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America’s Cup 34: Trickle-Down Effect

There’s a whole new breed of youth sailors because of the America’s Cup.

February 18, 2014

With helicopters circling the sky and crowds teeming along the City Front, the countdown to the next start began. But the space age marvels of AC34 were just leaving their moorings. At this hour, the course belonged to 20 Hobie 16s, which had made their way over from Sausalito YC for the final day of the U.S. Multihull Championship. They finished two quick ones in a building seabreeze, and when the course cleared to let the AC72s do their practice laps, the Hobies were the last to leave.

“When you’re out there on a little Hobie Cat and you see an AC72 blowing by you, it’s quite impressive,” says Fred Weidig, who was inspired to start sailing multihulls two years ago partly because of the America’s Cup.

Multihull sailors of all levels seem to be captivated by the modern machines, including Sarah Newberry, the top-ranked Nacra 17 skipper in the United States. “It’s obvious that already there’s a whole new breed of youth sailors doing performance sailing because the America’s Cup is what it is now,” says Newberry. “The kids are tuned in—plugged in. They’re watching every little part of it. And that generation of sailors is so aware of what it means to be a multihull sailor. They know it exists.”

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The next challenge, says Richard Feeny, a longtime multihull sailor, will be to bring foiling to soft-sailed boats, a feat that’s already been taken on by developmental racing classes like the C-Class Catamarans.

“We spent a lot of time with one of the designers from Morelli & Melvin,” says Newberry, speaking of the design team that created the AC72 rule, “and we learned so much about what we already perceived was happening about the way the boats really worked.”

How much will be revealed about the AC72s remains to be seen, says Feeny: “They [the engineers] will keep a few cards hidden, but other things will be talked about publicly.”

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That talk will keep redefining what’s possible, as cat sailors around the world dream about upgrading their boats with wings, foils, and fiber optic sensors. After all, if they can do it with boats that look like skyscrapers, surely you can make any cat fly.

This article first appeared in the January/February 2014 issue of Sailing World.

Oracle Team USA and Hobie Cat

Oracle Team USA and Hobie Cat

Oracle Team USA’s Jimmy Spithill acknowledges a fist pump from Andrew Wilkinson, who sailed with Ben Brown in the U.S. Multihull Championship. Chris Love Productions
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