America’s Cup Challenger Finals – Clearing the Fog, Or: What To Watch

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The 2013 America’s Cup challenger finals begin Saturday. Here are a couple of things to watch in what is sure to be the most exciting sailing any of us have ever witnessed.

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Number one, the Kiwis have so far been in a class of their own in terms of boat handling, raw speed, and tactics. Our guess is that they have been racing their computer predictions rather than the opposition. Have the Italians closed the gap enough to push the New Zealanders, and get themselves ready for the final against Oracle?

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Oracle, like everyone else, has been off the pace from what we can tell, until recently. They have the advantage of using two boats, so they have a bench mark for boat speed evaluation. They now have their foiling technique in hand, so the question becomes boat speed. If the Kiwis lose, it will be due to a lack of two boat training for their work up.

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By now everyone knows that foiling is the answer to speed.

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Stay on the foils, even when rounding marks and jibing, and you make big gains on any opposition that slips into hull in the water mode. Luna Rossa has learned this lesson.

The biggest question now is have the Kiwis been sand bagging? Do they have another gear we haven’t seen? Specifically, can they achieve better VMG to windward by reaching off five to ten degrees and foiling to the weather mark? We’ve not seen this yet, but our guess is that the same folks who were the first to fly downwind, will one day soon show us an AC 72 that foils to windward. If they do, and the others don’t, game over.

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The speed potential of these incredible machines is just beginning to be tapped. Kenny Read (North Sails president) was out for a ride on the Italian and Kiwi boats the past week. The Kiwi sail took place in some breeze, and he saw 45+ knots on the steam gauge. Over the next few weeks expect this number to go higher.

We plan to be glued to the computer watching this drama unfold.

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Our guess is that by the end of the weekend we should all know a great deal more.

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Anyone for flying upwind on foils? 

Posted by Steve Dashew  (August 16, 2013)

2 Responses to “America’s Cup Challenger Finals – Clearing the Fog, Or: What To Watch”

  1. Bill Says:

    Very exciting – to quote the NZ Herald today “Barker yesterday confirmed his team have made significant speed gains in training over the past two weeks since modifications were made to their boat. “We set a new top speed record the other day at the end of practice,” said Barker. “I can’t say what it is, but almost every day the boat’s going faster and faster and becoming more efficient. There are pretty good smiles coming off the boat.”” Wow!
    The article also strongly suggests Team NZ has mastered foiling upwind, so yes, potentially better VMG to windward as you suggest. But they probably won’t be showcasing that against Luna Rossa unless they really have to – expect them to keep their powder dry until they meet their nemesis Oracle.

  2. Steve Dashew Says:

    Thanks Bill:
    SetSailors may want to check out for an interview video with Dean Barker, and an article at