Earlier this week, US Sailing featured an interview between noted America’s Cup commentator and sailor, Gary Jobson and NYYC American Magic’s skipper and Executive Director Terry Hutchinson.
The show ran on US Sailing’s The Starboard Portal – an initiative to keep sailors tuned into their sport during the various CV-19 Lockdowns.
Despite the disruption that has affected the New York Yacht Club’s America’s Cup challenge for the America’s Cup, Hutchinson says they have been able to continue building, as have their fellow challenger on the other side of the Atlantic, INEOS Team UK.
“We missed the opportunity to see where we are vulnerable,” was Hutchinson’s comment on not being able to sail in the two cancelled America’s Cup World Series regattas in Cagliari and Sardinia. “It’s going to require us to lean that much harder on the design side of the program,” he added.
In hindsight, Hutchinson believes the team’s test boat nicknamed “The Mule” by team backer Roger Penske, will prove to be a significant asset for the team, given the disruption caused to the ACWS program – caused by the delay in the delivery of the carbon foil arms supplied to all teams by Persico Marine, and then by the CV-19 pandemic. “When we look back at the program, it helped jumped start us, and got us going in the right direction.”
He revealed the top speed out of the 38fter – just under the maximum 12-metre length permitted for test boats – is in the high 20kts upwind and 44kts downwind. “In a 38ft boat your senses are turned on at that point,” he grinned. “The sense of speed is a lot more than on Defiant” [the team’s first AC75]. It’s an impressive little boat for what it is,” he added.
Those speeds compare quite favourably with the AC72’s used in the 2013 America’s which hit the high 40kts downwind. The AC50, used in Bermuda and now refined into the F50’s used in SailGP, are slightly faster again topping out at the high 40kts and occasionally just over the 50kt mark. However, he points out that reliability is just as important as speed as the boats will have to sail on back to back days. “That is going to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of a reliable boat. When you implement the optimum piece of equipment, it had better be reliable day in and day out, because that is what will be required to win.”
Like INEOS Team UK skipper, Ben Ainslie, Hutchinson likes the Luna Rossa hull shape of the first launched AC75’s. “The aerodynamics are really nice.” He adds that all teams will be looking at the other’s first design attempts and then incorporate the best feature of each along with their own new thinking into their second AC75.
He expects their second boat to be finished in late August/early September and it will be flown straight to New Zealand, without sailing in the USA. Defiant, their first AC75 will also go to New Zealand. However, some parts will be taken off it and used on the race boat. But it will always be in a state of readiness. “It will be an insurance policy in case we have a massive crash in Boat 2
He added that the timelines had now become tight for all the teams – and that none were in control of their respective country’s situation – a reference to the various and shifting CV-19 lockdowns and restrictions that were in place. There are certain things that we can control, and we work to manage the risk element of it all, and certain things that are out of our control. “It (the CV-19 situation) is so far out of control that when we make a decision, we make one that has a certain level of contingency to it.
The CV-19 restrictions that are currently in place in Florida, essentially making it impossible for the team to sail and stay in compliance. “We were set up to sail in a way that respected the onboard requirements, but it just didn’t make any sense,” he said with a resigned shrug of the shoulders.
It would seem likely that American Magic will produce an all-round boat, that is a skiff hull concept, that is geared to sail within the 6.5kt to 23kt wind limits that will prevail for the regatta, rather than pitch the boat design into the expected weather window for that time of year in Auckland.
“If the boat is so geared to one condition, we probably won’t win the regatta. We need to be able to cover a wide range of wind strengths, so we don’t take ourselves out of it.”
Despite this being his fifth America’s Cup, “this one is such a different aspect of sailing – and one that I have never experienced. You get excited to go to work every day because you know you’re going to learn something new.”
“There’s an unbelievable opportunity in front of us, but it would be remiss to say that there are three other teams, all with the same goal, who are very talented – and you have to respect that. But I can see the pathway and opportunity to succeed in front of us. I’m looking forward to it!”