Oracle Team USA play catch up with Softbank Team Japan
Back in April 2017, Softbank Team Japan mastered the foiling tack in their AC45 Surrogate boats, claiming to be the first AC team to have achieved the move.
Two days later Oracle Team USA claimed to have done the same.
Four months passed and in late August both teams released videos showing them doing the foiling tack in Bermuda while training.
“You can’t think of it in terms of gains… You have to think of it in terms of losses.”
That’s Oracle Team USA sailing team manager and tactician Tom Slingsby describing how important foiling all the way around the race course will be during the America’s Cup next year.
Staying up on the foils both upwind and downwind is expected to be the default mode of sailing for the teams in 2017. If you can’t stay up, you’ll be losing ground to the opposition.
Teams have been foiling all the way downwind, including through the gybes, since the last America’s Cup. And in San Francisco in 2013, Oracle was able to foil upwind, making big gains over Team New Zealand.
Until recently, the foiling tack had eluded the America’s Cup teams. When dropping off the foils during a tack, the boats would slow dramatically and need to rebuild speed after the maneuver.
But back in April, first SoftBank Team Japan, and then Oracle managed to pull off the maneuver.
“We had some big crashes in our first attempts, but we got there and were able to do it,” Slingsby said.
Since then, Oracle Team USA has developed its technique to the point the team can tack on the foils, even when sailing in full manual mode (no stored power) as per the requirements of the America’s Cup Class rule.
This too, was a major milestone.
“The gains in the foiling tack can be anywhere from 50 to 200 meters,” Slingsby said.
“In fact, it’s very likely that the boat that can make it around the racecourse without touching the water will win this America’s Cup.”