I watched an America's Cup qualifier race today at YouTube between two Oracle sponsored AC45 catamarans and it was simply exhilarating to watch. The craftsmanship of these technological wonders is stunning; the exotic materials therein as well. There is a saying that today's technology is tomorrow's art and these boats are a work of art!
These catamarans are 45-feet long and reach speeds up to 30 knots hence it is mandatory that the crew wears helmets and life saving gear. You have got to presume these guys are expert swimmers as well.
There is an AC72 class with boats measuring 72-feet in length but now the showstopper: They allow the AC72 class to utilize hydrofoils which bump up the speeds to nearly 40-knots. Now for the encore, the sail height of the craft is 40-meters tall. Visualize a giant sail on a pair of ice skates. It is quite a spectacle.
The America's cup will take place in San Francisco, California. For more information about the America's cup see the official website here: [Link]
For a beginners primer on the sport this wiki article is superb: [Link]
Here is a snippet from the SF Gate as to how crazy and dangerous this sport can be:
"... The AC-72 will be a bit bigger, but the timing will be the same," Spithill said. "But there's a lot more risk. One little mistake and you'll have a pileup. The harder you push, the faster you go."
"But if you push too far, you can hit the wall," he said, evoking the bogeyman of his race-car brethren. "You crash a 72 and there's serious damage to the boat and the people."
Aye, there's the rub. It's great fun to race your boat as fast as possible, but when you crack it up, you have to explain to Mr. Ellison why his shiny toy's all bent. You also may have to call someone's family and explain why their son didn't make it. ..."
At CupInfo.com they have a complete rundown of specs:
“The AC72 Class adds a new dimension to America’s Cup design and technology,” said Pete Melvin, a chief architect of the rule and champion multihull sailor.
“The AC72 will place exacting demands on the helmsman, crew and support team that the vast majority of us who call ourselves ‘weekend racers’ could never hope to develop.”
The new class of America’s Cup catamaran is a tightly defined “box rule.” Certain parameters have been set, such as overall length, beam, displacement and sail area. Other factors are limited to keep the competition close across all wind speeds.
So that no team would have an unfair advantage by creating the rule, US SAILING and Morrelli & Melvin Design & Engineering authored the rule.
“Near the beginning of the process we were requested to look at a catamaran instead of a trimaran because it’s easier to transport, assemble and disassemble,” Melvin said.
“The difference in the performance characteristics is not significant, and a cat was judged less expensive to build. From there, the experience of two America’s Cups in which wingsails were used (1988 and 2010), coupled with the latest developments in wingsail technology, made it natural to morph the design rule into a catamaran with a wingsail,” said Melvin.