Paul Ashford Harris

The 34th America's Cup

It’s as official as any news about the America’s Cup can ever be, given the Cup’s vulnerability to predatory lawyers. The 34th America’s Cup will be held in San Francisco Bay between September 7th and 22nd 2013. The Louis Vuitton Challenger Series, which decides the challenger, will be held from 13th July to 1st September 2013 in venues around the world.

The series will be raced in AC72 catamarans, the prototype for which, the AC45 has just been built and launched in Auckland harbour. The first test sails have proved that they will be exciting boats to sail and to watch. The AC45 on its first outing was doing 20knots in only 10 knots of breeze and has been since reported at reaching close to 30knots, not far short of 60kmh. The BMW Oracle Racing skipper, Aussie James Spithill, described the AC45 as “flighty and fast. We’re really happy with what the designers have produced. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

It’s flighty all right. After only a few days of sailing the AC 45 was hit by a gust and capsized, requiring the wing to be repaired, but in less than a week it was back out on the water in the hands of Artemis Syndicate skipper Paul Cayard, who echoed James Spithill’s enthusiasm. “It’s nothing less than spectacular” he said after sailing the boat out of Auckland on the Hauraki Gulf.

The AC45 has a translucent wingsail which looks like the wing of a glider. The sail has a 450 piece cartilage of carbon fibre, nomex core and Kevlar, sheathed in shrinkwrap of all things. It seems like the designers have managed to avoid the ponderous tacking of most catamarans and the AC45 tacks more like a normal yacht, which will make for much more exciting racing. Google it up and have a look.

The AC72, which will be used in the Cup, is yet to be launched and is a much larger version of the AC45. It will be quite a machine and you would not want to be on board if it capsizes. In the mean time the AC45 will be used in the America’s Cup World Series in 2011 before the launch of the AC72 IN 2012.

Entries for the Cup close in March this year. Besides the Cup defender USA, entries have been received from France(2), Sweden and Italy plus another unnamed syndicate. It also looks as if this time there could be two Australian challengers. The first challenge, headed by Simon Grosser, the widely experienced South Australian sailor has been lodged and the second, not yet lodged, is headed by ocean racing veteran Ludde Ingvall. In either case there are plenty of experienced America’s Cup campaigners from Australia to mount a very credible challenge, but in professional sport there are no nationality boundaries and so it is not assured that they will be available to a home team.

For sailors, and those that just like to see a tough and physical sporting contest, the AC45’s and then the AC72’s promise to provide a contest well worth watching. If you’re thinking of going out on a spectator boat, make sure it’s got plenty of speed otherwise you’ll be left way behind.

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