Prizegiving 33rd America's Cup
© Pedro Armestre / 33rd America's Cup

Wing rigs in superyachts?

So now we’ve seen the power of wing rigs in action in the America’s Cup, what possibility of a trickledown of technology into other forms of sailing? What about superyachts? BMW Oracle’s design team director Mike Drummond observed, tongue in cheek: “If you go to Wings R Us.com, you can get any size you like.” Of course, this technology is anything but off the shelf, but nor is it new, as Drummond also pointed out: “Wings are not new, they’ve been used by birds for quite a long time. We’re more recent users of them. Our type of wing was invented around the 1920s, and has been used in yachts since around the late ‘70s in the smaller C-Class catamarans. There’s no problem with the wing other than the logistics of it. As long as you have a hundred close friends to help you each weekend, there’s no problem.” So there’s your answer, handed out with a heavy dose of Kiwi sarcasm.

Engines shouldn’t be in Am Cup boats

When Mike Drummond and the BMW Oracle team discovered that Alinghi would be using an engine to power systems on board their boat, the American team had to respond. Drummond says the engine made USA-17 easier to sail, but that doesn’t mean he likes the idea of artificial power in the America’s Cup: “I think our guys who created the engine control system have done an incredible job and I can’t even speak highly enough of it. But to me it’s like, well, some people like to climb Mount Everest because it’s a bloody hard thing to do. They don’t take a moped up there or a helicopter to the top and get a picture taken of them saying ‘I climbed Mount Everest.’ They climb Mount Everest. Ageing soccer players don’t just turn up on a field on a Segway or something. They retire. If sailors are too old to grind winches, they should retire and step aside and let a younger grinder come through. Sailing is a sport where we’re sailing against an opponent and we’ve got Mother Nature and wind and waves, and sometimes it’s tough. And it should be tough, but that’s just my view.”

Sunglasses & Backpack Spithill

One of the iconic images of the 33rd America’s Cup was the sight of James Spithill standing up high at the back of USA-17, steering the winged trimaran to victory. But what was he carrying in his backpack? What sandwiches did his mum pack for the day? “It’s not a parachute, someone asked me that the other day,” says the Australian. “It's to run the sunglasses, with the battery."

Battery? Sunglasses? Yes, Spithill got team electronics expert Mark Sheffield to build a heads-up display and incorporate it into his Prada sunglasses. “The company we used for the technology supply to the defence industry for pilots and soldiers on the ground,” explains Spithill. “I've got numerous pages, rudder angle, loads, anything we record I can see. There's a start page, I'll ask Matteo [Plazzi, the navigator] to put me to the start page before the race.”

Wearing the backpack dispensed with the need for a more complex system in the boat. “The biggest push was to save weight, to take the weight off the boat, and now we’re down to one small pack rather than running cables through the boat. I think it's the future. Wherever you look, the data is there before your eyes. You can look around the course, up at the rig, at the other boat, and the information is still there.”


“A grinder can produce about 1/4 horsepower for a few minutes, then the muscles tie up with lactic acid. So when you’ve got eight grinders on board you’ve got about 2 horsepower, which is about the same as a sewing machine, I think.” -- Mike Drummond, design team director, BMW Oracle Racing, comparing the power of eight grinders with a 100 horsepower engine.

“We might have to add a de-icing system.” -- Russell Coutts, commenting on the arctic conditions which the sailors encountered in Valencia in February.

“It wasn’t just an email from Russell saying ‘We’d like to build a wing!’” --
Larry Ellison, on the complex decision to build the biggest wing ever constructed.

“The wing seems to be quite a weapon.” -- Ernesto Bertarelli, after being soundly beaten in Race 1.

“You have to hand it to Oracle. What they wound up with is like a plane, not a boat. So they deserve to beat us.” -- Brad Butterworth, team skipper and tactician of Alinghi

“I am very proud to be part of this team and I am exceptionally proud to bring the America’s Cup back to the United States of America for the first time in a very long time.” -- Larry Ellison

“Of course we would like to see Alinghi back as a challenger. They are one of the best teams in this business, and they have proven that. I think that for the Cup boats we should reach consensus with the rest of the America’s Cup world. I think it would be irresponsible for one party to make try and make a decision on behalf of the everyone else. You need to put a lot of thought into this. This is a 159 year old trophy and let’s look after it.” -- Russell Coutts

“One thing I would like to assure people about the 34th America’s Cup. There will be a completely independent jury, there will be completely independent umpires. It will be an independent group which manages the next America’s Cup and there will be a level playing field for all competitors.”  -- Larry Ellison

“Sailing’s a lot harder than running a software company.” -- Larry Ellison

“You can’t win all the time. That’s the law of sport.” -- Ernesto Bertarelli