zur Navigation


Q&A: How Long is the Race Course?  Feb 11, 00:05

q-a3Our old friend Kimball Livingston of San Francisco, a veteran yachting and Cup journalist and longtime member of the venerable St Francis YC, emailed us today saying that the upcoming issue of SAIL Magazine (for which he writes) will have a primo special section on the America's Cup. We look forward to seeing it. In the meantime, Kim asked a question the answer to which may interest some of you....

Q: How long will the race course be during the Louis Vuitton Cup, and will it be the same for the AC Match?

A: The course length is variable between 8.6 and 12.6 nautical miles. The configuration is the same for the LVC and Match, and we expect the maximum length course normally to be used for the LVC Semis and Finals as well as the AC Match.

The LVC Notice of Race was published by Regatta Director Dyer Jones on New Year's Eve. Among many other things, it covers details of the race course that the Race Committee will use. The NOR for the AC 32 Match (between the ultimate Challenger and the Defender Alinghi) is out in draft form but has yet to be finalized. However, because of the draft and well-known TV time constraints, we know how the course for the Match will sort out as well. Overall:

+ LVC and AC Match courses will always be four-leg, windward-leewards, same as for all the Acts. The first and last legs are .3 nautical miles longer than legs two and three because the gate (which ends leg two) is set .3nm to windward of the start/finish line.

+ Overall the RC is aiming for a race to last about 90 minutes -- this to fit into a two-hour TV show including an intro, the pre-start, and a post-race show -- to hit that targe the RC will vary the length of the course according to wind strength.

+ For Round Robin 1 of the LVC, the courses will need to be shorter to have time to sail the scheduled two two races per day. Under the rules, in light air they could be as short as 8.6nm (a 2.3nm first leg). Probably more like 2.8nm on a normal Valencia 10-14 knot afternoon. Longer if its windier.

+ In RR2, the Semifinals and Finals of the LVC, when only one race per day is scheduled, you can expect the races to be longer than in RR1. The maximum length permitted under the NOR is 12.6nm (a 3.3nm first leg). The 12.6nm course will be the norm in the Match, hence we Challengers have asked the RC to try to use it as much as possible during the LVC Semis and Finals to get the Challengers practiced up for it -- the exceptions being if we have encounter several days of bad weather and, God forbid, have to go back to running two races a day to finish up the Semis or Finals on time, or on a light air day when there is only 7 knots or so of breeze).

By comparison, in Auckland we normally sailed three-lap courses of slightly more than 18 miles.

The three-lap race course used in 2003. For 2007, it's the same windward-leeward configuration but only two laps, and the leeward mark has been replaced by a "gate".

Q&A #2: Best America's Cup Literature?  Aug 28, 16:42

Thanks for your many kind comments and emails after we posted Q&A #1. We have received a dozen or so good questions, and are endeavoring to get them answered authoritatively and posted here ASAP. Here's #2:

Q: What literature about the America's Cup do you recommend? I am particularly interested in Cup people past and present. --Marc Zimmermann.

A: Marc, thanks for the tough question. Over the years there have been many books, good and not so, written about the Cup and some of the leading personalities. Here are some of my favorites that I know are on the bookshelves of many who are students of the Cup:

+ The Lawson History of the America's Cup: published in September 1896, it is widely considered the first authoritative book on the Cup albeit the author(s), it is iwdely acknowledged, had a bit of an axe to grind with respect to the New York YC.

+ Then there is Ranulf Rayner's book, The Story of the America's Cup 1851-2003 first published in 1996 and recently re-issued and updated through AC 31 (2003). More of a coffee table or even art book (paintings by Tim Thompson depict scenes from the Cups history), it covers in some detail many of the Cups personalities over the 150+ years.

+ Keelhauled by Doug Riggs was published in 1986 following the win in 1983 by Royal Perth YC that ended NYYC's 132-year reign -- the so-called "longest winning streak in sports." It's sub-title "History of Unsportsmanlike Conduct and the America's Cup" notwithstanding, Doug's book offers an interesting perspective into the personalities, strengths and foibles of many of the Cup's key players of both the 19th and 20th centuries.

+ Published in 1989, John Rousmaniere's A Picture History of the America's
has some of the best early photos of the Cup and is a balanced overall presentation by one of the sport's great contemporary authors.

+ Not a book, but an excellent online article on the Cup's history from a more technical perspective is Halsey Herreshoff's History of America's Cup Racing.

However, it's such a good question I thought it wise to get another perspective -- and from a European who has read practically every AC book ever written, journalist and author Bob Fisher (GBR). He is nearly through writing his own, exhaustive book on the history of the Cup. From Fish we received this insightful email today after he had read our (draft) answer above:

"There are one or two points in the answer to Marc's question that need clarifying and correcting. The Lawson History was published in a limited edition of 3,000 at Boston in 1902. Thomas's axe was that he had refused to join the New York Yacht Club, and that club could not countenance a boat owned outside its membership to compete for the right to defend, so Lawson's Independence was refused entry to the trials that were held in 1901. Ironically, the shape of Independence appeared to have an influence on Nat Herreshoff when he designed Reliance in 1903. Whereas Boudoin Crowninshield didn't produce the right engineering to make the great scow-form work, Herreshoff did.

"Strangely, The Boston Globe in an editorial of August 6th 1983 took a similar view to that of its former local citizen, Lawson, when criticising the NYYC over its policy towards Ben Lexcen and the winged keel of Australia II. It concluded: 'What is disturbing is cry-baby poor sportsmanship. Any group with custody of an artifact called the America's Cup represents the nation. The New York Yacht Club should remember that grace under pressure, fair play and even a sense of humor is expected of alleged sportsmen. May the best boat win.'

"Many of the books written about the Cup are by, or co-authored by, those who have been intimately involved as competitors [or managers] and are thus not totally objective. For this reason, those to which I have referred most in my researches for my book that will be published on May 31st next year, are:

+ The America's Cup - an informal history - by Ian Dear.

+ America's Cup 1851-1983 by John Rousmaniere.

+ An America's Cup Treasury by Gary Jobson that highlights the pictures of Edwin Levick."

-- Bob Fisher

Marc, I hope that helps, and thanks for the question. Perhaps some of our readers will chime in with their reactions to the above list, and their own favorites and recommendations in the comment section below.

With for the first time 13 pre-regattas ("Acts") and a handful of additional exhibition events such as the German Sailing Grand Prix at Kiel earlier this month (above), AC 32 is writing a new chapter in the long history of the Cup.

Q&A #1: What's a Trim Tab?  Aug 17, 09:33

q-aSince the outset of this campaign, our marketing department led by Mirko Groeschner, along with Judy Sim and Karen Webb of Oracle Corp, Ralf Hussmann & Co. at BMW, and latterly Bjoern Widemann at Allianz have made it a top priority to inform and entertain -- not only our VIP guests, but anyone and everyone who might be or become interested in the Cup. Chris Dickson gets it, too, and has supported these efforts more than any other Cup team leader with whom I have been involved (and that includes top guns Paul Cayard and Dennis Conner who are also savvy in this regard). With a few stubborn exceptions, the rest of our team have as well. A big and refreshing difference from the rather private affair the Cup was not too many years ago.

(For those of you who read German, a couple days back there was a very nice article in Austria's "Der Standard" newspaper about the good job our team does helping race-day guests understand the AC -- with thanks for the tip, and article placement, to BMW's Nicole Stempinksy.)

Hence this blog. As our readership continues to grow we are finding that more and more of you following our team and "the BOB" (as some in the media now call it -- for Bmw Oracle Blog) are not necessarily sailing experts. Indeed, many of you, it turns out, are newcomers to our sport and the AC. Great!

And we get questions. Most we have answered by email, or have worked into a general post. The volume is increasng, so with this post we begin a new category, and service, here on the BOB: Q&A. You send us a question -- email it to blog[at]tfehman[dot]com -- and we try our best to answer it ASAP and ideally by an expert on our team. Fire away: no serious question will be considered too basic, or too advanced.

The question that inspired this new BOB feature came a day or so ago from a top Cup journalist, new (in AC32) to our sport. He asked:

Q: "What's a trim tab?"

A: A trim tab is a "flap" -- an adjustable surface like the flap on the trailing edge of an airplane wing -- that is attached by a hinge to the trailing edge of the keel.

When the boat tacks the tab is swung from one side to the other, around 5-12 degrees either side of centerline. This gives the keel an asymmetric shape that produces more lift. It also produces more drag, but if designed and used correctly the extra drag is more than offset by extra lift -- meaning the boat goes forward more and sideways less.

The trim tab allows a smaller keel that can produce the same lift as a bigger keel without a tab, so you don't have to drag a bigger keel downwind. Little or no trim tab is used downwind (the tab is on centerline).

If enough trim tab angle is used, an America's Cup yacht will actually make "negative leeway" -- the yacht no longer slides a bit sideways but actually "claws" to windward. This, however, usually results in a lot of exta drag.

Teams spend a fair bit of money, time and energy on the design of the keel fin and tab (to say nothing of the bulb and wings) -- trying to find the optimum size and shape overall, and best tab angles, for the various wind and sea conditions, and trimming, steering and sail combinations.

Most ACC yachts (and other classes that allow trim tabs) have an inner, smaller steering wheel to adjust the tab. Some use other means such as a rope and cleat arrangement, so the absence of an inner wheel does not necessarily mean no trim tab. An inner wheel can also be used to control a forward rudder ("canard").

--Ian "Fresh" Burns (AUS, design coordinator & sailing team)

Ian Vickers (NZL, shore team) wet sanding the keel of USA 76 during the Trapani Acts last autumn. Ian is working on the keel fin (forward); the vertical line is the slight crack between the keel fin and the trim tab on the trailing edge of the keel.

At Kiel last week, Dicko steering USA 71 with the larger wheel; the smaller, inner wheel controls the trim tab. The helmsman usually controls the trim tab as well, however in some situations the tactician does it. This photo was taken between races, and tactician Sten Mohr (DEN) is aft signalling the Chase Boat.

Today's Q&A expert: design coordinator and part-time sailing team member (navigator) Ian "Fresh" Burns -- on his fifth America's Cup campaign.

OK, so much for Q&A #1. Any comments on these (and any other posts) always appreciated. Don't hesitate to argue, politely please, with our answers, or add to them. Just click on "comment" below. Also, you can ask a new question for us there, as all comments posted are automatically forwarded to your Ed. via email.

P.S. While most do, not all ACC keels have trim tabs. Perhaps grist for a future Q&A.