This week while sailing we had some close-up views of the America's Cup AC72 racing catamarans that going through their paces on San Francisco Bay. These high tech sailboats are scheduled to compete for the world championship on bay waters later this year. The twin hull catamarans are designed to enormous proportions for a sailboat: 72 feet long with a 131 foot sail and manned by a crew of 11, and they reach speeds of an unbelievable 40 knots!
We spent the afternoon enjoying the action as they scampered about the waters from Brisbane to Sausalito, testing their craft in the changing wind and current conditions. Much of the time the sailboats were in the far distance from our boat, but occasionally they sailed close enough for a decent photo. Then we saw the quick maneuvering, the crew hard at work, and nimble handling of the boat's skipper.
These are the world’s best sailors and the fastest boats on the planet. The first high-tech design for these boats was a 45-foot version, the AC45 catamarans that can reach speeds of over 20 knots… and that’s FAST. Those boats are currently competing in Naples in the America’s Cup World Series preliminary events before the AC72s race in the finals this September. But these bigger boats will travel at twice the speed, thanks to aerodynamic foils that give the hull an extra lift off the water accelerating it to blazing speeds. We watched each catamaran accompanied by its chase speedboats, and it was clear the motor craft were hard pressed to keep up with the lightning quick catamarans.
The boats are propelled by the wind and controlled manually (no motors) taking advantage of the wind through their sails, rudders, lines and daggerboards, all managed by the crew. The men are constantly on the move across the boats, raising and lowering the jib sail, trimming the sails, and balancing the boat's weight while coping with ever-changing sea conditions. It was both exciting and exhausting to watch that constant activity!
To learn more about these catamarans, there’s an exciting video that shows them in action at http://youtu.be/Y6dnOlE9sjk
And to learn about the match race and fleet race competitions, there's a wonderful video of last year’s preliminary races of the AC45s held in San Francisco at http://youtu.be/Wz79SsjBwf4