What is an AC45?
How to get on one.
What the ride is like.
Who gave me the ride:
Energy Team, from France is my new favorite team. Their karma, because of the ride they gave me, was enhanced. They were second in the Match Racing and 3rd in the Fleet Championship Race in San Diego, during this third venue in the ACWS. This was their best performance to date.
What is an AC45?
Below is a great illustration of just what the new (2010) AC45 looks like and the sizes of the various components. These boats are the warm up designs for the America's Cup (AC). There is a series of races to be held around the world to incite interest in AC racing. This series is called the America's Cup World Series (ACWS) and teams that would like to challenge for the AC are using these boats to practice strategy and technique on a less expensive platform than the 72' AC boats that will be raced in starting in July of 2013 in San Francisco. The speculated cost for a 72' boat is approximately $10 million, to be individually designed and built by each team.
The cost of the AC45 is just under a $1 million. They are all built by Core Builders in NZ and are all rigged as one design boats. The headsails are the only modification allowed for experiment.
During the Speed Trial in San Diego the boats were clocked at 26k! That was in a 20-22k wind range. They are very fast and demand crew attention at 100% or one goes swimming. As evidenced in Plymouth, England, the capsize possibility really goes up when the wind goes over 20k. The bows can dig in and if technique is missing or a line fouls then the fall from the platform can really bum your day.
How to get a ride.
It paid to get to the venue early and get into the camps and ask up front. Access was limited to the camps but having press credentials and being there before security ramped up really helped.
The Ride Experience:
Aft of the aft cross beam there was a tiny space to sit on one's knees or recline to one side or the other. A grabline was provided for the guest. That is the extent of the safety and the so to speak 'seat' was hard to get comfy on. The 'guest' position is aft of the aft crossbeam with about 12" of spectra net to perch on. The net cut into my knees through the foulies and pants and really was uncomfortable on my bare hands. Falling off the back end was a very real hazard.
Photos by John Papajani and Count Ferrari