long, lifting keels to get in and out of harbour, 20-ish crew, designed to a box rule and possibly limited to one boat per team.

Plenty more was said, but few facts came out of today’s announcement. It will be in Europe, possibly but not necessarily in Valencia, 2009 if Valencia, 2010 or 2011 if elsewhere in Europe. And Alinghi can choose to take part in the Challenger Series all the way up to – and including – the Semi Finals! Cheeky, but it seems Club Nautico Espanol de Vela were prepared to sign almost anything to secure the privilege of becoming the new Challenger of Record.

At the Challenger of Record press conference at the Desafio Espanol base, one journalist asked the Challenger’s representative lawyer if he had signed a blank piece of paper. His response: “I’m a prestigious lawyer. I’m nobody’s puppet!” Methinks he doth protest too much!

Anyway, more of the Protocol another time. On to the boats, although even here the details are sketchy. Brad Butterworth gave his reasons for a new class in the Cup. “Everybody seems to want a new boat that is bigger, more exciting, difficult to sail, and faster, which is the emphasis behind it. So now we have to come up with a rule for it, and that will need a bit of hard work.

“I think that the timing of the event has got to meet those requirements, so the rule can come out with enough time and everybody can start designing and getting their tools, and designing and building the boat. It will probably take about 20,000 man hours to build a ninety-footer - it all takes it’s time. That is why the window of when the event is has to be a bit flexible, from the sailing point of view.”

Brad said he had enjoyed the ACC boats, but that it was time to move on to “something more exciting. These boats have been fantastic but I think they have got to the end of their life and people are looking for something that is a little bit bigger, a bit more difficult and more exciting. The guys and designers feel they have had their run with these boats and the class rule and they are looking for something else to stimulate them and part of that is to go with a new boat.”

However, he ruled out the possibility of a canting keel, opting instead for a lifting keel. “The canting keel is a difficult option. We can do it a little bit better with this sliding concept; it is not better, just different. In the end the boats will be bigger, faster, and harder to sail – 90 footers that won’t have hydraulic, electric run winches. The guys will have to be athletic [he said with a grin that betrayed just a hint of self-mockery]. They will be tough boats to sail. We haven’t written the class rule yet; it will be put together and published over the next couple of months.”

The perception is that a new class plays into the hands of the richer teams. Just as Brad is fond of saying: “The America’s Cup is a design race.” On this occasion, no one will disagree with him, although he sees it as levelling the playfield. “I think any of the good teams will take it on. They all have good designers and people. I don’t think the rich will get richer; it will be tough for some to catch up if we limit it to this class.

“I think the rule will be reasonably tight, like a box rule, but obviously this rule is pretty complicated. It would be nice to open it up a little bit more. It will be encouraged to come up with new innovative ideas. This is a design contest - a technology race. I think that’s the way the Cup has always been, and we are going to keep it that way.”


Doug said...

20000 hours is the low end for IACC v5. Take a look at Alinghi website for proof. 90 footers will be about 26000 hours. To build. Not counting repairs!

grant said...

haven't the germans half built a boat?