AC34: Mods and Moding
AC34: Mods and Moding
Design team members from Oracle Team USA and Emirates Team NZ talk about honing the performance of the AC72s during racing and what, exactly, "moding" is.
"In previous Cups you have either had a heavy-air boat or a light-air boat, and once you roll the dice, that's it and you can't respond," explains senior Oracle Team USA design team member Dirk Kramers.
Kramers firmly believes that the ability to make changes to improve performance once racing has begun adds to the excitement of the sport.
"Being able to see if you can come back adds to the game," he says. "It's like in a football game, you change a few players and you rearrange things; or in a car race you change the suspension set up or the aerodynamic set up, and you can get back in the game."
According to Kramers, the adoption of high-performance multihulls has meant that the subtlest of tweaks can result in a profound performance gain.
"That's the beauty of the multihulls, they are sensitive to very slight changes, and you can really change the boat quite dramatically, as you have seen, with relatively modest changes.
"We have been on a steep learning curve throughout this whole process, and we are still learning things on a daily basis. Fortunately the rules are such that we can adapt the boats mid-regatta so that we can correct errors that were made in the process. That helps keep the competition exciting."
After some aggressive modifications made during the 34th America's Cup Final series itself, Oracle's boat surprisingly emerged as the perceived better performer in the stronger winds, particularly upwind.
This newfound heavy-air superiority is something Emirates Team New Zealand design team boss Nick Holroyd finds ironic when he thinks back to before the Cup match began.
"Back then," he says with a twinkle. "we were pushing for the wind limits to go up, and they were probably pushing them down. Maybe the shoes are on the respective opposite feet now."
According to ETNZ helmsman Dean Barker, Holroyd's team have done a good job at finding ways to match Oracle's newfound speed on the beats, and he believes the two boats are now all but even in performance around the course.
"Like the Oracle guys we are not standing still either," Barker says. "We are working very hard with improvements to the boat. We have done some sailing against these guys in different conditions and certainly in the top end of the wind range we think we needed to improve the performance. We are pretty happy with the changes that we made.
"To believe it would be this close between two teams with pretty different design concepts is hard to believe. They both have strengths and weaknesses, but both teams have reacted very well to what they have observed of the other team, and I think the two boats have more or less come together in terms of performance.
"Unbelievably in the first generation of the class you have got two boats that are this close in performance over a variety of conditions," Barker concludes.