Ok. Oracle Team USA wins America’s Cup over Emirates Team New Zealand. Don’t believe it? Read again: Oracle Team USA wins America’s Cup over Emirates Team New Zealand. And once more: Oracle Team USA wins America’s Cup over Emirates Team New Zealand.
And thus bringing to reality a prediction this video blogger made on September 6th 2013:
On that date Oracle Team USA had just been assessed a two-race penalty, which means Emirates Team New Zealand started the contest having “won” two contests without even hitting the water. An international jury slammed down a two-race penalty for illegal modifications made to their vessels during the 2012 warm-up trials (bags of lead shot and lead tailings were placed in two of their 45-foot black practice boats – not the 72-foot ones used in the America’s Cup Finals – to make them go faster, and then they extended the main king post, or strut, for greater stability in the same craft). On top of that, they were fined $250,000, three world-class crew members were expelled and a fourth suspended. But they still had CEO Jimmy Spithill.
It’s Jimmy Spithill’s never say die attitude, and complete focus that’s evident if you just pay a little attention to him and his history in the America’s Cup context. In a way he’s very much like former Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Bucs Head Coach, and now ESPN Commentator John Gruden. In fact, they both have that kind of Chucky Doll-look about them in the field of competition. It was that attitude, combined with a number of technical maneuvers that made the difference.
Computerized Control To The Rescue
According to Peter Lester, who told a New Zealand TV that the Kiwis were “out-resourced” because Oracle Founder and CEO Larry Ellison reportedly spent money to solve what Sail-World described as “serious foiling stability difficulties” and that halfway through the America’s Cup Final Oracle Team USA “had fitted an automatic control to their hydrofoil trim, and that this modification was approved by the measurement authorities.” This 34th America’s Cup was the first where yachts were driven while literally flying in the air, a situation that can produce unusual rolls that are more akin to what aircraft experience.
Thus, the controversy. The question is, did the automatic controls lead to a kind of assist that would allow the crew to handle higher-speed, lower-drag foils of requiring a level of strength beyond the abilities of the crew?
This is what Sail-World’s Kurt Molnar wrote:
It must be remembered that this is the first time that this contest has been sailed by yachts ‘flying ‘ on Hydrofoils and it is probable that new and different criteria should have been applied.
In the aeronautical world it has long been known that the stability of swept wing aircraft can rapidly be lost by uncontrolled yaw leading to a dangerous situation known as ‘Dutch Roll’.
A device known as ‘Little Herbie’ was developed during the commissioning of the Boeing 747 Jumbo Jets over 40 years ago, to over come this tendency. Little Herbies, or ‘Stability Augmentation Systems’ (SAS) as these are now designated, are equipped with sensors such as Accelerometers and Gyros which can detect and instigate corrections to stability with a speed and accuracy which exceeds the ability of even experienced airline pilots. They are therefore now installed in virtually all swept-wing aircraft.
The ‘legality’ of this device has been justified and accepted on the basis that it does not actually ‘drive’ the trim of the foils – this is still performed by the muscle power of the crew, via hydraulic linkages. That may be so, but the device, using its sensing and directives, has been described as ‘automatic’. This implies that the trim of the foils is determined by what can only be described as ‘superhuman’ technology. If this technology has been used to overcome the foiling stability difficulties of Oracle it will have enabled the use of higher speed/lower drag foils which the crew would otherwise be unable to manage. This would give a significant speed advantage during foiling. This has been clearly in evidence since the modification. Improvement in stability and speed has been staggering.
The high speed/low drag foils do have a downside in light conditions where, due to their lesser lifting characteristic, foiling is difficult or impossible. This was also clearly seen in the abandoned Race 13 when ETNZ were only 4 minutes from the finish, with a lead of over 1000metres.
Oracle Team USA have not provided any official comment on the system they used.
But the result was the most amazing string of victories in sports history. However, even with the computer-assist controversy, it must be noted that Emirates Team New Zealand had one chance to put it all away on Friday when it failed to finish the America’s Cup San Francisco Bay course before the 40-minute-limit.
And M.J.S, a friend of Larry Ellison’s, wrote over at The Economist that while Oracle Team USA’s yacht started out the America’s Cup significantly technically behind Emirates Team USA, it was the constant, daily computer analysis and upgrades to the boat that wore down the less-well-moneyed Kiwis. And he pointed to “less obvious modifications made both to the foils and the wing,” but failed to go into detail regarding what those “less obvious modifications” were.
Other than the tech, Oracle Team USA put on a totally stunning display of speed and strategy that will be remembered for decades to come.
Now, the celebration: