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AmericaOne New Zealand Chronicles:

AmericaOne Eyes USA-61
by Ivor Wilkins, Quokka Sports

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Tuesday, December 21, 1999 -


Auckland, NZ

Even though Paul Cayard's AmericaOne syndicate is rightly described as a two-boat campaign, up to the end of the second round of the Louis Vuitton Cup series it was essentially a one-boat team.

USA-61, the second of the team's two new Bruce Nelson-designed yachts, arrived towards the end of the second round and was kept off the race track during Round 3.

Although the party line is that the team has yet to decide which yacht to use for the semifinals, you could safely bet your house that USA-61 will be the pick.

Naturally enough, the team is not giving anything away about the new boat or its performance, but there are boastful claims coming from its base on syndicate row. The team had enough confidence to take the media out to watch both boats testing on the Hauraki Gulf in a brisk northeasterly.

A classic two-boat formula is to produce two relatively similar yachts fairly early in a campaign and then work them up by leap-frogging their performance gains in a scheduled progression that, hopefully, peaks at just the right time. That is the approach adopted by Prada, Nippon and the defenders, Team New Zealand.

Cayard's syndicate took a less conventional approach, delaying construction of the second yacht until quite late in the campaign. A chartered Boeing 767 flew USA-61 into Auckland towards the end of November as Round 2 was drawing to a close.

This two-step approach may have had something to do with the rate at which funding flowed into Cayard's war chest, but the team turned necessity into a virtue. It freed the designers from having to produce an essentially similar second yacht, and gave them longer to refine their ideas.

"We think we're going to blaze through the trials with USA-49, then bring in the new boat, which is not beat up from three months of hard sailing," said Nelson back towards the beginning of racing.

The first part of the prediction was fulfilled when AmericaOne was able to ease off the throttle towards the end of Round 3, secure in the knowledge that it had romped into a semifinal berth.

"We are pretty pleased with how it has worked out," said campaign manager Bob Billingham. "We were able to go through Round 3 with USA-49 and get a good look at the other teams' second yachts [Prada and Nippon] without having to give anything away ourselves.

"We know where USA-49 is in relation to those other yachts, and we know where 49 is in relation to 61. Sure, everybody will change their boats again between rounds, but that was a good benchmark," said Billingham.

Before the round was even over, the two AmericaOne yachts were into their testing programme. "We have kept 49 in its Round 3 configuration, but we have already reconfigured 61 several times as we work it up," said Billingham.

Based on observations from the water, it appears the differences between the shape of the two yachts are subtle rather than dramatic. Essentially, the new yacht is longer, with more pronounced overhangs both in the bow and stern. The beams look similar -- in other words, narrow -- although the second yacht tapers more at the stern.

Judging by the air of satisfaction at the camp, the strategy has worked -- which means USA-61 has fulfilled the promise implied in that longer design gestation and is quicker than her older sister.


For full story go to: www.americascup.org

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