Many of us have been watching the recent America’s Cup race with excitement and fascination. The new boats are truly an engineering feat. With all the new technology, it’s sometime hard to understand how it all works and how the crew keep the boat flying.
The America’s Cup boats have transitioned to foiling catamarans and requires a highly skilled boat crew to fly the boat and to keep the right balance over the water. Long gone are the days when the boats had a max speed of eight knots.
Have you ever wonder the truth about what the crew members are up to on the boat? What are their roles and responsibilities? Would you sign up to work as a grinder?
About America’s Cup
The race was founded in 1851 and is the oldest trophy in international sports. The trophy is awarded to the winner of America’s Cup in a match race between two sailing yacht teams. The team that currently holds the American’s Cup is called the defender and the second yacht team is called the challenger. If the challenger wins the match, it gains the stewardship of the cup.
Crew member rules
The rules in America’s Cup allows the teams to have different set-ups when it comes to the crew, but there are some rules that needs to be followed.
The maximum combined weight of the crew is not allowed to exceed 990 kg, so the eleven sailors needs to weight in between that. Each crew member is also allowed to carry a maximum of 5 kg each in equipment onboard. This means that the crew needs to prioritize what to bring on the boat together with all the essentials needed, like radios, crash protection, food and water.
The roles and responsibilities of the America’s Cup boat crew
The helmsman’s role is essentially to steer the boat and communicate with the crew. His main job is to lead the team and make sure that the boat is in the right place on the course. He use a radio to communicate with the team and initiates and coordinates the timings of the maneuvers.
The tactician’s primary focus is to read and analyze the external factors, such as the wind, sea state, the course boundaries, and monitor what the competitor is up to. The tactician feeds this information to the Helmsman to guide and support his decisions on the maneuvers. The tactician can also help maneuver the boat when the helmsman is crossing to the other side of the boat.
The tactician can be deployed differently depending on the team’s preferences. One example of this is from the Italian team Luna Rossa where they had a co-helm arrangement. The helmsman became the tactician depending on the tack.
The mainsail trimmer primary focus is to keep the boat as stable as possible and maximize the effect of the boats main “engine”. Keeping the boat stable allows the team to fly as accurately as they can. The main task is to trim the mainsail to the ideal shape for the wind conditions.
The mainsail trimmer has a constant communication with the Helmsman. They work together to get the roll or heel of the boat in perfect balance, so it flies over the water.
The flight controllers monitor and control the foil on each side of the boat. The primary task is to fly the boat above the water and decide the height. The controllers are also helping with the pitch control of the boat. The teams have two flight controllers, one on each side of the boat to minimize the movement across the boat. They can be seen as the pilots of the boat.
The trimmers job is to support the grinders and to trim the headsail (jib). The trimmers operate a winch to trim the headsail. They are making sure that the headsail supports the power and speed of the boat in different wind conditions and setups. They are also supporting the grinders. The trimmers have a mic but they tend to listen, rather than communicate with the crew. The channel needs to be kept open for the tactician, mainsail trimmer and helmsman.
Batteries control the main foils and rudders, but everything else is powered by the grinders, including the sail controls. The grinders power this by turning pedestals. There are four grinders in total, two on each side. More power means that the mainsail and the headsail can be trimmed more accurately. Trimmers are the engine room of the boat and essential to keep the rest of the American cup crew members going.
All crew members have to work in a perfect coordinated manner to win the race.
Who won the race? Check out the results here
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