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no multis?

ac opining

no multis?

A different and unattributed commentary on the AC. We give you it all, don’t we?

Plenty of water has passed under the bridge since the 33rd America’s Cup was decided and since plenty of people have chipped in and given their (unasked) opinion on the future of the America’s Cup. Funnily enough no-one has bothered to ask me for my opinion on the matter and I wouldn’t have bothered: too much politics and I don’t have a say in the matter (yet). However being involved in the sailing industry automatically involves you in all this and perhaps it even allows me to help people form their opinion on the direction of the AC. So with the title suggesting I might be ranting on about my opinion on the matter I hope to actually present a number of points that explains why multihulls (assuming a basic, considerable size of at least 60ft LOA) are not the right tool for the job without getting into the politics surrounding a proper America’s Cup campaign.

Before you, the reader, start labeling me as conservative or pro-lead mine, I think that it is inexplicable that ISAF dropped the multi from the Olympics (and with that from development fleets within national bodies). However I do think that the America’s Cup has never been about the outright fastest craft but about technological advances. And as in one of the cocktail hour interviews from the OTWA-team became clear, many of the insiders agree with me that the real advances for the sport will have been made in all the stuff done in the engineering departments and not really in sail systems or other visible technologies (even the hard sail was much like the ’88-rig in technology terms). But I am losing track here.

Multihulls are not viable for a multi-challenger America’s Cup for one simple reason: Space. Space is a commodity second in value only to time in any well organised project. For a multi-challenger event one must assume that two boats are required (the cost of a boat is negligible compared to logistics, personnel, sails, research, etcetera) to be competitive. Two multihulls will require considerable more dock space (you can probably park 4-6 monohulls side-by-side in the space of a same LOA multihull), then there is the required space for lifting and manoeuvrability, the shed space, etcetera). All of a sudden a single base has to be some 4-6 times wider to get a comparable set-up to what teams are used to in order to develop a viable challenge. I am not even going to discuss the introduction of solid sails as that would be a plain stupid idea, just look at the space (and manning) requirements for a single hard sail rigged boat and then multiply that by 6, 8 or even more.

So the multihull is unviable for the America’s Cup and not because they are not good match racing boats (that argument is void because we are not discussing match racing but the America’s Cup), or because they are slow to tack (it is just that the speed difference between going through the tack and up to speed is so much greater than on the old-style monohulls that you can’t lee-bow easily), or even because the blue-blazered aristocracy is against them.

What route do we have to go down then? Without going too opinionated, the history must be respected (all-weather, friendly competition, emphasis on sailing and design) and the most important thing of all is that we are discussing the America’s Cup (and accompanying selection series). It is not another regatta, it is not the pinnacle of match racing it is not primarily there to make the sponsors happy; The America’s Cup is an event like no-other, with rules set in the nineteenth century but still as relevant today as they were then and when that is realised I think the event will be the better for it.

If I am to share my opinion on anything, it must be on the ‘Deed of Gift’ and all those calling for amendments to it. Having read it a couple of times and looked back at history I am amazed at how valid it is today, possibly even more so than 150-something years ago. The Deed presents some guidelines to allow a challenger and defender to organise a race or series in whichever way they see fit if they can agree on the terms but if both parties are too stubborn it threatens with painfully impossible matches and rules. It almost forces both parties to behave like gentlemen and only when one or both parties are incredibly childish and incapable of acknowledging they are smaller than the event sets the terms and conditions.

Personally I’m looking forward to joining the 2012 J-Class regattas in the Solent.