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Foiled Again

and a brutal learning curve for all, America’s Cup XXXIII was won by Oracle. Thanks to San Diego’s desperate, innovative defense with a multihull in 1988, followed by the pitched legal battle between Larry Ellison and Ernesto Bertarelli, the America’s Cup is now sailed in multihulls. We’ll never see the 100-footers again. Despite the consummation of the best technology, designers, builders, and sailors money could buy, both crews were quietly amazed their boats made it around the America’s Cup course twice, without mishap. Seventy-two-foot catamarans were sailed in the next Cup match, in 2013, and even those ended up being shelved as too dangerous. But on September 7, 2012, something had happened that rocked the sailing world, and assured the presence of multihulls in the Cup for the indefinite future: Team New Zealand released a video showing its 72-footer foiling for a sustained period, with both hulls free and clear of the water.

For America’s Cup XXXV this month in Bermuda, 48-foot onedesign catamarans will be competing for the oldest ongoing trophy in sports; 48-foot foiling cats with a crew of six ~ four of whom are constantly cranking handles to power the hydraulic system ~ and a virtual seventh crew consisting of a digital program that indicates (among other things) when a team should power up to cross the starting line precisely at the gun. Data says whichever team wins the start will win the race 80 percent of the time. The Cup really has become NASCAR on the water, because it is all about speed. These days NASCAR has a thing called the “NASCAR Nap,” a snooze taken from shortly after the start to shortly before the finish. Chances are, an “America’s Cup Nap” will soon be in vogue. In all fairness, even in monohulls, exciting America’s Cup races have always been the exception. But at least in monohulls they were grand, picturesque, stately affairs. Visitors to Bermuda can always watch the J-Class yachts racing. There are seven in attendance. That will be grand. Roger Vaughan’s latest book, The Medal Maker - A Biography of Victor Kovalenko, will be launched later this month.

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