It is less than one week to the America’ s Cup, and for the people that will follow the show the tension is building up. Rumors are that ETNZL is a bit better, that Artemis is fast and will probaly end up fighting it out with the kiwis for the Louis Vuitton, that Oracle is trying to get the bikes onboard and that the french and Land Rover BAR are the slowest and that Softbank Team Japan is somewhere in the middle…
Is this real, who knows? A lot of teams have sandbagged in the training prior to the Cup in AC history, though all what TNZ made makes sense. It is interesting to see how big speed differences are due to foil design differences, and that brings me to a totally different subject, the new Nacra foiling. Here we have a huge problem going to come about: when you start foiling and speeds go up, even tiny differences in shape generate big differences in performance, making sure the playing field will be not even. Already now top teams have engaged designers and AC experts to learn on how to tune their Nacra? All in… let’s say a grey area for the rules. From a technical point of view it is impossible to produce such a sofisticate piece of equipment with equal perfomance without spending lots of money, a well build and equal performing Nacra could never cost less than 80.000 euros a piece as probably only individual computer numerical control milling of the foils would guarantee equal performance, surely a two piece mould with normal building tollerances is absolutely not good enough.
In a slow boat small differences have no real impact on performance and the athlete can shine. The faster you go, same differences will create huge drag and speed differences… on top of that, racing rules, as they are now, are not really suitable for foiling cats converging to a leeward gate at 50 plus knots of speed coming toghether, not only when you fall from the foil the deceleration is massive and the converging boat has got no brakes😉, so even with thirty flying objects coming together risks of severe to deadly injuries are real. Are we just going to do the same as for the previous AC and have to wait for a massive crash and somebody loosing his life prior to find reasonable solutions? Or should we not start thinking now about it? Can we have a normal start and just a leeward gate. Do we need to introduce a minimum distance that this crafts have to respect to make sure they don’t injure themselves?
Well… again this is a triple leap of faith, let’s keep fingers crossed and hope none of our mates gets killed. The romantic times of Fangio and Nuvolari are long gone, and we can use forward thinking to make sure sailing stays what it has always been, the most beatiful sport on Earth… for the sailors, without too much risk.