Hell on Water: The AC45 

click to enlarge COURTESY AMERICA'S CUP EVENT AUTHORITY
  • Courtesy America's Cup Event Authority

Team Oracle USA revolutionized competitive sailing when it introduced the rigid sail wing at the 33rd America’s Cup in 2010. Taller and narrower than a traditional soft-sail, the hard wing allows more lift so that boats can pick up speed more efficiently.

The innovation led to the design of two new boats, the AC45 catamaran and the AC72 catamaran, prior to the 2012-13 America’s Cup World Series in The City Tuedsay through Aug. 26 and Oct. 2-7 and the 34th America’s Cup next summer.

The AC45 is powered by a 70-foot wing, hits speeds of up to 30 knots and is steered by a five-man crew, while the AC72 reaches more than 40 knots with an 11-man crew and a wing that towers 131 feet above the deck.

Both boats are catamarans, which means they feature two hulls as opposed to the conventional monohull yachts traditionally featured in America’s Cup races. The catamarans are lighter and faster because they garner stability from the width of the boat and the crew’s athleticism rather than the huge lead keel that’s central to monohulls.

The AC45 boats were designed specifically for the America’s Cup World Series, so that crews are given the opportunity to acclimate themselves to the catamarans before they jump into the larger AC72 boats for the main event in 2013. And because the AC45 boats are smaller (44-foot hulls vs. 
72-foot hulls), they can easily be shipped around the world, from Venice to San Francisco, for the AC World Series circuit.

The AC72 boats fly, so crews that try to push it will risk getting dumped.

“Part of the game with these catamarans is that the harder you push them, the more speed you get, but you’re also more at risk of capsizing,” said Oracle Team USA’s John Kostecki.

The speed of the new boats makes sailing a more spectator-friendly event, which is why San Francisco is the perfect setting.
“We’ll be going as fast as the cars crossing the Golden Gate Bridge,” Kostecki said.

SPECS SHEET

  • Hull length: 44 feet
  • Maximum beam: 22.6 feet
  • Mast height: 70.5 feet
  • Mast height with extension: 
83.5 feet
  • Maximum draft: 8.8 feet
  • Displacement: 3,086 pounds
  • Wing area: 900 square feet
  • Wing area with extension: 
992 square feet
  • Jib area: 516 square feet
  • Gennaker area: 1,345 square feet
  • Crew: 5 people

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Paul Gackle

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