With yet another day of no wind, or not enough for racing, dockside talk continued to focus on the Defender, Alinghi.
Is SUI 100 just another America's Cup yacht, like the rest, even if she did look significantly faster in ACT 13, or has the Alinghi team made a breakthrough? Have they found some way to gain a significant advantage in righting moment.
William thinks it's possible and drew the way he feels it might have been done. Now he has spoken to world renowned Yacht Designer and Naval Architect Bob Perry, of Seattle based Robert H Perryboat Yacht Designers Inc., to get his views on the functionality and legality of the rumoured and highly speculative Alinghi secret weapon, The Bendy Keel.
William Wallace: As you know, I'm covering the AC for BYM News. I wonder if you could give me a few moments of your valuable time. Maybe you've seen the rough sketch I did, regarding the rumours of Alinghis secret weapon, the bendy keel, which was published in BYM News and then on the Sailing Anarchy front page along with numerous other magazines and forums that have picked up on it.
Robert Perry: I can only guess here, but I’ll take a whack at it.
WW: After looking at the basic principle, would such a device be viable for use, without hydraulics, in an AC boat where mechanical force is the only means of power allowed within the AC rules; keeping in mind that the bend is not physically induced and is only a means of locking the natural deflection of the keel in one position? ie. The only force required would be in releasing the mechanism before tacking and allowing the keel to sag to leeward before locking it in the new position.
Robert Perry: Sure, this would work.
WW: In your opinion, would such a device fall within or without the AC rules on movable appendages?
Robert Perry: I have no idea. I suspect it will be challenged and if I were on the committee I’d be inclined to not allow it.
WW: What would the upwind pointing and speed advantage be if the keel bulb were able to be fixed, even just a few centimetres to windward, bearing in mind that the keel bulb accounts for approx 80% of an AC boats overall weight?
Robert Perry: No idea. It certainly can help stability and in that all the boats are so close any small advantage is important. An additional 6” on the RA (Righting Arm) is very significant. Imagine trying to gain 6” of RA any other way.
WW: Assuming that Alinghi is simply a standard boat with no secret weapons. What in your opinion is the reason they show such superiority on the race course? The boat? The team? or a combination of both?
Robert Perry: Alinghi started this series with an advantage due to the advantage it had last AC. They started with a faster test horse. The other boats are playing catch up.
WW: Thanks, Bob.
So there you have it, from a respected source in the world of sailing and yacht design, the bendy keel will work. The bendy keel could quite possibly be illegal, but it would be an interesting cat fight that developed when trying to establish the fact one way or the other. The bendy keel will, definitely, improve an AC boat's performance. The bendy keel may not even be necessary in Alinghi's case, because they are light years ahead of the others, in just about every department going, going by what we’ve seen so far. Now the hundred dollar question is: Does the bendy keel or something similar exist. It’s going to be fun finding out.