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America's Cup: New AC40 provides AC75 pathway for Women, Youth and new teams

by Richard Gladwell/Sail-World.com/nz 10 Sep 15:22 BST 10 September 2021
The AC40 will offer a pathway for new teams, Women and Youth Sailors into the America's Cup © Richard Gladwell/Sail-World.com/nz

For the first time in 170 years of America's Cup history, women will be able to compete in an America's Cup Women's Regatta, using the new AC40 one design foiling monohull, which will have multiple uses in the 37th America's Cup cycle.

It was announced jointly by the Defender and Challenger of Record for the 37th Match, the AC40, which will provide a pathway for women and youth sailors into the America's Cup itself.

For a start-up America's Cup team, the AC40 offers an excellent pathway and first step into the Big League.

Emirates Team New Zealand's CEO Grant Dalton told Sail-World that as well as being used for America's Cup Preliminary Regatta events, teams would now be able to run multiple boats as practice for AC75 racing.

The AC40 can be taken out of Class by the teams and used as a platform for their test programs. It will then have to be put back into Class and remeasured before competing in official AC40 events.

"There will be some componentry on the AC40 which is removable. For example, if you want test foil wings, you unbolt the one-design wings and re-fit the test ones. Or, you can put a different rig in it or take off the automatic pilot."

Initial run of seven boats

Construction of the new design will start later this year, and the first boat is not expected to be sailing until October 2022. The AC40's and their respective components will be built by multiple licenced builders using tooling developed during the construction of the first AC40.

"It takes a while to design a boat like this. They don't just pop out structurally," Dalton explains.

Only some preliminary AC40 design work has been done to date.

Dalton is expecting to have around seven of the AC40's built initially. Once the first boat is near complete, he expects the rest of the AC40 fleet to be built quickly.

Emirates Team New Zealand expects to build some components at their own facility and may build all the foil arms.

"There are a couple of things that are important," Dalton explains." The first is that they come out on time - that will need some significant resource - and they have to hit the right price."

"We want to pitch the AC40 properly. It will be a complicated high-performance boat, but we don't want them to get too expensive - otherwise, people won't buy them."

Dalton says they will work hard to keep the price of the AC40 affordable - even though it will be into seven figures.

The constructed AC40's will be allocated in order of entry into the America's Cup. Private owners will be allowed to order AC40's.

Design discussions for the AC40 are still at a preliminary stage.

No decision has been made on whether a double or single skinned mainsail will be used – the trade-off being between the performance of the double-skinned sail versus the convenience of sail handling on the single skinned main.

No decision has been made as to whether the rig will be reefed, which is somewhat contingent on whether a single or double-skinned mainsail is used.

"The double skinned rig has more range. The single skin is easier to handle," is the way Dalton sums up that discussion. "However, with the double skin, they can be flattened right out, and you can also camber the top - so you can carry them through a wider wind range.

"But it could be simpler and more straightforward in AC Preliminary Regattas, Youth and Women's events, just to be able to order that the fleet carry a reduced area single skin mainsail at the upper end of the wide range."

Less sticky in the light

Getting the AC40 to sail more efficiently than Te Kahu, at the bottom end of the wind range, will also be a design consideration.

Te Kahu was ETNZ's 38ft long test boat launched between mid-way through the build up for the 36th America's Cup, and before Te Rehutai was launched.

The AC40 hull will be different from Te Kahu to get a better light air performance. Dalton says Te Kahu was not optimised for light winds and early foiling, and it was too sticky in those conditions.

"One of the things about Te Kahu is that it didn't take off well in light airs. It was never set up to do that. It was built around systems development and foil testing," he explains.

"This one needs to mimic an AC75 shape. We will be looking for a hull shape that sheds the water better like Te Rehutai does," Dalton adds.

The AC40 hull design concept will approximate Emirates Team New Zealand's America's Cup-winning AC75 Te Rehutai, but it will also be designed with Version 2 of the AC75 class rule in mind.

When the design work has finished, concept images of the AC40 will be published. "This is a one-design boat that is available to all. The teams must take one, and the design image will not be secret. There's no reason for it to be," he adds.

The AC40 will be sailed by a crew of four, two on each side, in America's Cup World Series, Youth and Women's AC40 events. The boat will be all-electric without any need for grinders. The electro-mechanical Foil Management System will be similar to that used on Te Kahu.

Upwind speeds will be over 30kts upwind, and in the 40's downwind.

The AC40s will have a strong presence at the venue for the America's Cup, providing a spectacular class for the Women's, Youth and AC Preliminary Events.

The venue for the 37th America's Cup will be announced next week. The Protocol for AC37 will be announced three months later, which will have some detail on the events in which the AC37 will compete.

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