BYM News Technical Editor Aldous Grenville-Crowther had breakfast with Alinghi, during the 2006 Louis Vuitton series.

He took the opportunity to put some reader questions to Rolf Vrolijk, Principle designer for Alinghi.

Afterwards, he asked trimmer Lorenzo Mazza for advice for a young man who wants to follow in his footsteps.

Photo AG-C/BYM News

Many people are interested in the jumperless rig; is the mast section much stronger, or are you gambling on lighter breezes and less loading?

No, no, we are still aiming for normal conditions, the racing conditions we can expect. It’s just a development that is possible because of changes of the material that you can use in a mast. It’s a concept thing that is based on the use of other materials; a different carbon fibre, a higher strength carbon.

Who does your autoclaving?

It depends on the company we are working with. At the moment it is Alspars in the U.S.

What paint coating or epoxy do you use on the bottom? Everyone knows that the bottoms are wet sanded to perfection, but what do you actually start with?

This is very strongly regulated by the rules. The rules have been changed and there is only one brand of coating that all the teams use, which is a hard coating primer that comes from the dealer. The only thing you can do on the surface finish is the sanding and that’s the reason.

How much of a speed difference has the new lighter displacement and larger sail area made to the previous generation boats?

Upwind the difference is very small because we try to get the same stability. Stability is a bigger factor than wind in this case and downwind of course the boats are slightly faster but it is really for the initial acceleration; of course the boats are lighter, but also shorter at the same time so it is more a matter of acceleration.

People frequently talk about speeds in ocean racing but rarely in match racing. What is the fastest speed recorded on Alinghi?

In match racing, because of the rules, the boats are very close. The fastest speed of these boats, upwind, is slightly over 10 knots and reaching, it depends a lot on the waves and the wind. It can go up even to over 20 knots, but the normal speed downwind is 12 to 14 knots.

When one looks at the side profile of an America’s Cup boat, there is a very small blade on the keel and an enormous sail area. On a cruising yacht that would mean it would not point very close to the wind. How close will an America’s Cup yacht point close to the wind?

Close! Very, very close because it’s a matter of speed also at the same time. The foils have a trim tab, which basically acts to make the keel fin much more effective that a bigger area. It’s a combination of trim and speed, because we work with much smaller leeway angles than the normal boats.

How much of the crews ability to steer the boat is a question of feel on the rudder rather than being told what to steer by somebody with instruments?

I think it is both. We need the feedback from the helmsman on the feel of the boat and we give him targets he has to try to get, so it is a combination of the two.

All the hulls look very much the same, are they?

Vrolojk’s comment was that to the uneducated eye they did look the same, but to the designers they are very different. He added “It has taken a design team of fifteen people three years to produce this boat and I have been designing boats for 25 years.”

My next chat was with Lorenzo Mazza, Alinghi trimmer. He has a long America’s Cup History:

1983 Azzura Bowman.

1987 Italia Bowmen

1992 Il Moro di Venezia, Louis Vuitton Cup Winner, Sail trimmer

2000 Prada Louis Vuitton Cup Winner, Sail Trimmer

2003 Prada Sail Trimmer


We have had an e-mail from young person who wants to get into yacht racing as a trimmer. He would like to know how he should start and what should he really look out for being a trimmer?

A young person should start sailing and making the speed in the dinghies and grow the feelings of the sails and learn some more knowledge about shapes. It is very important to try to get a job with a sail maker, to work in sail making and so get a grounding about different types of shapes and sails. That way they will get the knowledge of the design of a sail and it will be invaluable.

What are the main points you must watch, when on the water?

It is important, very important, to have a good feeling of the wind and the conditions you are sailing in, because every day is different. A monotype class, where you have all the same boats means that every day the way you trim your sail is different, because of waves, because of wind and the peculiarity of those. Then you will perceive that all classes have different quality of sail and different sail plan and every sail plan requires some adjustment of the trimming. Then the boats, different boats they might have a slightly different balance, so you cannot fully use the same trimming from one boat to another. You have to be very open minded to feel what the boat needs to find is true. If want to be a racing success, I think you first have to grow your feeling for these things.

How does a young person get into top class racing?

First learn everything about the racing, know all about the boats, the sailors and, when you know, get to know them. Go to places you can meet them, talk to them, but only when you know what to talk about.

Aldous Grenville-Crowther

The BYM Gallery has over 1100 America’s Cup photos, in the Yacht Racing Album. Click HERE to view.