Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Sailing: Team New Zealand's pedals have foes in spin

Emirates Team New Zealand's new AC50 is launched for the first time at the Team's base in Auckland. The crew are sitting on the new cycle grinder pedestals. Photo / Photosport
Emirates Team New Zealand's new AC50 is launched for the first time at the Team's base in Auckland. The crew are sitting on the new cycle grinder pedestals. Photo / Photosport

Team New Zealand may have found the answer to the biggest conundrum facing the America's Cup designers for this year's event in Bermuda with its radical "pedalstal" innovation.

The Kiwi syndicate have the America's Cup world in a flap after it emerged the team's new 50-foot race boat will be powered by pushing pedals rather than turning handles.

The team have replaced the traditional grinding pedestals in the boat with cycles, allowing the crew to use their more powerful leg muscles to power the sophisticated control systems in their wing-sail catamaran.

The feature wasn't used on their test boat, with Emirates Team New Zealand planning to keep the development up their sleeve until today's launch. But the eagle-eyed Richard Gladwell of Sail World spotted the team taking their boat for a preliminary spin on Tuesday and noticed something a little bit unusual about the set-up of the boat. The cat was out of the bag, so to speak.

Team NZ are staying quiet on their new development for now, but will likely reveal all when they officially launch their new toy today.

With several major elements of the America's Cup Class (ACC) boat for the 35th edition of the event being one-design, the big area of development in this cycle has been in the sophisticated control systems to ensure continuous and stable flight.

These control systems are powered through hydraulic pressure generated by the grinders. But the reduction in crew size from 11 in the previous event in San Francisco to just six this time around has presented a massive challenge for the teams: How do you create the energy to power these systems with so few hands on deck?

"It's about being able to get your boat set up as efficiently as you possibly can. We've only got a certain amount of power that the guys can put in, so we've got to be able to prioritise the energy usage around the track," Team NZ skipper Glenn Ashby explained to the Herald late last year.

"If you run out of pressure, then you'll struggle to get the daggerboards up and down, and once you struggle to change your rake accurately enough, you can get out of control. But if you put too much effort into that, you can't have any energy for trimming the wing and the jib and all the other functions that they're doing. It's a real juggle of efficiency and power, versus performance around the track."

All teams have been grappling with the problem. Oracle Team USA skipper Jimmy Spithill said his team have been working on a system where he has a spell grinding, while tactician Tom Slingsby takes the wheel.

"The boat is so physical and undermanned, we're exploring opportunities where I can jump on and help the boys top up the oil," Spithill said last month.

"Everyone is having the same issue. There is too much to do and not enough resource on the boat to do it. So we're fortunate, I think, to have the depth we have."

The solution Team NZ have developed, however, not only enables the crew to generate more power, but expend less effort in doing so.

Former Team NZ skipper Dean Barker, who will lead the Japanese campaign in Bermuda, points out there will be trade-offs in other areas. He said the biggest drawback is sitting on cycles will restrict the ability of sailors to disengage while tacking, and quickly get from one side of the boat to the other.

"All the teams have evaluated -- we have, Oracle also -- and the decision we took is that it isn't going to pay for itself," Barker said.

The Cup qualifiers start on May 26 with the match beginning on June 17.

Battling boats: The new-generation America's Cup class

* 50ft wing-sailed catamarans

* Powered by six crew

* The platform, hulls and wing-sail are all one-design

* The development race has therefore zeroed in on the hydrofoil shape and control systems

* Stored energy is permitted to help control the daggerboards through the use of "accumulators"

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW
Stats provided by

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf03 at 23 May 2017 22:12:54 Processing Time: 582ms