America's Cup: Oracle trial cycle-grinding set-up in practice racing

Oracle Team USA have taken a step forward with their cycle grinding platform, trialling the new innovation in practice racing today.

The innovation, which was no doubt inspired by Team New Zealand's move to pedal power in their America's Cup Class catamaran, was first revealed earlier this month when the team were spied testing the platform on the dock.

It came after rumours had been circling for weeks that the America's Cup defender had been working to replicate Team NZ's radical design.

Oracle's pedal-powered solution is not a direct copy of Team NZ's set-up. The US team's new grinding pedestal is located in the same cockpit as helmsman Jimmy Spithill, directly behind the two-time America's Cup winning skipper.

There had been some conjecture over whether Oracle were just trying to put the wind up their rivals, and in particular Team NZ, and it was all part of the mind games that come along with the America's Cup.

But today's development confirms Oracle are serious about implementing the new system ahead of racing beginning proper.

Footage out of Bermuda, captured by local cameraman Jason Smith, showed Oracle positioning a crew member at the back of the boat during certain manoeuvres.
Tactician Tom Slingsby is expected to provide the pedal power, with the other two handle-grinding pedestals remaining in place.

After a perfect start to this block of practice racing on day one, Oracle had a mixed day on the water today. They won their opening two hit-outs against Team France and Team Japan, before being forced to retire from their re-match with Dean Barker's syndicate later in the day with gear damage.

Spithill said the team are still learning a lot about their boat.

"We're learning a lot about different race situations now. All the teams are racing hard and we're trying to learn as much as we can from that. So the past two days have been very valuable, even with limited racing.

"We tried to lock a few design things down for the past couple of days, but we're still heavily into the development curve. There's a lot of stuff we want to do and need to do still. But on the other side, I think as a sailing team we still have a heap to do to sharpen up, so getting these hours in has been very valuable."

If they stay with the pedal-grinding 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.

For more footage from today's practice racing, head to the MyIslandHomeBDA Youtube channel.

- NZ Herald

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