AC45's maiden voyage
Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour was witness to a glimpse into the future of the America’s Cup with the first outing on the water today of the wing-sailed AC45 catamaran. The forerunner to the next generation of America’s Cup boats, the AC45 made its maiden voyage, the first of many sea trials planned over the coming weeks.
“Thanks to the efficiency of the New Zealand boat building industry and a huge effort by our team, the first AC45 is now ready for sea trials just a mere four months after this exciting new multihull class was first conceptualised,” said Tim Smyth, co-construction manager for Core Builders Composites of Warkworth, New Zealand.
The AC45 will be the centerpiece of the 2011-2012 America’s Cup World Series, which will start mid-2011. The high-tech carbon fibre catamaran is the first in a fleet of the new 45-foot one-designs that will be tested by America’s Cup teams before racing on the America’s Cup World Series circuit.
The AC45 is an essential element of the vision for the 34th America’s Cup, which will feature 72ft catamarans raced on San Francisco Bay in 2013. Focused on creating more on-the-water excitement for both the teams and the fans, the AC45 is designed for both speed and close racing. While capable of closing speeds of up to 30 knots, the AC45 was designed to remain nimble enough to handle the tight race courses planned by America’s Cup Race Management.
“The biggest challenge with multihulls is learning how much to anticipate. With the AC45 being a big, powerful multihull capable of tripling the wind speed, your reactions and skills are accelerated. It’s all about being ahead of the cycle,” said Oracle Racing skipper James Spithill, who was on the helm for the AC45's first outing. “I think the AC45 will enable all teams to advance to hard-core race mentality very quickly.”
The AC45 was designed by the Oracle Racing design and engineering team, which developed the catamaran on behalf of the America’s Cup community. At task was designing a boat that would not only meet the racing criteria, but could also fit inside a 40ft container, which is the shipping vessel for the America’s Cup World Series.
“The boat was designed for all-around performance so it can be sailed in wide range of conditions, and that means the next America's Cup will see races start on time,” said Ian Burns, Oracle Racing design coordinator. “Plus it’s a regatta boat, meant for lots of racing, so quick assembly and disassembly was a must to accommodate an active competition schedule.”
The AC45 had to be robust enough to sail through a wide wind range, from 5 to 30 knots, as well as survive in the event of collisions, which are foreseen as teams learn to adapt to multihull closing speeds.
Utilising the same technology used in the aerospace industry, the hulls are built in carbon epoxy with honeycomb cores, making them extremely stiff and light structures. The sandwich construction involves two carbon skins less than 1mm thick laminated over an ultra-light honeycomb core.
“The new America’s Cup is for those who are hungry for a challenge and the AC45 is really a fresh take on the multihull,” said Vincenzo Onorato, President, Mascalzone Latino.
“We plan to run tight race courses that will force boats to engage with each other, creating really close racing situations. Multihulls are very fast boats and will therefore reach the course boundaries sooner, so races will become a true test of skill and strategy, not just speed,” said Iain Murray, CEO, America’s Cup Race Management and Regatta Director. “The AC45 will fast-track teams to state-of-the-art wingsail technology and crew technique in the first season, and will greatly prepare them for the AC72.”
More images from Gilles Martin-Raget
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