AmericaOne Media Feature 12/19/99
The Beat Goes On
While the rest of the Western world prepares for Christmas, the six Challengers for the Louis Vuitton Cup are preparing for 2 January, 2000, when the Semi-Finals get underway. It may be the holiday season at home, but work continues on the Hauraki Gulf.
On Saturday, the AmericaOne syndicate loaded up its spectator boat with media for a taste of the two-boat testing programme that dominates the schedule of the better-funded Challengers.
“It’s the way you win the America’s cup – by figuring out what’s faster,” said Robert Billingham, Operations Manager for AmericaOne. “One boat is a bench mark and stays the same. And then you make a series of changes to the other boat to see what’s faster. It is hard, hard work. It’s tough because there are so many variables.”
On a grey, blustery day, AmericaOne was joined on the Gulf by Prada, Team New Zealand, and Nippon; all busily involved in two boat testing programmes. Team Dennis Conner was sailing Stars & Stripes on it’s own, and the eliminated Young America was seen under sail inside the harbour.
“The odds are really against you in this event if you only have one boat,” Billingham said. “America True for instance, still gets a lot of information from the 1995 boat they test against. The others make the most of the data they get when they’re racing, and they try to mix it up with each other to test in between racing.”
“At AmericaOne, we do a series of 10-minute tests. On a good day we’ll get about 10 or 12 in. We line up the boats so they’re not interfering with each other and then sail them hard,” said Billingham, describing the process. “The guys on the instruments really run the tests. They tell the sailors over the radio when it’s on and when to stop. It’s amazing because the instrument guys can t
For the Complete story Vell as easily as the sailors as soon as something happens – a boat slowing after hitting a wave for instance. We work to balance the testing out across both tacks and windward and leeward positions.”
It’s a long, tedious process. We watched the two, gun-metal grey, AmericaOne boats line up near each other time and again. The boats would get in racing trim, sail hard upwind for 10-minutes, and then switch positions windward and leeward. They do this all day, on nearly every non-race day – a team of electronics wizards in the chase boat collect the telemetry and analyse the information in the evening. Tomorrow the tests will continue, a different configuration put under the microscope.
All the data will help the designers tweak the original configuration. The testing over the next 10-days will focus on USA-61, the only boat yet to race in this Louis Vuitton Cup. USA-49 is still in racing trim from Round Robin Three, and serves as the base line to measure the changes against. Billingham says USA-61 will likely be on the starting line for the Semi-Finals.
“We feel that a good series of tests is worth about 15-20 per-cent,” Billingham said. “That’s not pure boatspeed, but what I would call optimised efficiency.”
It’s because the testing offers such potential for improvement that the teams devote so much time on the water. AmericaOne gave the sailors two consecutive days off at the end of Round Robin Three – the longest break since they arrived in Auckland in September. Christmas holidays? Christmas day off, boxing day is still up for negotiation.
Testing isn’t the only road to improvement however, and AmericaOne, like the other teams, is hungrily eyeing the assets of the eliminated syndicates, especially Young America.
“We’ve rented some equipment, deck hardware, winches and stuff like that” Billingham admits. “Using people is a lot more complicated. Team Dennis Conner got the ball rolling by making a submission to the Arbitration Panel, and we’ve followed that up with some slightly different questions. The last thing you want to do is get penalised for something that you’re not absolutely clear on. As soon as we get the answers, I think you’ll see some people switching syndicates.”
Any of the sailors contemplating a move would be smart to wait until after Christmas – that might be the only way to enjoy some time off.
- Peter Rusch
For the complete story visit www.LouisVuittonCup.com
AmericaOne is dedicated to recapturing the America's Cup by applying U.S. technology in aerodynamics, computer equipment, hydrodynamics, naval architecture, sail design and structural engineering to America's Cup sailboat design. Operating since June 1, 1996, AmericaOne is the challenger on behalf of San Francisco's St. Francis Yacht Club. AmericaOne technology partners and top-level sponsors include Hewlett-Packard Company, Telcordia Technologies/SAIC, Ford Motor Company/Visteon and United Technologies Corp. To learn more about AmericaOne visit: www.americaone.org.
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