The new America’s Cup design

8 Dec
Extra terrestrial or innovative new America’s Cup design?

You may have noticed that I have not weighed in on the new monohull design for the next America’s Cup. You may have seen it. The hull is pretty ordinary but it’s the strange appendages that stick out each side to allow the boat to foil that has many people atwitter. Frankly I am not that impressed. I have always gone with the notion that pretty boats sail fast. Yes I know that’s a tad simplistic but I believe it and over the years I think I have been right. This design is anything but pretty. It looks like some kind of space alien. Someone in the comments section on YouTube said it looked like a dog peeing. At the risk of challenging the design team, who I know are infinitely more smarter than me, I am going to say that I don’t think that this is going to work very well.
Let me explain. The biggest beef about the last America’s Cup was that there were no passing lanes. The boats got up on their foils and banged the corner. Tacking was slow especially before they figured out how to keep the boat in the air through each tack. As soon as the boat dropped back into the water the speed dropped precipitously. People moaned that they missed the “old” days when monohulls would slam tack their way up the windward leg closely covering their opponent. Catch a good wind shift and you could break through. Man that was racing and I agree. That was racing. In the video that the AC technical team put out it showed an animation of two of the new designs doing just that. Short tacking up a windward leg. But to my mind that’s never going to happen. Maybe I am wrong but it seems to me that this design is going to have the same problem that the multihulls had. Tacking is slow and the boats are going to drop off their foils. I am guessing that it’s going to take a 75-foot monohull much longer to get back on its foils than it did the AC50’s. My bet is that their best option will be to bang a corner, stay on the foils for as long as possible, work on boat speed and hope that you have chosen the right corner.
Here’s the other thing. Lead is slow. There is no getting around it. Add lead to a boat and it’s going to slow it down. This design has lead in both foils. When sailing upwind the windward foil (full of lead) is there to counterbalance the pressure on the sails. The leeward foil is there for foiling but it too is full of lead. How quick do you think these boats are going to get back up on their sticks after a tack? Not very is my opinion.
The other consideration is cost. Bigger boats cost more. I am not a boat builder but  many boat builders have told me that the new monohull design will be more costly to build than the AC50’s. One area that I think is interesting and definitely cost saving, is that they are considering going back to soft sails. No more wing masts. Personally I loved the wing masts but there was a very serious cost involved to crane the mast into the boat in the morning and crane it back out in the evening. The boats are dry sailed. The masts had to come out.

To be honest I think that this design is not really a monohull. It’s a trimaran in disguise. It’s not unlike the concept that we put forward with SpeedDream a few years ago. SpeedDream was a catamaran disguised as a monohull.  The lead in the keel flying out of the water was there in place of the windward hull of a catamaran. This design is a trimaran. The boat is the main hull and the appendages are the two other hulls. Remember that a multihull only really starts to move fast when the windward hull(s) come out of the water. Until then they are like a monohull but only with a lot more drag.

SpeedDream. Keel cants over 80 degrees and comes out of the water when the boat heels. The bulb is the same as a windward hull of a catamaran
One aspect of this concept that I do like is that much of the boats performance is being handed back to the crew. They are not there to pump hydraulics around the boat. They are there to manage the sails and grind the grinders and judging by the video it’s going to take a huge amount of skill to sail one of those boats especially to keep it up on it’s foil.

I really don’t want to be negative.  I love innovation and I really appreciate that a lot of time has gone into developing a creative new idea for the 36th America’s Cup. I am not sure what else they could have done, but I do have one idea. They could have stayed with multihulls…:)

You can watch the video of the new America’s Cup design here.

You can watch some SpeedDream videos here, here and here.

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This article was syndicated from Great Circle Sails Blog


  1. Marcus Allan

    The concept is good in theory but far too dangerous. The leeward foil can not be retracting up in the air like that. Think of real racing conditions. It needs to retract down like the multihulls and not be a obstruction or have the potential to do harm to the crew or the other boats. The final design will be more speed more thrills but there can not be a trade off in foil design.

  2. Erik Kucera

    I am all for innovation and advancement in sailing using our modern materials and technologies. I like the idea of unlimited racing designs to see where we can take this into the future. The things that are learned by these efforts eventually trickle down to cruising boats and day sailors…making them faster, more comfortable and easier to handle with less crew. It seems to me that racing rules have been largely holding us back from where we could be now. Yes I understand that some people have a strong sentimental attachment to tradition, and it has it’s place, but shouldn’t there be at least one venue that allows reinventing, imagining, and building boats to see what is possible? Please don’t be afraid people…you can still drag a bunch of lead around through the water or spend your days polishing brightwork if you like…let others find out what else is possible.
    As for this design, it looks like another step backward to me…putting foils on a monohull just to please the mono folks ends up pleasing no one. Clearly multihulls are the future…a little embarrassing to just be “discovering” what the Polynesians and Micronesians knew a thousand years ago. Much aloha

  3. Richard N Robinson

    I just finished watching the 1995 America’s Cup races featuring the Women’s Team. I then had to re-adjust my thinking and memory of what a sailboat race really is. I “thought” I really enjoyed the last America’s Cup races on the foiling catamarans over the mono-hulled boats of the past. I WAS WRONG!. Watching these 1995 crews work the sail changes in conditions varying from stormy to near calm and making on-board repairs was really exciting. Watching a drag race, less so….

  4. Cary Bonenberger

    I grew up on the east coast of the US and have sailed most of my life, starting with dinghies and progressed on up through the big race boats.watching the Americas cup races have always been a passion until the multihulls came on the scene. If I want to watch high tech high speed hair on fire racing I tune in to formula one race cars.i have stayed awake many nights until the wee hours of the morning watching the cup races when they were held abroad. When the monohulls were pushed aside I lost all interest. I miss the close quarter tack for tack racing where the crews were as much a part of the speed of a monohull as that of the boat. In my minds eye there is nothing prettier than a cup class monohull flying a huge spinaker heading for the finish line with a competitor hot on their heels! I think that the foiling monohulls and foiling multihulls have their place, just not in the Americas cup racing!!! Maybe at the young age of 73 I have a problem wrapping my head around this star wars syndrome.

  5. Howard Rosenberg

    I humbly suggest a NEW Cup be created for an Unlimited Class. Why not have 2 worldwide classes: America’s Cup with traditional monohul designs like before. Add new cup race called “Unlimited Cup” for those who want to experiment with new designs agreed upon by the teams.
    It’s about time for 2 radically different race designs.
    This would invite more interest in sailing. I bet that there would be boat builders that would be glad to sponsor either of these classes.
    For me, I’m having a ball in Southern California Club races in my stage of life.

  6. John Gregory

    The AmCup died when it was taken from leadmine monohulls. As you said, the tacking duels were REAL racing. Covering and tactics that take more than keeping the boat “on the foils” were as important as having a fast design. I’m done with the America’s Cup unless it goes back to either Twelves or the IACC boats, that latter only if they freeze the rule like the Twelve Meter rule.

  7. JimboJones

    I have raced dinghies and phrf for 20 years and I love racing but sailboat racing at the speed of a person jogging is boring to watch. I Loved the last ac, I Loved the speed, I Loved the boats. I thought it was exciting , dynamic and inspiring. I don’t understand the dislike from parts of the sailing community. Going back to old school mono’s will just further the perception of sailing as an activity akin to golf or polo, something for retirees and stuffy old money types.

  8. Jerry Grennan

    Please back it up, go to non-foiling monohull designs with an upper limit to length and soft sails. All of the parts of the endeavor must be from the country they’re sailing for. Everything the designers, the crew, the builders the sail maker, the sail material, everything from the home country. The originals were working boat and the new designs should reflect cruiser design. the course should be set so that all points of sail should be required.. Allow electric winches be the only power allowed. we don’t need galley slaves (grinders). They must be judged as sea worthy and be able to sail in light and heave winds.

  9. Daniel J Irwin, CPA

    The AC 70 cats in SF were an amazing spectacle in the tradition of the J Class and 12 meter boats. The AC 50’s were boring. I hope these new boats create an awe inspiring spectacle…Like boats from the past.

  10. George Bailey

    Racing Dinghy’s and smaller PHRF since 1957. Foils are technically amazing but foilers do zero for me as race boats. I still have a Moth but I just can’t get interested in foilers, even at 11′. A long, very light mono-hull kept upright mostly by crew weight (minimum lead) will make its own wind and be very fast by all but foiler standards. Makes for very exciting racing, if you are onboard. Never cared all that much for being a spectator but I guess the AC is a spectator’s sport. Did not like the last AC except for the video out-takes of scary moments. Its just dangerous but boring racing. Let’s see what tech advances can do for a light-weight non=foiling monohull.

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