Bermuda America's Cup catamarans 'could not be safely raced in the Hauraki Gulf'
A leading America's Cup designer believes the foiling catamarans used in Bermuda couldn't be safely raced in the Hauraki Gulf off Auckland.
Team New Zealand's decision to drop the fast cats for a state-of-the-art monohull for the next edition of the Cup in 2021 continues to be hotly debated.
But they appear to have a fan in Britain's Andy Claughton.
Claughton has vast experience in the Cup game. He was chief technology officer with Britain's Ben Ainslie Racing during the Bermuda edition and was a research and design co-ordiantor with Team New Zealand in three Cup cycles from 2000 to 2007, so he has a good feel for Auckland conditions.
He didn't have too much good to say about the 50-foot catamarans from Bermuda, saying they were too complicated and became basically slave ships with the amount of work needed to power them. He also felt they were too risky, even for the more favourable conditions of the Great Sound.
"While they were impressive, the foiling catamarans were immensely complicated, expensive, and time consuming to maintain," Claughton wrote in his column for Seahorse magazine.
"This is OK for a racing car, where everyone knows that when you look under the bonnet of a modern car, you have no idea what is going on but you know it's cool and clever, and reassuringly expensive. But for a racing yacht none of this complication seems appropriate.
"Our sport is about challenging wind, wave, and tide, and this of itself is complication enough. If you add in 30 hydraulic actuators and half a million lines of computer code, does this add it the spectacle?
"The boats were miserable to sail for two-thirds of the crew, slaving over the pumps to keep the hydraulic fluid flowing. For the helmsman and wing trimmer it was heart in the mouth stuff as the penalty for a small error was a race loss, and in winds over 20 knots, even in the Great Sound, there was a real risk of serious injury if anything went wrong.
"These boats could not be safely raced in the Hauraki Gulf, Newport, Rhode Island or the Solent - just the sort of places the Deed of Gift envisaged."
The buildup to Bermuda was plagued by capsizes and damage among the six competing syndicates. The most dramatic moment of the Cup racing came when Emirates Team New Zealand pitch-poled in the challenger semifinals against the British.
Five of the six syndicates involved in Bermuda - Oracle, Ben Ainslie Racing, Team France, Team Japan and Sweden's Artemis Racing - had a pact to carry on in the AC50 class if one of them won the America's Cup.
Team New Zealand refused to sign up for that, and in being the team that eventually won the Auld Mug, they have chosen to dump the cats and return to monohull racing.
Team New Zealand will release more details of the 75-foot monohulls they will introduce on November 30 with the class rule set to be published on March 31 next year.
The Team New Zealand designers have been working through foiling and non-foiling concepts. It's understood they have narrowed their options from seven to two as they look for the best boat.
They are determined to have more sailor involvement and want to create an innovative, technically advanced boat but one that will also benefit the marine industry.
Artemis Racing are putting heat on the Kiwi designers to try to trump the catamarans if the Swedes are to stay involved, having made big gains with their foiling over the last two Cups in San Francisco and Bermuda.
"The most important consideration for our team is the need for a cutting-edge boat design, one that results in speeds that are as fast or faster than in the last America's Cup held in Bermuda," Artemis Racing said in a statement released earlier this week as they studied the protocol for 2021 and awaited more boat details from the Kiwis.