Following the launch of Land Rover BAR’s AC 50 last week, Emirates Team New Zealand’s America’s Cup class catamaran has been spotted on the water in Auckland. The boat is scheduled for an official launch on Thursday, but preliminary testing has turned heads in Waitemata Harbour with some notable design changes standing out.
In a diversion from the familiar designs of America’s Cup catamarans, the new foiling catamaran appears to feature cycle pedestals, a major change in development for grinders, and one not used in the Cup since a rule change in the 1960’s banned them from the 12 Meter class. Compared to traditional arm-powered grinders, the cycle grinder is significantly more efficient, meaning less work for the crew and faster, more responsive trimming. Where the traditional America’s Cup catamaran was set up with two grinding stations on each side, Emirates Team New Zealand’s AC50 appears to have four individual cycle pedestals, one for each crew member. While the actual speed benefit of the design change won’t be fully tested until it is seen in action against a boat with a more standard grinding set up, the benefits to the crew will be immediate, reducing stress and effort required to get the boat up to speed.
Stricter guidelines for class design implemented for the 2017 Cup limit the amount of flexibility for teams to introduce new elements, and with just 4 months before racing begins in Bermuda, it is uncertain if other teams will attempt to examine the benefit of the cycle grinders. Land Rover BAR was the first team to launch their AC50 catamaran, while Oracle Team USA is – like Emirates Team New Zealand – scheduled for launch this week.