America’s Cup: BYM News visits the Alinghi catamaran

Saturday, 04 July 2009

The tent flap was pulled back and I went in. My first reaction was “Where’s the boat?”, for I appeared to be looking at an almost empty workshop, apart from a few guys working, a fork lift, some gantries and randomly scattered bits of machinery. Then I looked up and to one side, at what looked like a beautiful monohull. It took a few minutes to sink in, but it did eventually and my eyes turned to scan the roof. I was standing almost under the central beam/bowsprit and the other hull was too far away for me to take both in at once. You would have needed to stand back, but there was no going back for the boat almost filled the tent.

My guide was Murray Jones and I asked “How long is it?” “I can’t tell you,” he replied “but I can say that the tent in 40 metres by 30 metres.” It was hard to say what space was behind the boat, but it didn’t seem much. In front? I’d guess at 5 metres beyond the hulls; to each side around 2.5 metres, but I could be wrong on both counts.

“Will it have one or two masts?” was my next question. A smiling Murray was a little vague. “When you see it sailing, in about 2 weeks time, it will have one mast.”

The boat was lifted up yesterday, in preparation for the tent coming down on Sunday. The crane that lifted it was still on site and, at a guess, a 100 tonner. That’s not because the boat is heavy, but because it had to lift with the jib far out and almost horizontal.

Weather permitting, the boat will be heli-lifted into the water next Wednesday, sometime between 6 & 8 am, but nothing is certain yet. The helicopter is coming from Siberia and this will be a dress rehearsal for the big lift to the Med, after the venue is announced. Did I get a clue about the venue? Like everyone at Alinghi, Murray maintains it still isn’t decided, but there were clues to where it won’t be. Sardinia seems out – too much wind; a mention of Genoa brought a big laugh and “I hadn’t heard that rumour, but we will be flying it over France and Italy and it will be put on a ship when it lands in the Med.” Valencia? This is very much a light airs boat and, according to Murray, February weather is very iffy there.

Later Dirk Kramers joined us; he’s the guy responsible for the engineering challenges of a boat that will generate loads of around 100 tons, which meant things like taking decisions on what materials to use when you know that titanium won’t be strong enough. “Will you be on board when it first sails?” I asked. “If he isn’t I won’t be.” Murray quipped. The truth is that both find it impossible to conceal their eagerness to get sailing on this elegant monster.

The obvious question was “How fast do you expect it to be? Will it do 50 knots?” Murray doubted it “That isn’t what it’s designed for.”, but Dirk gave a little clue to performance, when asked what most worried him about the testing phase, it wasn’t the engineering side that gave him most cause for concern. “Other boats, not realising how fast it is.” was the answer. “I keep imagining a couple out there trying to make way in 2 knots of wind and us coming out doing 15 knots.” He must have seen my astonished expression, for he added “Well 2 knots near the surface of the lake will be more at the top of our mast.”

More to come on: Made in Switzerland; wing sails; future mods; crew numbers, water ballast, alternative rigs and more …….. In the meantime, there are Carlo Borlenghi pix, of the boat in various stages, here   

America’s Cup stories & interviews are here 

Marian Martin/BYM News

Last Updated ( Saturday, 04 July 2009 )