It’s been a few weeks since the AC45 took its first splash in the Hauraki Gulf, in New Zealand. Over the weekend, Russell Coutts (ORACLE Racing CEO), and Jimmy Spithill (ORACLE Racing Skipper), talked about their impressions of the AC45 program thus far.
When asked whether the new multi hull was a handful in 25 knots, Spithill’s enthusiasm spilled over, “It’s awesome mate! I think we’ll be able to race these in 30 knots and it will be a handful. Who knows, maybe there will be a few boats who will be right on the edge and perhaps someone will capsize one, but look, that’s what I think the sport is all about, it needs to have that element of risk…
Jimmy Spithill: We’ve taken the AC45 out in everything, from 3-4 knots up to 25-26. The exciting thing is that we can push the boat through quite a large range. We want to be able to set it up so you can sail it at a light air venue around the world, like the Med, but I’m confident we’re going to be able to push this boat up to 30 knots of wind speed. From a TV point of view, from an event point of view, I don’t know of another boat where you can currently do that and make it exciting.
Jimmy Spithill: The captains have been hitting the top speeds. Murray Jones hit about 28 knots cruising back down the harbor in probably between 15-20 knots of wind. I’ve been very impressed with the performance because it goes through a very big range, which was one of the goals. The maneuvering was what has impressed me the most. The tacking is very, very quick on this one. You can go from flying a hull into a tack and actually fly the hull on the other side before the guys can even get over there so
It’s pretty early days but you need to get, say, 6-7 knots to get a hull out. We’re looking at different sail configurations depending in breeze strength in different venues so for example, that you can make sure you are flying a hull in very light winds. It’s something for ACRM to consider and nice for them to have these different options.
Jimmy Spithill: Besides fine tuning things which you get with any new boat, I think that by the time we left the dock for the first sail we were flying the hull within a couple of minutes, it’s really impressive. We haven’t broken anything on it yet, just done some fine tuning like positions of cleats and jammers and we’ve sailed almost every day.
Russell Coutts: I don’t think it’s going to change the game in the multi hull in a tactical sense as much as what people think. I think the good sailors will still end up being the good sailors. You’ve already seen some examples - Jimmy sailed A Class a few years back and was really competitive, and Dean Barker did the same thing recently in Australia. The good sailors will adapt and still be good sailors. It’ll be a bit more challenging and there’ll be certain differences, like approaching marks and obviously differences in a fleet start, but the basic concept will be exactly the same.
Russell Coutts: It’ll be both a boat handling and technology race - boat handling is going to be really critical. For example, in a version 5 AC boat, in strong winds, you could do a bad jibe and it wouldn’t really make that much difference. The boat slows down a little bit, you might lose a knot of boat speed but you could get a way with it. Another example, you could tear your gennaker down the middle, replace it and most of the time stay in the lead if you had the lead. I can tell you now, if you do a bad jibe in a multi hull, or damage one of the sails, it’s a loss for sure.
AC45 YOUTH SAILING PROGRAM
Jimmy Spithill: Most definitely (this will be a boat that younger guys can sail) - I think one of the bigger problems with the Cup in the past is that there hasn’t been a clear path for youth sailors to get here. I just use my own example, it was just sheer good luck. So if you set the path and for the skills and attributes you need to sail a boat it’s going to be ‘all of the above’. That’s what makes it so exciting. You’re going to have to be pretty athletic, fit, you’re obviously going to have to have quick reactions…but I think this kind of boat and this sort of sailing really appeals to the younger generation. Let’s face it, kids today want to go fast. Look at a Laser or a foiling moth, I think it’s pretty obvious what a kid is going to choose. Likewise, when they see these AC45s charging around with the wing up, it’s going to create so much interest. Already, as soon as we mentioned the concept ‘youth America’s Cup’ on these boats, you can imagine the response we got.
OTHER AC45 INTEREST
Russell Coutts: There’s also been quite a lot of interest from individuals outside the America’s Cup wanting to buy an AC45. One of the ideas is that because these boats are cheap to build, maintain and transport around the world, there’s been discussion about opening up the AC45 circuit and continuing it even after the AC72 comes online, as its own circuit. Perhaps including some of the individuals who want to buy these boats with the caveat that they have a youth sailing crew onboard - probably all-nationals - the event authority guys are thinking about what the age limit should be. Ideas like this are gaining a bit of traction out there. I think it’d be an excellent system. I know quite a few who may find that fun to support a national youth team in their country, get it going and watch their guys come out and race guys like us.
Jimmy Spithill: We just have to sign off on a few things - the guys have done a nice job on the mooring system and just the logistical system of craning the boat in and out. It’s very quick and simple. We just want to have a look at a couple more sails then we’re going to hand it over to ACRM.
AC45 IN SAN FRANCISCO
While we heard last week that the AC45 will likely not make it to San Francisco Bay due to demand from other venues, it seems that decision is not final, according to Russell. “I’m not sure…the ACEA guys are still considering that, but one thing is for sure, the 72 WILL be in San Francisco and that’s not going to be un-spectacular...”
* Photo: Gilles Martin-Raget www.americascup.com