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Sport

New America's Cup yachts can fly like the wind, says sailor

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - With design teams drawing on aeronautics and aerodynamics expertise of Airbus and the McLaren Formula One team, the new superfast America’s Cup boats are harnessing the power of the wind like never before, a former professional sailor told Reuters.

Team New Zealand will defend the America’s Cup next March off the coast of Auckland, with teams from Italy, Britain and the United States battling in a challenger series through January and February for the right to face them.

The regatta will be sailed in new AC75 foiling monohulls that are capable of speeds of more than 50 knots (92 kph) as they glide above the surface of the water.

“I have seen them come past me and it’s pretty impressive,” former Team New Zealand member Mark Orams told Reuters of watching the yachts as they were put through their paces at Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour.

“We have machines that are flying with the invisible power of the wind. They’re flowing at not twice the speed of the invisible power but three times.

“Its like a lot of things, you don’t realise how fast things are going until they go past you,” he added.

Like the foiling catamarans of the two previous America’s Cup regattas, the AC75 boats are designed to be lifted out of the water by their massive double-skinned wingsails and kept stable above it by hydrofoils.

Both draw heavily on design attributes from aeronautical engineering, Orams said, with the goal to reduce wind drag so strong that people could not stand up in the face of it.

“It’s no accident that Airbus designers are working with the American team,” said Orams, who is now the director of graduate research at Auckland University of Technology.

“It’s no accident the McLaren Formula One team and their aerodynamics team, which is dozens strong, have been working with the British.

“The faster the yacht goes, the more important aerodynamics become.

“It has very much changed the game and the traditional yacht design you’re pretty much just throwing out the window.”

Orams added that the foils could be the defining factor in deciding the winner of the world’s oldest sporting trophy.

Teams have been restricted to just one set of foils for the entire regatta and can not change them depending on weather and sea conditions.

“You have to have a lot of thought into how you adjust to the variety of conditions,” he added.

“Boats could go out in a race and it could be five knots or 25 knots. Those are vastly different.

“So you have to have to a really good all-round set of foils and the ability to adjust them in the way you sail the boat.”

Editing by Peter Rutherford

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