Thu, Jul 09, 2009 - Page 19 News List

Oracle Racing relaunches huge America’s Cup boat


Alinghi staff work on a new catamaran at a construction site in Villeneuve, Switzerland, on Tuesday. America’s Cup defenders Alinghi have chosen a giant catamaran with a length of 27.4m and a mast of probably 50m to face US challenger Oracle for the 33rd America’s Cup race in February.


From San Diego Bay to Lake Geneva, it’s going to be a busy week for the bitter rivals set to sail for the America’s Cup in February.

The challenger, BMW Oracle Racing of San Francisco, relaunched its massive trimaran on Monday after the carbon-fiber boat was significantly modified during the last four months.

The space age-looking craft, which is 90 feet (27.4m) long and wide, was moved by crane from a temporary boatshed to its berth on San Diego Bay. It will be refitted with its mast before being load-tested to make sure it’s seaworthy. Sailing on the Pacific Ocean was scheduled to resume sometime this week.

“This is cutting-edge technology and sailing. We look forward to testing how fast is fast,” helmsman James Spithill said in a statement.

BMW Oracle Racing is scheduled to face two-time defending America’s Cup champion Alinghi of Switzerland in a best-of-3 series starting on Feb. 8 for the oldest trophy in international sports.

Whether this boat, known as BOR 90, is the boat that will face Alinghi remains to be seen. BMW Oracle Racing, owned by software tycoon and sailor Larry Ellison, has refused to confirm or deny reports it is building a second boat. Ellison is believed to have spent between US$10 million and US$20 million on the boat that was relaunched on Monday.

If BMW Oracle Racing is building a new trimaran, the current one would at least serve as a sparring partner.

Early yesterday morning, with the Alps as a backdrop, a giant helicopter was scheduled to lift Alinghi’s equally exotic-looking catamaran from a boatyard in Villeneuve and launch it on Lake Geneva. The Swiss cat, which has been described as resembling a praying mantis, is 90 feet on the waterline and reportedly has a bowsprit that makes it 120 feet overall. It’s believed to be not quite 90 feet wide.

The rare one-on-one showdown is the result of a convoluted, two-year court fight in which the US syndicate’s backing yacht club was declared the rightful Challenger of Record.

Alinghi gets to pick the venue. A decision is due by Aug. 8, six months before the first race. The Swiss are reportedly ­considering Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, apparently feeling their catamaran would excel there in light wind and flat water.

With the size and speed of the giant multihulls, it could be the most spectacular racing in the 158-year history of the America’s Cup.

BMW Oracle Racing’s trimaran is capable of sailing two to 2.5 times the speed of the wind. Its mast is as high as a 16-story building and the mainsail is twice the size of a Boeing 747’s wing. The boat’s three hulls would cover the diamond on a major league baseball field, and are just shorter than an NBA court.

Boats that size can be lethal, too. BMW Oracle Racing’s sailors have been cautious while sailing their big boat, including wearing crash helmets and life vests, hardly the normal America’s Cup attire.

BMW’s sailors are en route to San Diego to resume testing the trimaran. The outer hulls, or floats, appear to have been significantly reshaped.

“We are really excited to get out on the water,” Spithill said. “We still have plenty to do to complete sea trials and be ready for the America’s Cup in February, so every day counts.”

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