Need for speed driving next generation

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The next generation of America’s Cup class foiling catamarans are going to “blow people’s minds”, according to Jimmy Spithill, the Oracle Team USA skipper.

The six teams competing in the 35th America’s Cup to be held in the Great Sound next year are busy behind the scenes designing and building their 50-foot wing-sail foiling catamarans, which will travel faster than the larger AC72s at the previous event in San Francisco.

“What we will be doing on these AC50s will blow people’s minds and the main thing is they are going to be a lot faster and they are really the Formula One on the water,” Spithill, the youngest skipper to win the “Auld Mug”, said.

“The boat will look quite similar to a lot of people but the difference will be it’s incredibly powered up. The boat the people see in the World Series has a lot less power, it’s much more simplified. But these AC50s are very sophisticated, extremely physical and a lot harder to sail.

“The AC50 will surprise people because they look at the World Series boats and go, ‘wow, those boats are hardcore, go fast and look challenging’ — but you haven’t seen nothing yet.”

America’s Cup sailors have improved their foiling skills since the America’s Cup was held in San Francisco in 2013, but Spithill said there is still plenty of room for improvement.

“When you look back at the last America’s Cup and the technique and the way we were sailing these boats we were just scratching the surface and probably still are,” the former ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year said.

“We have taken a quantum leap in terms of how we sailed that AC72. The boats we are out there sailing now, these AC45s, would beat the 72s which is amazing to think about. The rate of improvement in technology and boat building is huge.”

There are those who predict the next America’s Cup will be a “sailor’s race”.

Spithill, however, believes it will be a combination of boat design and athleticism of the crews on the power-starved AC50.

“I think we have a really cool balance,” he said. “You’ve got to have a fast boat but the athletes will play a huge part and the reason for that is the boats are so undermanned.

“There’s no doubt in my mind the athletes are going to play a huge part in this. But again you have to have a fast boat, and that’s why we are working hard with our engineers and designers to produce what we hope will be the fastest boat come the America’s Cup.”

This story appeared in The Royal Gazette on February 5th, 2016.

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Need for speed driving next generation