America's Cup designer back smaller catamarans

DUNCAN JOHNSTONE
Last updated 15:40 19/02/2014
America's Cup
Through its 163-year history, the America's Cup has been a cradle of innovation.

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One of the designers charged with shaping the next America's Cup believes slightly smaller catamarans won't detract from the spectacle produced by last year's giants.

American Pete Melvin's design firm, Morrelli & Melvin, were the lead designers in writing the America's Cup class rule for the massive AC72 catamaran that featured in San Francisco.

He later joined Team New Zealand to craft Aotearoa which came within a race of snatching sport's oldest trophy from Oracle.

Melvin has again been hired by Oracle and Challenger of Record Hamilton Island Yacht Club to come up with the class rule for the next edition set to be sailed in 2017 at a venue still to be announced.

The AC72s overcame their doubters to reshape the America's Cup in performance and as a spectacle.

"We are looking at concepts that are similar to the AC72 - a foiling cat with wingsail," Melvin confirmed in interviews with the America's Cup website and sail-world.com.

"The consensus from teams is that this was a good concept and we want a smaller version in the 60 to 65 foot range. We're looking at various ratios of beam to length and wing size and power."

Melvin said tests indicated the new class could be similar in speeds downwind as the AC72, but a tad slower upwind. 

But with the boats slightly smaller they may even appear faster to the general eye.

And the inevitable development with foils and testing would also see limits pushed again.

The new class rule is expected to be revealed next month.

Melvin confirmed cost-cutting measures would come by having a smaller boat, meaning less crew and less people for the arduous launching procedure.

There could also be some one-design elements to help cost-cutting, including restrictions with the wingsail.

"The America's Cup has always had a large emphasis on design technology and there's no desire to change that," Melvin said.

"But there is a desire to reduce the costs of design and construction. So there are areas where it's interesting to allow design innovation and there are others where you can throw a lot of design resource at something but won't see a lot of performance differentiation. So those might be areas where one-design makes sense."

There may also be some concessions in stored energy to be used at peak times during racing.

The AC72 didn't allow this with all systems human powered, putting a massive load on the grinders.

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"We've had a lot of input from the different teams around things like safety, size and cost that they would like to see," Melvin said.

"And the measurement committee from the last cup has given input on the way the rule should be written to make it easer to measure and administrate."

Melvin said he would like to get involved with an America's Cup team again but was too busy with the class rule to consider that at the moment.

- Fairfax Media

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