Scuttlebutt News: BMW Oracle Racing Trimaran Observations
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Scuttlebutt News:

BMW Oracle Racing Trimaran
Photos by Gilles Martin-Raget/BMW Oracle Racing.

The BMW Oracle Racing team’s BOR 90 - aka their Deed of Gift challenging trimaran - has been relocated from its initial trialing location in Anacortes, WA to San Diego, CA, and began testing again on October 7, 2008. Scuttlebutt founder Tom Leweck joined the team on October 11th to see firsthand what all the ruckus is about. Here is his story:

Taming the Beast
I’m not sure what I was expecting when I walked into the San Diego BMW Oracle Racing camp, but I was not quite prepared for the dead serious, down to business, “full court press” atmosphere that prevailed. Forget Kenneth Grahame’s oft-quoted line about the joys of “… messing around in boats." What I saw were professional sailors putting in long hours conducting the sea trails on a nasty looking, incredibly physical and powerful multihull that may never become fully tamed.

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From left: Jane Eagleson, Tom Leweck, Tom Ehman
For the sailing team, the days begin at 7:15 AM at the gym where the syndicate’s health and fitness guru, David Abercrombie, focuses on the ‘hardening’ process. You quickly see that it takes a lot of strong, hard bodies to do anything on the syndicate’s 90-foot trimaran. Nothing happens easily, and every person, except the driver, takes his turn spinning the handles on one of the winch pedestals.

The BOR tri is still very much in the sea trial phase. To aid in the analysis, the boat and its rig are covered with sensors and cameras. The data and images they produce is viewed, analyzed and stored on computers on both the sailboat and support boats.

There was a lot of data collected the day I watched the tri off San Diego. During the course of the afternoon the team gathered information while sailing with a single, a double and even a triple reef tucked into the giant, square-top mainsail. Loads, shapes and other data was also collected while using four different sails in front of the 158-foot canting mast – a staysail, a Solent jib and two different genikers.

You begin to appreciate what a challenge this boat is as you witness how time consuming and physical it is to make even a simple sail change. Obviously, the time factor will improve as the team learns the boat, but what’s not going to change is how much brute strength is required.

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On this day there were no spectator boats out watching the BOR tri go through its paces. There simply are not a lot of boats that can keep up with this monster. Sailing in mostly 9-12 knots of breeze, the tri seemed to accelerate effortlessly beyond 20 knots – regardless of what sails were flying. During the afternoon tests we were well into Mexican waters, and could easily have been in Ensenada for cocktails had that been the plan. It was also interesting to see how quickly helmsman Franck Cammas could slow (or stop) the boat by just moving the helm a few degrees off the ‘sweet spot.’

As I looked at the helmets and other gear worn by the crew, and witnessed the forces generated by this as yet un-tamed beast, I understood why BMW Oracle Racing is not taking anyone for sailboat rides right now . . . and why the team never goes sailing without a paramedic on one of their support boats. No question about it -- the BOR pros are earning their money.

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On Monday, September 8, 2008, Scuttlebutt publisher Craig Leweck was in Anacortes, WA during the first day that the BMW Oracle Racing team opened their construction base to the media. They had been trialing the BOR 90 trimaran for a week, and were now ready to reveal some details on their Deed of Gift challenger. Below are some of his observations.

Giving Anacortes some sizzle
Turning 90 feet into 100 feet
Jack be nimble... and quick
Points of dispute
Like walking on the moon
Forum questions and replies

Like walking on the moon
During our visit to the BMW Oracle Racing (BOR) team base in Anacortes, WA, it was the first day they had opened their doors to the media. While they were gracious hosts, they had no intention of revealing any specific details about their boat. However, what did become abundantly clear is that for the design of this boat, and now the sailing of it, there were and still remain many unknowns. Much like when Apollo 11 landed on the moon in 1969, the team is seemingly repeating Neil Armstrong’s famous saying each day: "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Here are some of the more notable replies we did receive:
  • Team owner Larry Ellison has not yet sailed the boat, and it is looking like that won’t happen before the team relocates to San Diego.
  • There are two masts, and we were told they are identical. They are hollow and approximately 5 feet from front to back, and it appears possible for a person to transit from end to end on the inside. The masts were built from a female mould (two piece construction), and due to their size, it was more like building a boat than a mast.
  • The trimaran is viewed to be more versatile than a catamaran and a little lighter. The width of the boat is deemed suitable for moderate conditions, though less beam might be preferred in very light or very strong winds.
  • Top speed is expected to be in the mid 40 knot range, and it is conceivable that the boat could break the absolute speed record (49.09 kts). Downwind apparent wind angle is approximately 30 degrees.
  • The hulls and beams are glued together (not bolted), which is why the boat is being barged to San Diego.
  • Dimensions provided include length/width at waterline (90 feet), total length (100 feet), mast length (158 feet), mainsail (5000 sq ft; over twice the size of previous AC class boat mainsail), headsail (3500 sq ft), and genneker (7000 sq ft).
  • The build time was about 8 months (18 months is typical for this size of trimaran) and included 80,000 labor hours. Cost of construction was estimated at $60 per pound.
  • Crew size is expected to be 14-15 people.
  • There were five support RIBs which included a medical team and divers in case of a capsize. Water temperature was low 50’s (F), and there were contingency plans for medical evacuation that included each of the various sailing areas in the Puget Sound.
  • The short term training schedule tentatively has the team sailing in San Diego for October and November, and breaking for holiday in December.

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    Points of dispute
    During the course of litigation, dating back to when Golden Gate Yacht Club (BOR’s club) initially filed suit on August 22, 2008, there have been three significant disputes regarding the Deed of Gift boats: the BOR boat description, where the boats are constructed, and the certification of the BOR boat. These now appear to be non-issues based on the following:

  • In the GGYC challenge dated July 11, 2007, the document describes that they will be constructing a “keel yacht.” The Deed states that “Centreboard or sliding keel vessels shall always be allowed to compete in any race for this Cup, and no restriction nor limitation whatever shall be placed upon the use of such centreboard or sliding keel, nor shall the centre-board or sliding keel be considered a part of the vessel for any purposes of measurement.” The BOR trimaran main hull has a very heavy, very deep daggerboard (at least 15 feet below the boat) that can be raised and lowered. The construction team also refers to the keel as the structural element of the boat, which as Wikipedia states, “is a large beam around which the hull of a ship is built. The keel runs in the middle of the ship, from the bow to the stern, and serves as the foundation or spine of the structure, providing the major source of structural strength of the hull. “

  • The Deed of Gift says that a club can challenge with “a yacht or vessel … constructed in the country to which the challenging Club belongs” The BOR team states that the historical record of this requirement is that for anything requiring custom manufacturer, it must be done within the challenging country. For their boat, this most notably concerns the construction of the boat (all hulls, beams, etc), mast, boom, and sails. They find that this requirement of the Deed does not pertain to off-the-shelf items that are commonly available such as fasteners, rigging hardware, or construction materials, from which there are no limits on their country of origin. BOR states that they have fulfilled this requirement and they believe that the defender Alinghi team should have no problem with this requirement in Switzerland either.

  • “Accompanying the ten months’ notice of challenge, there must be sent … a custom-house registry of the vessel must also be sent as soon as possible. “ The BOR team is not completely clear on what must be reported on this certificate, but it is generally understood that it will include information regarding the dimensions of the challenging boat. The certificate is required from the challenging club, and based on the most recent decision handed down from the Appellate Division, First Department of the NY Supreme Court, the challenging club is Club Nautico Español de Vela (CNEV). If the Court of Appeals reverses their decision and hands the Challenger of Record (COR) position to GGYC, the racing date will be 10 months from court’s decision unless both teams agree to another date. The date for the court’s decision is predicted to be March 2009, and if BOR becomes the COR, they would have enough time to build another boat, thus postponing the submission of the registry certificate until the completion of the second boat.

  • click to enlarge
    Deed of Gift:
    BOR Challenge:

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    Jack be nimble... and quick
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    Match racing is about nimble teams outmaneuvering their opponent. When talk began of 90 foot multihulls competing in the America’s Cup, it was assumed traditional tactics would need to be replaced. The amount of speed a multihull loses through a turn is costly, making it hard to adequately control their opponent... or so we thought. Now, after a day of observing the BMW Oracle Racing (BOR) trimaran in action, the consensus among the media was that this boat was far more maneuverable than expected.

    Going upwind there are a few interesting aspects to note. The mast can be canted to windward up to 8 degrees, which means that when the boat is sailing on the main hull and leeward float, the mast is roughly vertical. The mast only has one set of side stays, and they are mounted aft on the floats, just forward of the aft beam. When sailing upwind, the loaded windward shroud twists the aft end of the float up. According to the team, while this looks odd, the twisting is limited to the windward float, and since the hulls in the water remain properly aligned, the extra weight needed in construction to prevent this would not be warranted.

    There is a huge hydraulic ram that connects the side stay to the float, which is then used to adjust the cant. The controls for the ram are in the form of foot pedals at the helm station, with another set of controls at the mainsheet. Watching the boat tack is pretty impressive… here are the steps to observe:

  • There is a lead RIB that watches for debris. When the RIB “tacks” you know that the boat is soon to follow.
  • With the helm stations so far apart, there is a helm assistant that steps into the leeward station prior to the tack.
  • As the boat begins the tack, the mast cant is dropped completely to leeward, which soon will be the new windward side. This happens quickly, and with a mast height of 158 feet, the amount of distance the mast tip travels is over 45 feet (note: this is our math considering a total travel of 16 degrees).
  • During the tack, four coffee grinder stations are in full tilt. These stations could not be any closer to each other, positioned just forward of the aft beam. At this moment over half the crew are spinning handles within a very confined space.
  • The boat is now on the new tack, the mast is already canted to windward, and the primary helmsman is now running up the trampoline to the windward steering station to resume driving.

  • Both floats have curved foils that are designed to give lift, but they saw limited use on this day, and it is unclear how they will be used in a tack. There is also a trim tab on the main hull daggerboard, which is contolled by the center wheel at the helm station. The team was clearly sailing the boat carefully, but they finally pushed a little harder during the end of the day. While sailing upwind in no more than 9 knots of breeze, they heeled the boat enough to sail on only the leeward float, making even speed with our media boat at roughly 26 knots.

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    Turning 90 feet into 100 feet
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    Following their America’s Cup victory on July 3, 2007, the Swiss Alinghi team released the Protocol for the next event on July 5th, the defacto Notice of Race that had been agreed upon with their Challenger of Record, the newly formed Club Nautico Español de Vela (CNEV). Upon review of the Protocol, the BMW Oracle Racing (BOR) team believed that, along with six other competing teams, CNEV had not sufficiently protected the interests for the challenging teams, and that the Protocol provided for an unprecedented number of advantages for the Defender.

    BOR wanted a revised Protocol. To maximize their negotiating leverage, BOR decided to submit a Deed of Gift challenge, much like the New Zealand team did following the American Stars & Stripes win at the 1987 America’s Cup. In structuring their formal challenge, BOR knew two things: They had to provide the dimensions of the boat they intend to challenge with, and they could not make the same mistake New Zealand did, which was to challenge with a 90-foot monohull that was later beaten easily by the American catamaran in 1988.

    BOR had to insure they were the second team to challenge (thus becoming the primary challenge if they could successfully nullify the Spanish challenge), so they quickly assembled a consortium of multihull experts to determine the dimensions for the fastest boat that the Deed of Gift would allow. The Deed had limits on size, plus required certain specifications to be disclosed. Upon filing their challenge on July 11, 2007, BOR described their boat as having a 90-foot length at load waterline, a 90-foot beam at load waterline, a 90-foot extreme beam, a 3-foot hull draft, and a 20 draft with boards down.

    BOR considered their Deed of Gift challenge to be a placeholder tactic. They hoped the threat of a multihull America’s Cup would bring the Alinghi team to the negotiating table to revise the Protocol to what BOR believed would be a more equitable multi-challenger event. BOR also began the legal process within the New York court system to prove that CNEV was not an eligible challenger, a process that now rests in the hands of the Court of Appeals. Both teams claim to have made a considerable effort to agree on suitable Protocol revisions, but ultimately they were unable to resolve their differences. When the courts found that BOR would be the new Challenger of Record (a decision that is currently under appeal), and given that the date for racing could possibly be in the fall of 2008 (which now will not occur), the time had come in late 2007 for the teams to proceed with the terms of the Deed of Gift challenge.

    With the BOR trimaran now revealed, their announced 90-foot boat is decidedly longer. The secret is in the floats (aka amas or outer hulls), which extend both forward and aft of the main hull. When the boat is level, both floats are in the water at the same time, thus providing the described beam at load waterline. However, in this position, their waterline length is a small fraction of their actual length, which is understood to be 100 feet. The main hull total length and waterline length appear identical at 90 feet. When sailing in light winds, the boat rides on the main hull and the leeward float. However, with sufficient wind strength, the boat will heel enough to ride on only the leeward float, thus benefiting from its longer immersed waterline length (approx. 100 feet) and smaller hull form, a feat that has ably been demonstrated in no more than nine knots of wind.

    Deed of Gift:
    BOR Challenge:
    Legal analysis:

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    Giving Anacortes some sizzle
    (Monday, September 8, 2008) To drive to the San Juan Islands in the Pacific Northwest, you need to take a ferry, and the prominent Ferry landing is in Anacortes, WA. For this town of not quite 15,000, that was its primary distinction. But when the BMW ORACLE Racing team chose Anacortes to be the site where its two AC class boats would be built for the 2007 America's Cup, and now again for its Deed of Gift 90-foot trimaran challenger, that all changed.

    While the AC boats left the shed with little fanfare, tightly wrapped and quickly flown out of town, the trimaran has stayed, and on August 25th was christened on-site, and lowered into Fidalgo Bay adjacent to the boat yard where it was constructed on the Anacortes waterfront. With the weather window still open in this part of the country, the team decided to test and trial their new horse locally on the Rosario Strait, and utilize their existing facilities to address any design and construction issues.

    To arrive in Anacortes, it is an hour and a half drive north of SEA-TAC, the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The team has secured the services of a transportation company, and needless to say, they travel the route often. The driver noted that most of his passengers have been foreigners. The girl at the hotel front desk was curious too, and wondered why there were so few Americans involved in the America's Cup. In both instances, however, it was clear that the activities of the team had brought some sizzle to this ferry landing town.

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