Sailing: What's next for America's Cup technology - boats with wings?

Listen: Peter Burling and Blair Tuke on the Mike Hosking Breakfast

Will the America's Cup soon be contested by boats that don't even touch the water?

As Team New Zealand head to Bermuda this week to begin final preparations for their May/June campaign, the Kiwi crew are still working hard to perfect their radical pedal-powered concept that may provide an unexpected edge in the race for the Auld Mug.

Blair Tuke and Peter Burling told Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking that the smaller catamarans employed for this regatta will see boats out of the water and up on their foils for the entire journey.

By contrast, at San Francisco four years ago, foiling was more of the spectacular exception to the rule.

"In San Fran, the boat was pretty much designed with the hope that it would foil in certain aspects," said helmsman Burling. "This one has pretty much been designed to foil right across the wind strength.

"I think everyone will be up on foils for the entire race, compared to what we've seen in the past. Everyone's into the second generation of the technology and that will push them a bit harder."

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That could include the starting box, perhaps the most tactical part of any race.

"You'll see boats enter the starting box on foils and potentially stay on the foils in the start box," said trimmer Tuke. "You might drop off if it gets close, but you'll cross the start line on foils."

But if this contest is now one between boats that barely touch the water, what comes next, mused Hocking. Flying boats?

"The sport's always evolving," chuckled Tuke. "It depends on where the America's Cup goes next, who wins and then what rules you put around the boats.

"Right now, we're still confined to rules around how you design the foils, but if it was fully open, who knows where we go to."

Since it was unveiled last month, Team New Zealand's pedal-powered craft has been the talk of the competition. Will the benefits (greater leg power compared to arms) outweigh the deficiencies (greater transfer time from one side of the boat to the other)?

"We're really happy with the decision we've made and where it's going," insisted Burling. "It's something we've definitely got to keep working on and keep improving on, but every day we use it, we seem to get better."

Said Tuke: "Everyone will be on the same side of the boat, it's a lot faster to have everyone on the windward side of the boat for riding moments.

"We'll still have to transfer and we're getting our transfer times down. Guys at the back of the boat that aren't pedaling, it takes four, five or six seconds from side to side.

"Up the front, once you unclip and clip back on, it's 7-10 seconds and in that same range for grinders."

But Tuke denied pedals would make the difference between winning and losing the cup back off Oracle Team USA.

"It's one part of it for us," he said. "Going to pedal power was one aspect that we highlighted we could make a gain in, but there are other things we need to do well, if we're going to win.

"It will be part of it - if you have more power, you can sail the boat more accurately and do better manoeuvres - but there are other things."

Team New Zealand crew fly to Bermuda tonight, while their AC45 boat will be packed into a 747 and flown via Los Angeles over the weekend.

Racing in the Louis Vuitton challenger series begins in 50 days, on May 26.

- NZ Herald

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