What’s with the business of keeping our America’s Cup and Volvo boats under wraps until game time? It’s all about the head games, and as silly as they are, I can’t stop playing. Gaining Bearing from our September 2011 issue.
With the Volvo Ocean Race, secrecy is a big, deal, too. ABN AMRO, which won the 2005-’06 race, was about 5 feet wider than its competition. It was the first with dual rudders, and it was obvious it had a much larger bulb. There was no sense hiding those features, but photography of the interior was never allowed, and that tradition continues.
In the 2008-’09 race, we didn’t allow people to take photos down below, either, primarily because we didn’t want to give away the engineering of our daggerboard cases. But eventually we learned that we’d over engineered them about two times, and we might have done ourselves a service early on to expose this flaw. Maybe someone could have pointed out our mistake. What we considered an advantage ended up being a disadvantage, and, in hindsight, by keeping it secret we really only hurt our own cause.
But with PUMA Ocean Racing Team’s mar mostro, we’ve decided to do the same thing.
“No pics below, please.”
Are there a lot of innovative ideas inside our boat? Of course there are. The engineering we’ve come up with is amazing, but it’s too late for any of the other teams to change their engineering, anyway. So I ask myself, “OK then, who cares?” We have stacking bays, a toilet made of carbon fiber, and bunks—you guessed it, bunks! I wonder what the other teams would give to see our bunks? Are we really creating an advantage by giving the impression that our boat is really all that different? Are others really buying this?
It doesn’t matter. We shroud what we can, because we can, and in our case, it’s the interior. Maybe it’s because it creates an aura over the program that sends out the super cool vibe that we are always trying to create. I don’t know. I’m starting to think that video cameras should document what’s inside all the race boats, make it public, and be done with it. It would certainly create more buzz to show what innovative ideas each of the teams have come up with.
The next secrecy games will be with the 72-foot catamarans for the 34th America’s Cup. Programs are spending vast sums of money on the design and engineering of these rockets, and teams will face the age-old quandary: splash the boat early and train hard on it, thereby laying one’s cards down on the table for all to see, or wait as long as possible, keeping one’s hand close to the vest, with the risk of launching a lemon and not having any time to make it into lemonade.
I’m sure the wing technology will be a radical departure over what we’ve seen. Maybe teams will place a sock over their wing to hide it from the competition. I’m sure the wave-piercing hulls will be very different from what we’ve seen thus far. Will someone make a shroud that looks like two pant legs connected by a waist to cover the hulls? No more skirts: we’re talking pants and socks—I can see it now.
I’ve had different experiences in the American’s Cup and Volvo, and for some reason I sit here and contemplate the idea of secrecy. Thinking that another team is going to steal our ideas is crazy. But at the same time, I’m promoting secrecy with our new boat.
I honestly don’t know why. Skirts, pants, socks—maybe it’s all for show, to give the impression that we’re cooler than the other guys, and we have a trick or two up our sleeve. But thank goodness the race eventually starts, exposing all our secrets. I’m sure the carbon toilet on mar mostro is going to be the reason we win or lose the Volvo Ocean Race. I maintain that Australia II is the one boat that made secrecy work, and this is why we’ve been wasting so much time and energy playing hide-and-seek ever since.