America’s Cup Then and Now

Team Oracle
Photo by slgckgc via a Creative Commons License.

Newport, R.I and The America’s Cup are forever linked, as Newport was the venue for over 50 years. The Newport Daily News still carries the news of the America’s Cup races as the cover story on the Sports page. I doubt many other US newspapers do.

Captain Al and Kia are linked to the Cup in very different ways:

Kia’s First Trip to Newport

“The first time I ever came to Newport was in July of 1983. My cousin Erik and I had both just graduated from Cornell and he suggested a celebratory road trip from upstate New York to Newport R.I. Naively we headed up without any reservations, yet somehow we managed to book both lodging at a B&B and a boat charter to go out and watch the races. What I remember the most was that there where long periods of no wind, during which the beautiful 12 Metre sailboats and the tour boats just all sat still on the water and waited. When a breeze finally arrived it was amazing to see the sailors spring into action, trimming the sails and taking full advantage of every puff of wind. I never imagined that I myself would be living in Newport, 34 years later, and sailing those same waters.”

“The designation ’12 Metre’ does not refer to any single measurement on the boat, and is not referencing the vessels overall length, rather, it measures the sum of the components directed by the formula which governs design and construction parameters. Typically 12 Metre class boats range from 65 to 75 feet (about 20 to 23 m) in length overall.” – Wikipedia

Captain Al’s experience with America’s Cup is a lot more exciting! He was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time and became a tactician on Courageous IV in their quest to race for the Cup in 1987. That was the last year that America’s Cup raced with the beautiful 12 Metre boats. Unfortunately Courageous IV did not become the challenger boat but Al has many fun stories to share about the 9 months he lived in Perth. Many of those 12 Metres have since made Newport R.I. their home port and they are a beautiful sight to see on the water.

The 12 Metres are not the boats used for Americas Cup anymore, having been replaced by foiling wing sailed catamarans. They are the highest performing sailing boats in the world and can travel at 3 times the wind speed. Fun fact: between 1851 and 2007 the top speed increased from 12 to 18 knots and now they are approaching 50 knots! This year’s current leader from New Zealand has developed pedal-powered winches with cycle-style grinders as opposed to the traditional arm-powered winches. So far it seems to be paying off…

Captain Al’s Take on the Boat Evolution of the Americas Cup

“The quest for the Cup has promoted innovation in yacht design and marine technology and much of this innovation is now widely used on the boats we sail today. Materials such as carbon fiber, Kevlar, Spectra, and Vectron have resulted in lighter and stronger boats, sails and rigging. I remember the jib sheets on the 12 metres were made of steel wire, and during my brief experience as a jib trimmer I always feared messing up a tack and loosing a finger or two as these treacherous wires flailed around during a sail maneuver. Combined with a “Fremantle Doctor” sea breeze (the nickname for the daily Australian sea breeze) at 25-30 knots, it made for some challenging conditions.

“Todays modern America’s Cup foiling catamarans are capable of amazing speeds of 40+ knots. It’s incredible to watch these high performance race machines. The fine tuning of these yachts to eke out a knot or two must be amazingly involved in technology and brain trust.”

“On another difference in today’s Cup is that these racing catamarans are not meant to be sailed out in the open ocean as the 12 Metres were. They race close to shore which has resulted in the races becoming more accessible to watch as they can be viewed from both land and sea.”

“So unless you are out sailing with us, or somebody else this weekend, you can watch the races this Saturday live on NBC at 1pm EST. It is very exciting to watch these racing catamarans basically fly above the water!”

The World Sailing Show has created the following video that does a good job of explaining foil technology.

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