America’s Cup: Will this loophole torpedo cost containment?

OTUSA design meeting. Renderings AC62. From Airbus video

After the Protocol was released for the 34th America’s Cup in 2010, there was contentious debate about campaign costs. While the defender insisted the rules would insure affordability, a British team argued otherwise and declined entry, the Italian Challenger of Record would step out due to costs, soon to be followed by several other challenger entrants.

While defense CEO Russell Coutts believed in 2011 that no more than 80+ million dollars for a very competitive campaign, it was estimated that by 2013, most challenger team budgets were at least 100 million dollars, with the defender believed to be over 200 million.

So here we are again, with the Protocol for the 35th America’s Cup seeking solutions to contend with the crippling campaign costs. However, as Jack Griffin of Cup Experience reviews the Protocol, he comments on what might be the biggest loophole in the document that could lead teams to spend serious money…

The Protocol for the 35th America’s Cup allows unlimited development (read “spending”) on up to three 45 foot catamarans. Now Oracle Team USA has given us a peek at a design for one of these exotic “development AC45 catamarans.

Limits on sailing AC62’s and AC62 “surrogates”
Teams are not allowed to launch their AC62 catamaran until approximately September 2016 – 150 days before the round robin racing begins in the “America’s Cup Qualifiers.” Nor are they allowed to sail “surrogate yachts” – multihull yachts longer than 33 feet overall – for training, test or development of AC62 components. (They are allowed to race surrogates, e.g. Extreme 40, or use surrogates purely for promotional sailing.)

No limits on up to three “development AC45 catamarans

Protocol Article 1.1 (bbb) (ii) makes an exception to the definition of “Surrogate Yacht.” As long as the lower part of the hulls have the same shape as AC45 hulls, the designers can build whatever they want on top.

In the OTUSA renderings, we can see that they have designed flared hulls to accommodate cockpits, a grinding pedestal and wheel steering. They have added hydraulics for daggerboard control, an end plate under the wing, and what looks like a pod under the platform. What else have they added that we can’t see? Probably wing controls. In addition, the rule would allow them to add motors to simulate additional grinding pedestals to provide the same amount of hydraulic pressure they will have available on their AC62 so they can test all their control systems.

No limits on wing sections and daggerboards

Protocol Article 35.7 limits teams to four “AC45
yachts, one of which will need to be class compliant for America’s Cup World Series racing. But there is no limit placed on the number of wings, daggerboards or any other component. Wing geometry is tightly restricted by the AC62 Class Rule, but building multiple wings would allow testing of different control systems. Teams can test a maximum of 12 daggerboard sections for their AC62, but any number of shapes on their “development AC45.”

We should be seeing plenty of interesting design ideas in 2015 and 2016!


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