America's Cup: Top designer still rates Oracle's chances of success

Cogito (USA) C-Class catamaran - in 18-23kts of wind and a reasonable sea sailing in 2007
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Top America's Cup designer, Duncan MacLane rates Oracle Team USA's chances at better than 60% of mounting a successful Defence of the America's Cup in September 2013, despite the capsize in October which ripped four months out of their development program.

The new Alinghi is expected to lean heavily into the slim lightweight design corner as Cogito, the 1996 Little America’s Cup winner
'I think it is possible, Oracle have an incredibly strong team and with tons of experience. At the early stages I would have said that the chance of someone beating the US was extremely slim, but right now I would say that it is maybe an even game.'

MacLane spoke with highly experienced America's Cup commentator, Peter Montgomery on Newstalk ZB on Sunday afternoon. Earlier Montgomery had been listed by NZ Herald sports columnist, Chris Rattue as one of the 10 most influential all-time sports commentators - with only one other New Zealander also being listed (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/sport/news/article.cfm?c_id=4&objectid=10857212!Click_here for the full list).

When questioned further, MacLane upped his assessment to 60/40 in favour of the US team. 'They had a big head start, and you can't discount all their time on the water and all their testing they learned with the big trimaran (a reference to USA-17 which won the America's Cup from Alinghi in 2010). They had a huge step up over every body,' he added.

MacLane, a naval architect, winning skipper in the Little America's Cup sailed in 26ft wing sailed catamarans, and wingsail and aeronautical specialist was involved in the design and development of the wingsail used by Stars and Stripes in the 1988 America's Cup Defence. He was also retained by Alinghi for the 2010 America's Cup, but that team never built a wingsail for reasons of budget.

Duncan MacLane (right) consultant to Alinghi and member of the design team for Stars and Stripes (’87) and Cogito in 1996 with crew Erich Chase.
Wingsails were first used in the C-class in 1971, and the class is seen by many as the most relevant development class for the new AC72 catamarans that will be sailed for the first time in 2013 America's Cup. At the last International C-Class Catamaran Championship, sailed in Newport, RI, USA in August 2010, the rigging area was crawling with potential America's Cup designers seeking the latest thinking in the C-class.

Reflecting on his experience in the two-man C-class catamarans, MacLane says foiling in that class has never really been successful. 'The boat have been successful from the stand-point that they foil in the right wind conditions, but they always had drawbacks. The trick with foiling is that it is a compromise,' he added. 'You have to look at the whole envelope of the sailing conditions and the legs that you have got to be set up for, how much time you can spend foiling and what the downside is when you are not foiling, in terms of the extra drag.'

The latter comment being a reflection on the increased drag of the foils when the AC72 catamarans being used for the 34th America's Cup are sailed in displacement mode.

'Maybe in a straight line the ultimate speed is higher, but the trick is in the manoeuvring, and whether the down-speed potentials trade-off properly.'

'The America's Cup is in a fairly tight box, and you have to do a lot of maneuvers, and the down-speed is going to hurt you because of the foils, and you are going to end up with a negative trade-off.'

To hear the full interview
http://www.radiosport.co.nz/player/ondemand/1274373477-duncan-maclane-on-the-america-s-cup!click_here (for Apple users just click on the 'Play in external speaker' option).