Tag: Sailboating

America’s Cup Sailrace: USA-17 Takes 1st Round !

Off the Spanish coast, today was a very good day to be sailing the BMW Oracle USA 17 trimaran, which overcame a funky start with penalties and an early jump to the lead by the Swiss boat Alinghi, to win the 1st round of the America’s Cup.  

The Oracle USA-17 won by 15 minutes and 28 seconds on the 40 nautical mile racecourse, reaching an incredible 22 knots of speed, about 3 times the air windspeed over the Mediterranean, which was very light.  At the end of the first 20 mile turnaround point, the Oracle USA-17 had not only caught up to and passed the ploddering Swiss Alinghi, but had a whopping 1,200 meter lead of nearly a mile.


Oracle, bankrolled by Silicon Valley billionaire Larry Ellison, zoomed into the starting box with its windward and centre hulls out of the water and Spithill (note: Jimmy Spithill, the Aussie captain of the Oracle USA-17) steered straight at Alinghi. The Swiss wanted to sail in front of Oracle, but didn’t have enough speed and both boats had to tack. Oracle raised a protest flag, and the umpire in a trailing boat concurred.

That meant Alinghi, funded and steered by Swiss biotech billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli, had to perform a 270-degree penalty turn at some point in the 64-kilometre race.

Spithill somehow stalled Oracle over the line early with less than 15 seconds before the starting gun, and Alinghi sprinted off the line. Oracle had to go back and restart, putting it well behind.

Given that these 2 triple carbon hulled sailboats, with sails a big as a jetliner’s wing, might be roughly equal to each other in speed, (because wind conditions vary, the boat that goes “faster” on a relatively calm day may not actually be the faster boat if that other boat goes faster on a day with a good stiff breeze with better manueverability, and the other boat can’t be steadied nor steered as well, or worse, it falls apart )  which one ultimately succeeds is going to come down to how the sailing crew can make the thing respond to the unexpected, and do things like tacking (turning.)

So far, in calm conditions, this looks very good for Oracle USA-17, especially since pre race hype seemed to imply Alinghi, being Swiss, had that European engineering cachet of superior speed.  But will she hold together if they go out in a real wind and not a hamster fart ?

Photos of the race may be seen here:


The next round of the America’s Cup is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb 16, depending on wind and wave conditions.

Too Big To Sail: Cup Race Canceled Again

The America’s Cup sailboat race’s first round has once again been canceled due to the fickleness of winter weather crossing the North Atlantic to the Mediterranean.  On Monday, it was a lack of wind off the coast of Valencia, Spain, today, it was too much wind, over 15 knots, which was causing waves 4 to 6 feet high, or up to nearly 2 meters.  The winds Wednesday were gusting up to 25 knots. ( A knot is 1.15 miles per hour, aka .514 meters per second.  per wikipedia, 1 meter per second = 2 knots is a fast way to make the conversion from European meters per second, when they use it to describe windspeed. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K…  )

Since these fancy, triple hulled sailboats used to compete in the Cup can attain top racing speeds of up to 3 times the wind’s, the race is not allowed to proceed with the insurance company’s blessings unless the wind is under 15 knots, to keep the boats at 45 mph or under, and the wave chop needs to be 3 feet or less.  The America’s Cup race goes 40 miles at a time, 20 miles out, turn, and 20 miles back, for 3 races to determine the winner.  The Swiss are the current defenders of the Cup, with their boat the “Alinghi” and an international team formed by Ernesto Bertarelli.  (Alinghi is an invented name and does not translate into something cute from Italian.)

A photo of the United State’s entry, the Oracle trimaran, at dock can be seen here. Note the size of the outrigger to the right side, and the thickness of the center sail mast rising out of the middle:  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/spo…

Another photo of the Oracle, under sail and airborn except for one outrigger touching the water (why one does not want big waves to be smacking the thing under speed) can be seen here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T…

An excellent story on the effect of even tiny variation in wind speed on these 2 huge, swift, but delicate racing machines can be found here:   http://www.timesonline.co.uk/t…  

If the boats can’t withstand the weather-  the mast can snap at the base, and the sails can literally fall off.

Under normal sailing conditions, the load at the base of the mast on Alinghi V is 100 tonnes, equivalent to a fully laden Boeing 757 sitting on the top of the mast that is supported on a metal ball barely bigger than the tow hitch on a family car. Even a modest gust of wind or a small wave can see this load rise dramatically.


For Alinghi’s opponents aboard USA-17, BMW Oracle Racing’s radical trimaran, the issue is more about the complexity of the 230ft wingmast that towers above the boat. Arguably more suited to stronger winds, its Achilles’ heel lies in the number and complexity of components that are required to control the wing. A small failure could quickly lead to a chain reaction and a catastrophic failure.

The race will again be attempted to start on Friday.


http://www.sacbee.com/830/stor… (subscription required, merely linked for attribution)