A Sticky America's Cup
A Sticky America's Cup
Much of this drama plays out in your jurisdiction - on the water. What have you had to adjust on the racecourse to mitigate the risk of a capsize?
JC: As far as the racing for this summer, we’re doing what we can with boundaries and creating safety zones or larger buffer zones between the race track and the spectator fleet. It is going to be challenging to get these guys around the track, that all being said, Luna Rossa and ETNZ have almost 20 days of racing together in some pretty windy conditions, so I think when we get to go, we’ll see what the boys can really do. I think it’ll start out slow, and it’ll build. When we get to the Cup itself, the racing will be pretty spectacular.
We’ve looked at wind limits; the scary part is 20 knots of breeze and 3 knots of ebb is a lot different than 20 knots of breeze in a flood. Fortunately the way the schedule has worked out, a lot of the regatta is in a flood, so while unplanned, that’s been a good piece of luck. With the wind limits, boundaries, and run-offs, there's also all the other stuff that we’ve done as far as the rescue side of the equation. After Oracle capsized, we required the boats to put 1000 liters of air in the top of the wings so a lot of the teams have come with either an air bag on the top: When it blows open, it stops the mast from going deeper in the water. Others have actually put airbags inside the wings themselves. We’re hopeful that will reduce the damage if we do get into a situation.
From your observation, what could be changed on the boats to tame these beasts?
JC: We originally started out with two wings--the larger one we’re with today, and a small one. The bigger one was based on the lighter air venues that we thought we would sail with the 72s in the second leg of the America’s Cup World Series, which didn’t happen. I think if you polled the teams now they might suggest the smaller wing was a wiser option, but again at the time we didn't see foiling, and the boats were supposed to do the 2013 ACWS series leg when that decision was made.
Have you tested the new boundary system?
JC: Today is our first day with the boundaries up so we’re going out to test that today. We’re pretty confident that we’ll be able to get the buffer we’re after. During the review the sailors commented that they needed 45 seconds from the edge of the boundary to the spectators if something went wrong, so that’s what we’ve been trying to create: 45 second run-offs around the course so if the guys get into trouble they have a place to go.
As PRO, what’s been the most challenging aspect of AC34?
JC: Working through what these new boats have created. We were thinking they’d do 33-35 knots, and they’re now doing 45-46 knots. By foiling and by the designers being as smart as they are and getting the boats to fly/foil, this has changed what we thought we’d be dealing with. The most challenging part of that has been adapting racecourses, safety, working with the Coast Guard, and the teams getting to a place where everybody is comfortable so that we can race these boats but can also ensure a good show that works for all the components outside the racing. As we’ve changed the racecourse, times, and wind limits, that’s also had a trickle down to the commercial side of it. The interface with all of those bodies as you make a decision is a lengthy process--it’s a lot of time.
Once racing starts, what will your specific role be? Where will you be?
JC: I’ll be back to running the races on the water--out of board rooms and meetings and running races, which is what ACRM is all about. I’ll be on the signal boat and monitoring the wind very closely to make sure we stay within those wind limits. If it looks like it's not going well, guys are in trouble, or conditions change, I can be ready to call it.
After all this, running the Kiteboard Course Racing NA’s a few weeks ago must have been easy.
JC: [Laughs] Well, it’s funny because six years ago running kite races wouldn’t have been considered regular racing ... Today it is ....