Thursday, June 25, 2009

Monohull versus multihull: will inclusion of the big multis affect the match racing game?

[Source: World Match Racing Tour] With all the legal wrangling in the past few years over the format and future of the America’s Cup, there’s been much speculation on what its effects might be on match race sailing.

The event has always been a driving force for enticing new talent into this most exciting form of the sport, even though match race talent has not necessarily been a prerequisite for success: most often, the fastest and best prepared boat will win almost regardless of match race tactics.

Nonetheless, the gradual evolutionary tightening of the design box into near-equal boats, as seen in the last 2007 event sailed in the Version 5 America’s Cup Class, made match race skill more important than ever. Accordingly, many of the teams were regularly out on the World Match Racing Tour honing their skills to use throughout that cycle of the Cup.

And even without a clear future on the format of the next Cup, many teams have remained active on the Tour just to stay polished in their skills should there be any break in the legal logjam.

A milestone in sailing, BMW Oracle launch their 90x90 trimaran. Anacortes, 24 August 2008. Video copyright BMW Oracle

But with that impasse seemingly broken now with a Deed of Gift (DoG) match between the Defender and Challenger as looking as a likely solution, and that match likely being sailed in huge multi-hulls, will it have any effect on match race sailing?

First, it should be said that multihull match racing is not without precedent: since the early 1960’s there has been held at somewhat irregular intervals an event the US media then called the ‘Little America’s Cup’. Sailed mostly in C-Class catamarans, this development class has been at the forefront of technology and design for inshore multihulls just as the ‘real’ America’s Cup has been for various inshore monohull types used over the years. In these contest, invariably the fastest boat won the series.

And as those who witnessed the 1988 America’s Cup observed, when pairing a multihull against a monohull there is no contest in speed: the multihull will always be faster.

But multihulls by their nature are not very manoeuvrable, so the boat-on-boat action would likely be quite different than in monohulls, prompting completely different tactical and strategic decisions. Knowing this, the Defender and Challenger teams are now training as much as possible to get to know their boats, with one immediate effect on Tour sailing: Alinghi helmsman Ed Baird has elected to drop his Tour Card for this year.

BMW Oracle's BOR90 during sail tests. San Diego, 28 November 2008. Photo copyright Gilles Martin-Raget / BMW Oracle

But what other effect might a DoG match have on the sport? Will it continue to attract and inspire newcomers to match racing or even sailing in general? Tour regular Sebastian Col (FRA) of the French Match Racing Team/K-Challenge is upbeat. "This match is a good thing for the sport of sailing,” he says to the World Yacht Racing Forum. “It will help the evolution of the technology. I am not convinced about the sporting aspects of the event, but the AC has always been a technological challenge. Now will it change the face of sailing? I don’t think so. It is giving too much importance to the America’s Cup. Sailing offers other disciplines that are great; it is a very rich sport."

Another Tour regular, Paolo Cian of Team Shosholoza, has expressed similar views. “The regatta [itself] will probably be boring; one monster will be faster than the other. But on the other hand this is a very special project, and the technology involved is fantastic. The interest will not be in the regatta itself, but in all the rest."

However, Cian does say that even though it may be a spectacle to watch, the match race aspect of a DoG contest may not be so spectacular. "There will be two monsters racing, and it is the first time such a regatta will take place," he says. "It will definitely be something to see! But a good match race takes place only with boats that tack and jibe well and it’s not the case with multihulls."

So, while the AC game has hopefully moved from the courts back to the water, there may be a slight detour before we see it return to the pinnacle of match race sailing. For now that resides firmly in the World Match Racing Tour.

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At 6:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

America Cup, the so-called pinnacle of sailing, the highest form of the sport ..... now building monster yachts that nobody will ever build again for anything! Yeah, thanks to BOR we now have an AC totally detached from reality and without any sporting relevance. Get it over with, so that the next and real AC can commence afterward, and Allinghi can defend the AC against real teams with real yachts!

At 7:25 PM, Blogger Norberto said...

do you think that back in the beginning of the 20th century people thought the j-boats were something different from "monster yachts that nobody will ever build again for anything!"? well, surprise, surprise, people are building j-boats in the 21st century. maybe history ends up teaching a thing or two;

At 8:16 PM, Anonymous Norberto the imposter said...

Actually history has been teaching us all along: the senselessness of superfluous yachts in sporting events. For that reason the new classes are getting smaller with economically processable budgets. The AC hasn't been the playground of a couple of super-rich egomaniacs for a long time, but rather various teams coming together from all over the world. Just take a good look at the last 20 some years .....

Only ignorant minds continue to cite the excesses of the past as a justification for the present. The future lies with multiple teams competing within reasonable budgets and developing bright ideas. Thats how it has been in recent ACs.

A 90x90 monster yacht designed for just three 2 hour races and costing in excess of $20mm is ridiculously perverse and completely out of touch with the 21st century, I am afraid.

At 9:27 PM, Anonymous WetHog said...

"Yeah, thanks to BOR we now have an AC totally detached from reality and without any sporting relevance."

Once again, if you think Alinghi are innocent in all this bullshit you surely haven't been paying attention over the last 2+ years. Both sides are responsible for the current mess the AC is in. End of story.

At 9:38 PM, Anonymous UncleTom said...

Unfortunately, as long as there is a Larry Ellison that can't win a Challenger Series, and as long as the AC is ruled by the over rated and clearly out of date Deed of Gift, there will be monsters like BOR's DoGzilla... because that's the perfect way for someone like him to buy his way to a bizarre AC Match like the one he's pushed to have!

Note: I can't wait for those yankees making a fool of themselves firing back to me with their usual "the Deed is the Holy Grail of Sailing"... they remind me so much of those NRA (National Rifle Association) fanatics!

At 10:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

WetHog, last time we checked it was BOR who issued a challenge in a 90x90 yacht, and not Allinghi. The Allinghi people had a protocol worked out with 18 teams in economically feasible conventional yachts (the type of yachts one might actually see with actual people sailing them).

But right! It will be all worth it and so much fun to watch those two atrocities sail for a couple of hours. Certainly must be worth it that 18 teams (along with families, employees, sponsors, fans) wait for another 3-4 years ........

At 10:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Uncle Tom is absolutely right, well said! The tragedy with the AC is that one (rather mediocre) sailor can hold the whole sailing world hostage for his personal gain. That was not what the AC was originally intended for. It was supposed to be a friendly competition between sportsman. Larry Ellison succeeded in converting it into a competition for lawyers, all in his attempt to win the AC at any cost, even without sailing on the water!

At 10:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When people begin to realize the enormous stupidity that has been committed by BOR, their endless legal proceedings all so that they would "defend the freedom of the AC community" (a community who had already defended themselves very well, thank you!)then you hear the same statement from all of them:

"Both sides are to blame..."
Yeah, right!

At 7:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

LMAO as you guys are so funny apologizing for EB/SNG/Alinghi!!! The bottomline & all that matters is that CNEV was not Deed legal. Nothing else matters as the guilty parties were busted!!! You can not explain that way as the law is the law.

At 3:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

7:58 yes, thats really funny. Because the original challenger CNEV was "not legal" they have to build a 90x90 monstrosity that nobody will ever use again. Oh, yes, I forgot, its the great technology that we all will enjoy so much. I cannot wait to get my 90x90 yacht delivered and check how much technology I will find ......

At 5:37 PM, Blogger chocoa said...

I was just looking at one of my fathers' old issues of A.Y.R.S. -Catamarans 1967
Interesting stuff-the successful prototype Tornado, international catamaran of the future is featured.
Also a news article from October 25th 1817 from the Brighton and Hove Herald describing "a boat, of a singular and novel construction, called a catamaran, has been recently invented by a Gentleman of Arundel."
Other issues talk about "wing mast" and such.
I'm very excited to see the next AC races in such unconventional boats-Exciting stuff.
Why should the AC be conventional?
This break from the AC has helped other classes blossom and grow to a similar level of competition.
That is good for sailing, those classes race every year.
The technological advances that will be put on display in the next AC will help lay the ground work for the future.
If you only want match racing get a Finn.
Valencia sailing is in the game with their excellent reporting, I just wonder why it attracts such bone head people stuck commenting about Larry this or Alinghi that?

P.S. I think Alinghi will win the best of three because E.B. knows cats. Lets hope the next "hip-pocket" challenge is legit this time!

At 10:33 PM, Anonymous Norberto the imposter said...

While some people associate a distaste for one-off super yachts solely build for three hours of AC racing as being against technology, that is simply not the case. Face it, a 90x90 super yacht may be exciting to see racing (once), but there will be almost no technological benefit for the sailing mainstream. People don't go out racing or weekend sailing on 90x90 monstrosities.

The criticism lies with an AC team that has on purpose challenged in an esoteric vehicle that bears no resemblance to real life. It might be exciting, but it sure as hell has zero relevance for the real world (the very sailors competing must rethink and retrain just for that one event!). Any attempt to justify a sailing duel between two very rich people with $20mm yachts of 90x90 dimension is misplaced. There will never be any trickle down effect from a monstrosity that has nothing to do with real life. Its a very poor excuse to try to justify the means.

Now, if they had challenged in something that resembles traditional AC yachts, and if they had a challenger series with multiple entries ......

At 7:25 PM, Blogger Norberto said...

well, my dear impostor, "they" offered it to eb in the first place. it was eb's greed and arrogance that didn't allow it to happen. but even the stones in the old valencian streets know this.


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