Thursday, July 15, 2010

Match racing with canting keel yachts

A mere week is left until the "34th America's Cup Race & Media Evaluation Trials" here in Valencia, a series of match races that will help BMW Oracle determine what boat will be used in this edition of the world's oldest sports trophy. The two concepts the current Defender has presented are a 72ft multihull and a 72ft monohull with a canting keel.

When we interviewed Marcelino Botín, head designer of Emirates Team New Zealand, his opposition to canting keels was clear. According to him, "it has to be a simple boat and as result, I would rule out the canting keel. It appears attractive but when you thoroughly examine it, it loses its advantages. For example having an engine on during the race is something unappealing to me and while it add some speed to the yachts it won't make races much more spectacular." As for the VO70's, that do have a canting keel his position was that he "didn't like having an engine on during an entire America's Cup race. It's completely different in an offshore race where you turn the engine on when you have to tack. "

However, the Volvo Ocean Race in-port races provide a very good example of 70ft yachts with canting keels sailing in short (1.5-2.0 miles) fleet races. So, it was self-evident to us that a skipper from one of the 8 yachts that raced around the world 2 years ago would be the most appropriate expert to share his view on the issue.

Singapore In Port race 2 highlights. Singapore, 10 January 2009. Video copyright Volvo Ocean Race

We asked Bouwe Bekking, skipper of Telefonica Blue and 5-time participant in the round-the-world races, to comment on the use of canting keels. Here's what the legendary Dutch sailor had to say: "We need lightning fast boats who are exciting to watch for the public. The only way to do this is to keep the displacement low and to have high righting moment. This is achieved using a canting keel. You can go deeper with the keel and therefore keep the bulb relatively light and keep a good ratio sailarea/displacement/weight.

In the Volvo Ocean Race we had beats of around 1.5 miles in the in-port races. Moving the keel was not an issue, that could go as fast as you liked, and as many times as you wanted. The issue we had was that only 12 guys were sailing the boat, so tacking the overlapping jibs was expensive. For the America's Cup boats that will be no issue: no lifelines and enough grinders (hopefully this human aspect stays in), so tacking duels will not be a problem.

I think we will see some interesting emgineering coming up, for the canting keel systems, where others in sailing will get benefits off."

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At 2:38 PM, Anonymous Doug said...

Some problems with the trial run that BMWOR is performing. The X40 is a great test bed for the video work, the excitement and the nuts and bolts of match racing on bigger cats. The RC44 are instead simple fixed-keel boats too far removed from the brief to be a useful test bed. One the one hand it may make the decision simple in favor of the cats. On the other hand, if the canters are chosen on the basis of these tests, the reality can be pretty different.

At 3:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If it is "lightning fast" we need, multihull is way to go.

If it is "simplicity" we need, it is single fixed keel.

If it is "close racing" we need, it is monohull.

For AC a tight boxrule Mini Maxi / Mini Multi might be too unimaginative to catch a broad audience.

Looking back the legal battle caught most attention, then the sheer size and amazing engineering, the yacht race came last. Only benefit of a tight boxrule is that boats will be even matched. So you do not know the winner after first 15 minutes.

At 9:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't remember a more exciting race than the last race of 32nd AC. And it featured the (now) old ACC 5 class. And I didn't find the 33rd the least exciting despite the shear size and complexity of the multis. Actually it looked slow and boring on TV. Speed will not guarantee excitement because a sail boat is slow when compared to modern times speeds. 50 knots is equal to 90 km/h. Any person can achieve this speed while going to work in morning. In my humble opinion, excitement on a sailboat match racing is obtained from close racing, with lots of rules situations, lots of maneuvers and lots of lead changes. I would even say that the boats have to have large crews to add color to mix.

At 10:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Canting keels is not the way to go. there are way to many problems involved.
You come into a dial up windward boat sitting there leeward boat cants to windward bang goes the rigs.
Pre start dance doing circles one boat cants other boat cants otherway not fast enough to hit the cant button, bang goes the rigs again.
Only 4 rigs allowed, that makes a lot of high priced motor boats fast when they run out of rigs.

The rule boat would have to be re written and there would be all sorts of new things come up that the umpires would have no idea on how to rule.
Stick to fixed keel or multihulls.

Maybe ask a rules guy to make some comments on canters with some pre start dance moves that could come into play.

At 7:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ive been following the X40s and whilst they have a few moments of exciting viewing as the boats close in on each other they are otherwise boaring as hell to watch. Has anyone ever watched skiff racing?? Now thats exciting.


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