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ONELIFE #33 – English

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AMERICA’S CUP “ G I V E N T H E C O U R S E ALLOWS BOATS TO COME AT MARKS FROM DIFFERENT D I R E C T I O N S , T R I P L E F I G U R E C L O S I N G S P E E D S ARE A REAL POSSIBILITY. T H E R E A R E O F C O U R S E N O BRAKES WHATSOEVER” PHOTOGRAPHY: MARK LLOYD AND RICARDO PINTO Forget for the moment all you think you know about the world’s oldest sporting competition, the America’s Cup: all the stuff about loyal Brits putting on a yacht race for Queen Victoria, promptly losing it and never, ever winning it back; the legends about the American Titans the Rockefellers and the J.P. Morgans racing for kicks their bigger-than-your-imagination boats somewhere over the horizon; forget what you think you know about the arcane rules, the victories won in court and that impossible schedule. Forget all that. The new America’s Cup is driven by one very simple idea; the finest sailors in the world (seven of them have won one or more gold medals at the Olympics) sailing the most advanced, space-aged, out-there and plain fastest boats on the planet. Sounds like a familiar formula? It is; America’s Cup is Formula One on water. Isn’t that powerboats, you say? Nope. These craft are much, much cleverer. Given a decent, but by no means excessive, breeze these boats can sail towards each other at close to 100mph. The boats six of them, sailed by teams from America, New Zealand, Japan, France, Sweden, and of course Britain, via Land Rover’s cutting edge project with Sir Ben Ainslie are wing-sailed foiling catamarans. The wing sail replaces a conventional mainsail and is exactly what it says it is a wing, just like that on an aeroplane, in this case something roughly the size of a Boeing 737’s wing or 23metres/75ft tall. It is massively more efficient than a conventional sail and can generate enough power for the boat to sail at three times the speed of the wind. The foils are the hydrofoils deployed below the two hulls (the catamaran bit) and are capable of lifting the boat clear of the water at speeds above around 15mph. Doing so reduces the drag of the hulls through the water to zero, leaving only the foils and rudders still attached to the water’s surface. Free of the gloopy grip of the dense water (which is 786 times more dense than air), the boat is free to accelerate enormously fast. That extra speed in turn makes the wing work harder. It is, in effect, generating its own wind. So the boat can reach fifty maybe even 60mph with enough breeze. And given that a sailing race course allows boats to come at the upwind and downwind marks in different directions, triple figure closing speeds are a very real possibility. And there are, of course, no brakes whatsoever. So you’ll understand the need for the smartest guys in the business to be behind the wheel. Land Rover BAR has five gold medals on its boat, with Giles Scott, who won his first gold for Great Britain in Ainslie’s Finn class in Rio, and Ainslie, the most successful Olympic sailor yet, who won the first of his four consecutive gold medals back in 2000. Pete Burling and Blair Tuke on the New Zealand boat won in the 49er class in Rio. Sweden’s Nathan Outteridge won the 49ers in London and teammate Iain Percy won gold medals in 2000 (Finn class) and 2008 (Star class). Tom Slingsby on the American boat was a London 2012 gold medalist in the Laser class. And then there’s Slingsby’s skipper, Jimmy Spithill. The Australian Spithill didn’t take the Olympic route, choosing instead to go straight into the America’s Cup, becoming the youngest sailor to skipper a Cup boat, the youngest to win a Cup race, and the youngest to win the America’s Cup itself in 2010 in the first great Oracle multihull powered by what at 180ft long still remains the longest single wing yet constructed. By the time Spithill came to defend the America’s Cup in 2013, Oracle was smaller, but faster. Foiling technology had arrived, albeit only latterly to Team USA, and Spithill had to fight the rearest of rearguard actions to beat New Zealand in the final. The comeback from 8-1 down is regarded by many as the greatest in the sport’s history, but Spithill didn’t 25