Tom Schnackenberg is the design genius behind the successful Team New Zealand dynasty. The Team New Zealand syndicate head is a longtime sailmaker who first arrived on the America’s Cup scene as the sail coordinator for Australia II in 1983. “Schnack,” as he’s known in Auckland, serves as navigator on the crew. The genius here is that he is able to bridge the gap between the sailing team and the design team.
For the 2003 defense, he worked primarily with Mike Drummond, who alternates as navigator and American Clay Oliver, a 1973 graduate of the United States Naval Academy. This design trio has come up with a clever innovation, a hull appendage, nicknamed the “HULA.” ESPNs Gary Jobson, Sailing Worlds editor at larger, sat down with Schanckenberg on the eve of the Americas Cup match.
Jobson: Tell me how this HULA works
Schnack: Well, basically, it does something which we can’t do without it. It allows us to build a boat which has a long waterline and a long overhang, without having a long measured length.
Jobson: Do you have to design the hull of the boat to accommodate it?
Schnack: Well, yes. We basically wanted the shallow run aft, you know from the aftergirth station to the counter. That line is not allowed to be hollow, so that runs right forward until not far behind the keel and then the appendage is added onto the outside of that.
Jobson: Does it touch the hull?
Schnack: Yes. It’s attached right at the centerline and it’s allowed to be attached over a distance of plus or minus 250 millimeters (approximately 10 inches) from the centerline.
Jobson: Is the friction of the water going between there slowing the boat in light wind?
Schnack: Yes, it will, but we don’t think it’s enough to overcome the advantage of it in certain conditions, but it will tend to add to the drag.
Jobson: How do you keep coming up with these ideas?
Schnack: Well, necessity’s the mother of invention. They come from sort of a frustration. How can we have our cake and eat it? We tested steeper stern and shallower stern slopes to try to see which was better and while we were arguing about these, we thought it would be nice to have this and nice to have that and then Clay said, “Well, you know, of course, if we had an appendage on the back, we could have it both ways.”
Jobson: Is this an innovation or a trick of the rules?
Schnack: Well, we like to think it’s an innovation. The total size of the appendages is limited to something like 20 percent of the total displacement, suggesting that when the rule makers made the rules they could envision that the designs would be fairly ingenious.
| Stuart Streuli|
| The aft edge of the innovative Hula, a design feature which Team New Zealand believes will give it the necessary edge over Alinghi in the 2003 America’s Cup.* * *|
Jobson: How much longer does this make the waterline, say, compared with Alinghi?
Schnack: Oh, I’m not sure, compared with Alinghi. But compared with a boat with a similar stern, maybe a foot or so.
Jobson: That’s pretty significant.
Schnack: Can be. Yes. That’s right.
Jobson: Do you expect that Alinghi will show up with some kind of hull appendage now?
Schnack: No. I don’t expect so.
Jobson: Do you have any other surprises for us?
Schnack: Well, that would be a surprise and so I can’t tell you that.
Jobson: When Clay Oliver mentioned the appendage, was that in one of those sessions where, sort of, anything goes¿give us your craziest ideas?
Schnack: No it was just talking among the designers. Those sessions are more ¿big picture and where we’re looking at the campaign. It’s just a part of the design discussions.
Jobson: You’ve sailed with both Coutts and Butterworth for so long, are you able to use that to your advantage?
Schnack: Well, I think they would be more familiar that, you know, another team. But, I’m not sure that is to our advantage. We’re probably more familiar to them that some of the other teams as well. It’ll seem a little bit like old times to some extent.
Jobson: Tom, do you think this whole “international free agency” has gotten out of hand, with so many people skipping borders?
Schnack: Well, in my opinion, it’s a national contest, so it should be considered that way.
Jobson: When you read the “Deed of Gift,” it’s “a friendly competition between foreign countries. Do you think the America’s Cup should go back to that?
Schnack: I think that it should. Yes and I think that it will. This is just a bit of a hiccup in my opinion. Yes.
Jobson: So, If Team New Zealand keeps the cup, is that something you can see to try and get back on track that way?
Schnack: A little bit. Yes. I think the rules–the way they are now–have been difficult. The residency thing is vague. It’s caused a lot of grief.
Jobson: In the last interview, you said, “Well, we try and do a lot of small things and, hopefully, they add up to a big thing.” The HULA looks like a big thing. What are some of the small things?
Schnack: Oh, well. We work our way with our rigging and our sails and our appendages. There are lots of little things that are tiny, but do add up.
Jobson: Are you ready for the races?
Schnack: Well, we’re nearly ready, you know, we sort of learn something every single day and so you say, “give me another day and another day and another day,” but yes, I think we’re getting very close to being ready now.