Yachting: Team NZ bolts on go-faster kit

By Paul Lewis

All eyes will be on the catamaran's modifications when it rolls out of the shed

Expect some noticeable changes when Team New Zealand roll the boat they hope to race to win the America's Cup out of the shed today.

Aotearoa, the team's 72ft AC72 catamaran has been dry for the past few days as the shore crew have worked to modify it for more speed.

Emirates Team NZ boss Grant Dalton said yesterday - without saying exactly what the changes were - that the AC72 would have "a couple of obvious features" previously unseen when it is unveiled.

"One of them in particular is quite a big piece of kit and that'll be quite evident. It's basically aerodynamic parts which will just work all the time and which will improve our speed.

"These changes are pretty much the last changes we will be making before we race - unless they don't work, of course, but they will ... This is the last roll of the dice; we have run out of time to do much more.

"This will be our best shot at it (the Cup)."

Dalton said the changes were items that had been conceived and begun some time ago - not changes that had sprung from recent racing or training on San Francisco Bay.

"We have been thinking of this for some time," he said, "and it's taken a bit of time in production and they have to be bolted on. But, when it comes out of the shed, I think you'll see that it has been prepared all the way along to make us faster.

"That's the theory anyway," said Dalton about sailing the boat again today. "We are intending to get it in the water but there's quite a lot going on."

The window for changing the boats now is largely closed. Dalton said all the major configuration areas - such as daggerboards and rudder and the like - have to be ready now.

The rules of the Cup say the teams have to make their configurations known to race management by 8pm the previous night - meaning the weather forecasting skills of team members like meteorologist Roger Badham become hugely important.

However, Dalton said he did not think the previously held concept that the San Francisco winds in September are generally lighter than those in August had played a big part in the New Zealand boat's final configuration.

"No, and I don't think you want a boat that is too tweaky anyway," he said. "You don't want to have that fine a margin in (changing) stuff.'

Dalton said he had "no doubt" that Oracle Team USA were also working on changes but he did not know what. He had also heard that they had brought in 10 New Zealand boatbuilders from Warkworth's Core Builders last week but "didn't have a clue" what they were doing.

However, he had no doubt Oracle would field Boat 2 in the Cup match.

Most observers figure that Oracle and Team NZ are close together in terms of boat speed even if they started from different points of the philosophical compass.

Oracle seemed to design their boat for speed - and then worked on stability so they could emulate the New Zealanders who had longer and more consistent foiling, for example. Team NZ seemed to start with stability and then work out ways to go faster.

Dalton said: "I have no doubt Boat 2 will be it (for Oracle).

"The other one seems to have a more delicate package and more tweaks and may be a little quicker," he said.

"But you need a boat that will cover the whole range. You've got to be quick enough to cover anything - gybes, reaches, runs, tacks, the whole works. If there is a weakness anywhere, you're in trouble.

"I know they (Oracle) are fast but, honestly, I just don't know how fast."

Team NZ will test their modified boat against Luna Rossa.

However, it may be the original plans - to modify the Italian boat so it is "taken out of class" with adjustments that would make it quicker - may be forgotten. Instead, they may keep the boat as it was to give Team NZ a base to compare the speeds of the boat, unaltered and modified.

Luna Rossa skipper Max Sirena said: "We want to lock our boat in as it was during the Louis Vuitton finals to be a real reference to (Team New Zealand), otherwise they won't have a baseline to go from.

"We're really there to do drills more than anything and to simulate tactical situations. Maybe we will be ahead and they have to try and pass us, that sort of thing."

- NZ Herald

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