America’s Cup 34: Access in Alameda
A firsthand look inside Artemis Racing's base reveals the monumental task ahead for the Swedish Challenger.
While the fanfare continued at the America’s Cup Park on another sun-kissed day in San Francisco, the only hint of anything sailing related was Luna Rossa challenge on the water training with its AC72 (before later announcing they would not race the first match of the Louis Vuitton Cup). Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the Bay, in Alameda, the revival continued inside Artemis Racing’s converted hangar where the team’s new wing sat disassembled. A small army of builders and crewmembers tended to the team’s second boat—aka the “blue one.”
In a surprise gesture to reestablish ties with the media, Artemis finally opened its doors for an hour-long base tour co-hosted by CEO Paul Cayard and helmsman Nathan Outteridge. In stark contrast to Oracle Team USA’s base, which has the appearance of a clean and tidy garage in which to store a few AC72s and wings, the Challenger of Record’s workspace looked like a sailor’s chop shop.
As Cayard and Outteridge led the media scrum from the reception area (with a friendly reminder of “no photos or video”) we briefly entered the wing bay before being led upstairs to team’s gym. Here, on a mock grinding pedestal wired to a computer, veteran AC grinder and powerhouse Craig Monk demonstrated his explosive technique, developed over 25 years in the business. He grunted through a 10-second burst that put out nearly 1,200 watts. The point was made: The sailors of the AC34 are lean, cut, and stronger than they’ve ever been.
After our extended session in the gym, Cayard led us to the shop floor, where we stopped alongside the lower elements of Artemis’s third and final wing. Here, too, explained Outteridge, the monumental task of regrouping and relaunching after the team’s accident was hampered by the new safety recommendations issued in May. The requirement that wing films be transparent in the lower elements prompted a change in skin material to one with less shape-holding ability, which in turn required additional carbon frames to be built into the wing’s lower elements.
As we made our way to the platform (boat) maintenance bay, past work benches and carts loaded with rolls of carbon-fiber sheets, Cayard brought us to a 20-by-10 wooden shipping crate, which held the team’s new daggerboards, beautifully curved carbon J-shaped foils that had just arrived from overseas. Nearby, skipper Iain Percy was getting his hands dirty, working alone, quietly sanding, and only once glancing up from his work to survey the group.
There is another set of daggerboards coming, said Cayard. Spares are a good thing to have.
“[To make a set of these] is very complex,” he said. “It starts with a mold that’s a huge block of aluminum about the size of this box (referring to the shipping crate). They machine it, which takes four to six weeks, and then they need to laminate. We have fiber optics running throughout them so we can measure the strains on the boards. The static weight on the board is essentially the weight of the boat—about 7.2 tons.”
The boat itself was a hive of activity, its bow sections wrapped in silver padding. The bowsprit had only been attached the night before. Whether intentional or not (likely the former), the boat was not included in our tour as we were led instead to a development area that consisted of a AC72 cockpit section, presumably scavenged from the wreckage of their first boat, with a grinding pedestal and hydraulic tubes led to a steel jig of a daggerboard case. Here, Loick Peyron joined in to explain the importance of data collection on land, which would be useful in determining at least some degree of precision and understanding of their daggerboard rake adjustments before the boat is launched.
“What’s important to understand is that the rudder elevators are fixed while racing so the control of the flying of the boat is done by the daggerboard,” Cayard explained. “Every degree makes a difference.”
Daggerboard rake adjustments, he added, need to be instantaneous, accurate, and repeatable when foiling at 40 knots. “Every team has put a lot into it [the daggerboard angle control], so to fast track it we’ve built this giant jig so we can start playing with this whole system so we’re debugged before we first go sailing. This is the type of thing we’ve undertaken over the past five weeks so we can seriously prepare to race the best we can while we wait for the wing to get done.
“We have a lot going on here, more than people think. We’re busting our butts so Iain, Nathan, and Loick take a boat that’s much more advanced. We’re going to launch a brand new boat and a new wing in July. That’s a tall order for any team.”
The opportunity of having Cayard on the subject of foils meant pressing him on the impasse that could put the Artemis program in further jeopardy.
“We had four rudders, two sets that we made for Boat 2,” he explained. “They were rule compliant before May 22. When the safety recommendations came out we were told they would be rules, and in good faith, we began a six-week process to make safety-rule compliant elevators.”
They “cannibalized” one set to do so, he added, and are awaiting their arrival. “So we have those coming, and we have the class-rules compliant rudders currently in hand. We’re sort of exposed because we don’t have spares as we did before.”
When the safety recommendations came out, Outteridge said, the team’s original rudders weren’t big enough. “They were like .26 and so we’ve had to rebuild ours to be .32, and we’ve gone to a symmetric rudder with them outside the beam because that’s what the recommendations say we’re allowed to do. If they say you have to be .32, and you have to be inside the boundaries, then we have an issue because our rudders won’t fit. So we’re good for the original rule and we’re good for what changed, but in between … we’re like six to eight weeks from making those.”
While Artemis await the jury’s ruling, however, it’s “full on” for the time-challenged challenger, and Outteridge was candid in his assessment of his team chances.
“I’ve watched every team sail and you get a good understanding on how to learn how to sail the [AC72]. If we can test the structures, get the boat foiling, and start to do our maneuvers, we’ll be in a position to go up on the City Front and do the racing, but until we get confidence in the boat, and our ability in the boat, we don’t want to risk anyone’s safety.
"We’re optimistic about our chances. The lighter the wind is the sooner we can race [the AC72]. Hopefully by August we’ll be comfortable in 15 to 18 knots.”
Cayard’s parting words, however, were ominous. “If the protest is upheld, if the other 35 requirements remain, which is the draft requirement and the .32 square meters, and yet the class rules have to be respected, then Artemis is excluded from racing.”
View photos from the tour of Artemis Racing's base in Alameda.