There is no doubt that the Team New Zealand three-spreader “millennium” rig was a strong contributor to its successful defense of the America’s Cup, no doubt whatsoever, or why would every challenger endeavored to copy it? That being the case, the Kiwis are known to have further investigated spar technology for the upcoming defense.
They do have a revolutionary design that is currently in build at Southern Spars, the carbon-fiber mast making division of the North Sails Group, thats a mega-advance on the millennium rig. Inside information from the spar-makers indicates that a totally new, low-drag rigging system has been developed and that it will be used on one of the TNZ boats within two weeks.
The information received indicated that the design team of the black boats has been concerned with the added drag of the extra staying necessary to make the millennium rig work successfully, but when the source was questioned, it would reveal no more. Speculation therefore is that the majority of the diamond bracing could go and that an extra one or two pairs of spreaders introduced as they have far less drag than the lengthy rods because they can be airfoil shaped.
While it is far too early to make long-term predictions on the outcome of the Louis Vuitton Cup, the indications of the racing so far is that there are only two outstanding teams in the competition, the Seattle-based OneWorld Challenge and the Swiss Alinghi Challenge. Both of their boats bear striking resemblance to NZL-60, and there is nothing surprising about that. After all, OneWorld has NZL-60’s chief designer, Laurie Davidson, heading its design team, while Russell Coutts and his band of TNZ renegades were all part of the input into the winning design and must have carried a great deal of them in their heads when they jumped ship.
The obvious disappointment is that of the Farr designed Oracle-BMW Racing that may have been pitched towards the upper end of the wind scale. But bearing in mind that races are only started in breezes between seven and nineteen knots, this may have been a trifle stifling. Certainly, she is slow downwind because she is short of sail area, a situation caused by taking a design penalty, possibly not as was indicated earlier from lighter displacement, but more likely from a slightly deeper draught. The changeover point in USA-76’s performance would appear to come at 17 knots–above that wind speed she is highly competitive.
Oracle-BMW Racing must therefore, at this stage be considered in the same breath as Prada, the Victory Challenge from Sweden and even, possibly Britains GBR Challenge. Mascalzone Latino and Le Defi Areva will be the two who battle out which of them goes home in early December at the end of the double round robin.
There is little doubt that there are different opinions as to the value, or otherwise, of winning races in the first round robin of the Louis Vuitton Cup, but on the evening after Oracle-BMW Racings USA-76 was beaten by Wight Lightning, the news release which the defeated syndicate issued was headlined, “Close racing as Mascalzone Latino wins its first race during an exciting day on the Hauraki Gulf.” It took some reading before mention was made of the originators match that day.
ITA-80, the second Luna Rossa of the Prada syndicate, has gone to Cookson’s yard to have a new bow added. The highly volatile head of the syndicate, Patrizio Bertelli, wants a boat with a double knuckled bow like NZL-60.
Like all fashion conscious tycoons, he wants to be with or ahead of the rest in style, and Doug Peterson, who tested plenty of the type of bow profiles that Bertelli sees as omnipotent, holds that the bow shapes he signed off are superior. Consequently, Peterson goes and Bertelli draws the double knuckle and Prada rips off NZL-60. Its the fashion world all over again.
Bob Fisher will be Grand Prix Sailors correspondent on scene in Auckland throughout the Louis Vuitton Cup.