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."