At least 30 years ago I hitchhiked a ride on the Coast Guard’s press boat to watch an America’s Cup race at Newport. Just showed my business card that stated I was a publisher. I didn’t really follow the races much until this year, when I became obsessed with the American team’s unbelievable comeback.
The USA/Oracle boat was down 1-8. The team had actually won three races, but it was penalized two wins for something illegal done by a crew member that the skipper and owners supposedly didn’t know about. Lose that team member…New Zealand needed just one more victory to reach the magic number of nine wins, and it could take the cup home.
By making adjustments to its boat, changing the on-board tactician and never giving up, America won the next three races. At 4-8 I bumped into the contest and was hooked. I followed it like a fanatic.
In the old days, you couldn’t see much from the shore and the TV broadcasts were either nonexistent or dismal events. People used to say watching a race was like watching grass grow. But these days there are on-board cameras and microphones, astonishing computer graphics, helicopter views. It’s thrilling.
Little by little, race by race, the Oracle team kept winning, and eventually it was a tie game. Guess who won?
You can see the first 18 races at this link. The 19th and final race is right here. Even if you are not a fan of these huge and unbelievably fast boats (50 mph), you should glimpse at what the coverage looks like these days.
And the boats are unlike anything from the old days. See the video above. They are catamarans that rise up out of the water and ride on ski-like runners called hydrofoils (foils) . Crewed by 11, the AC72 catamaran is a lightweight speedster that measures in at 72 feet long by 46 feet wide and weighs 13,000 pounds. The AC72 is powered by a wing sail that stands 131 feet tall and covers 2,798 square feet in area.
The dimensions add up to an athletic yacht that’s long and light, wide and stable, and possesses incredible speed potential. When the windspeed hits 18 knots, the AC72 sails at 35 knots (40 mph).
When the boatspeed reaches 43 knots (50 mph), a speed easily achieved off the wind, the catamaran is capable of sailing its 72-foot length in a single second. By comparison, the sloops used in the 2007 America’s Cup had a top average speed of 12 knots, meaning they sailed their 80-foot length in four seconds.