Oracle Team USA have reportedly fast-tracked a new cycle-grinding innovation, moving to replicate Team New Zealand's radical set-up.
According to reports, the defenders have installed a bike grinding station on their America's Cup Class catamaran, just weeks out from the start of the regatta. Specialist sailing website Sail World reported Oracle were trialling the new system on the dock today, but are yet to test it on the water.
Emirates Team New Zealand, who are located opposite the Oracle Team USA base at the Royal Dockyard in Bermuda, appeared to make reference to the development in their latest post on their Facebook page - "Looks like we aren't the only ones cycling anymore".
Up until now Team NZ are the only team using a pedal-power on their boat. The Kiwi syndicate kept the innovation secret until the launch of their 50-ft race boat in February, when they sent the America's Cup world into a flap after it was revealed Team NZ had 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 radical move was largely dismissed by Team NZ's rivals, including Oracle, who to have considered cycle-power themselves, but scrapped the idea as it had too many trade-offs.
"We looked at it hard, as I know all the teams did, and it's a compromise," Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill said at the time.
"Nothing is straightforward. You can get more power on the pedal, but there's other compromises. You take windage, and it's a little harder getting on and off the pedals, so personally, I don't think that decision will be the deciding factor."
Oracle appear to have made a u-turn in their thinking after seeing Team NZ's pedal system in action.
Sail World reported the new grinding pedestal is located in the same cockpit as helmsman Jimmy Spithill, directly behind the two-time America's Cup winning skipper. Tactician Tom Slingsby is expected to provide the pedal power, with the other two handle-grinding pedestals remaining in place.
The latest development appears to confirm rumours that were circulating last month that Oracle had been trialling a cycle-grinder system behind closed doors at the team base.
If they stay with the concept, the move is expected to have a few advantages for the team. Not only will it increase the power output used to generate hydraulic fluid pressure - energy which drives many of the control systems on board, it means Slingsby will be in a better position to offer tactical advice to his skipper as he will have his head up and facing forward, while he grinds with his legs.
It is not known if the cycle-powered pedestal is just an experiment, or a permanent fixture, or if the other two arm powered grinding stations will be replaced with cycles.
But just how closely Oracle will be able to replicate Team NZ's system is unclear.
At the Kiwi syndicate's "big reveal" of their race boat in February, chief operating officer Kevin Shoebridge told the Herald said it was unlikely their rivals would be able to re-produce their system so close to the event.
"We've actually been working on this a couple of years now and done a huge amount of work behind the scenes to make sure the system was viable. We'd all thought about it in the early days, but to actually turn it into a real working system took a hell of a lot of work to really see the true benefit," said Shoebridge.
"Although it looks like just straight-forward bike seat and pedals, it's actually a very complicated system to turn that into hydraulic power. Knowing how long it has taken us to develop it into a real usable system, there's not a lot of time left [for another team to develop it]."
The opening race of the America's Cup qualifiers is on May 27.