America's Cup: Starting Points
America's Cup: Starting Points
On a Monday in February, two America’s Cup syndicates met for the first serious AC72 sparring session on San Francisco Bay. One team came away quite pleased. The other had to take comfort in knowing where they stand.
If Wing 2 isn’t efficient enough and Wing 1 too complex and too fragile—something Artemis Racing tactician Iain Percy hinted at during an interview on Feb. 13—then the team only has one more opportunity to find the correct design for its power plant. The protocol for the 34th America’s Cup limits each team to three wings.
Artemis’s boat is also unique. Juan Kouyoiumdjian and his design team placed a grinding station in the middle of the aft beam, while the other teams have put all the pedestals on either hull. And while Oracle Team USA’s first boat initially came with a tiller, the team switched to a wheel during the post-capsize refit, leaving Artemis Racing as the only team using a tiller.
It’s no surprise to see Artemis looking in every corner of the rule for an edge. Kouyoumdjian is sailing’s most famous maverick, with many great successes and equally spectacular failures on his résumé. Nonetheless, in the days following that first serious sparring session, Percy, who’s taken over leadership of the Artemis sailing team in the wake of Terry Hutchinson’s dismissal, appeared to be drinking from the same half-full glass as Peyron.
“It’s amazing to be out there with two boats, you learn heaps,” said the double Olympic gold medalist. “We all know what one-boat sailing is like, it’s impossible. You can go out, think you’re making improvements, and suddenly there’s another boat there, and it’s huge.”
But he couldn’t quite bring himself to say the team was on the right path, pausing after the word “right” before re-starting: “We’re on a path, we’ve got a good relationship with Oracle, we get on well, we like racing together, and we’re going to enjoy the next few months.”
Or maybe not. A few more training sessions with the defender apparently only reinforced what was learned on that fateful Monday. On Feb. 22, Artemis announced it was suspending its training program and bringing the boat into the shed for modifications.
For both Artemis and Oracle Team USA, this is an unfortunate turn of events. While the Swedish challenger is modifying its boat—and Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa are training together in New Zealand—the defender will be back to one-boat testing on San Francisco Bay. It’s not as fruitless as with a monohull; having two hulls enables teams to compare different foils and trimming techniques tack-to-tack. In fact, when lining up with Artemis, Oracle was doing just that, with two significantly different daggerboards. But one-boat testing is still not as effective as a solid two-boat testing program. And it’s impossible to do any racing practice.
In-house two-boat testing is part of Oracle’s plan for later this spring and into the summer. But that won’t be easy.
“One thing we have learned is it will be a real challenge to sail two of the boats together within one team,” said Simmer. “[Feb. 11] was the first night we stayed on the mooring; that’s a big deal. If we can leave one boat on the mooring, the days will be much more efficient.”
But for now the team is pleased to have surmounted what could’ve been a crippling failure when the boat capsized and the team’s first wing was completely destroyed. That the design and build crews were able to modify the boat while repairing it may prove to be one of the key moments of this America’s Cup.
For Artemis to rebound, the answer may be in steering back toward the other teams in terms of design philosophy. Wing 2, said Percy, is more conservative than the team’s first one. While it doesn’t yet appear to be fast enough, it is still standing. And the team’s second boat, according to Peyron, will be more “conventional” than the first. The team will also be able to incorporate much of what it has learned through its research of the designs of the other three teams. Unlike in previous America’s Cups, where the key hydro components were perpetually shrouded from view, the nature of the catamaran makes it all but impossible to hide anything substantial. And if they need a reminder about the ability to turn a negative into a positive, Artemis need only look across the Bay.