The 2013 America’s Cup changed sailing forever by putting the sport on a much bigger stage, making it accessible to a wider audience. When Larry Ellison brought the venerable event – the oldest professional sports trophy in the world – to San Francisco, he put catamarans on foils, propelling them north of 50 mph against the wind. Non-sailors around the world watched in wonder.
They even crashed in a manner that a NASCAR fan might appreciate. In fact, when NBC saw footage of on e of the boats going end over end at high speed, they said “we’re in” for broadcasting the event.
After the city of San Francisco refused to host the event again (something about not getting the revenue promised), Ellison moved the 2017 event to Bermuda, where he ended up losing to Team New Zealand. This meant handing over control over the rules.
New Zealand, being a somewhat traditional sailing center, immediately decided to change the boats back to monohulls – but didn’t want to abandon foils. The result: a foiling monohull. The New York Yacht Club, being a very traditional yacht club, jumped back into the America’s Cup having scoffed at the idea of catamarans (if you don’t know the sailing world very well, monohulls vs. catamarans is a little like Republicans vs. Democrats).
A couple days ago we got an early look at the foiling monohull that is a prototype for the eventual America’s Cup New York Yacht Club entry. This video shows us how to get one hull up on foils without a foil on each side, which is pretty remarkable. Skip to 2:20 if you just want to see the boat fly.
It’s not clear just how fast the boat is going – if it’s as fast as the foiling cats, but it’s a test boat and the much larger, faster American’s Cup boat is still in development. The chase boats appear to easily pass the test boat, which was not the case with the cats.
What’s interesting is that the selection of the monohull represents going back to something traditional, but adding foils fully acknowledges the success of foils in 2013, and then goes a step further by eliminating the need for having crew manually work winches to control the sail. All power to the sails is now electronic.
Regardless if you care more about monohulls or catamarans, it’s clear that sailing competition is forever changed since 2013 and continues to evolve in a way that makes it accessible for a wider audience – and there is nothing wrong with that. On top of that, the technology development in these boats will no doubt influence all boating, similar to how Formula One racing influences the tech we use in our daily drivers. Is a high tech blue blazer next?