Last week I wrote about my recent trip to San Francisco, where my hosts, Bruce Farrand and Logan Cripps of Circa Marine (builder of the FPBs), were on-hand to represent and promote Kiwi boat building skills for North American clients. As a follow up to that post, I want to share with SetSail readers what proved to be the most exciting part of the trip – the tour of Emirates Team New Zealand’s shed and operations base on Pier 30/32.
As part of the New Zealand marine trade group contingent (NZ Marine), we were scheduled to have a tour of the Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) facilities on Friday, August 23rd: a NON-race day. The picture above shows us posing smartly alongside ETNZ’s alternate boat, available should their primary become unusable. Three Bay area friends, and followers of the FPB program, were able to join us at the Kiwi camp on Pier 32.
As it turned out, Friday became a race day, and when the NZ Marine group of around 50-60 people arrived for our tour, we were told we could observe the lifting and de-rigging of ETNZ. The shed tour however was canceled, as the crew were going to be busy working through the afternoon and evening to clean her up from the day’s race, and prep for the next day’s possible final day of Louis Vuitton Cup racing. You can imagine the group’s disappointment. The photo above is a nice back-of-the-head shot of my Dashew Offshore mate, Kelly Archer (right), and ETNZ Biz Manager Ross Blackman (left), watching the team carefully prepping to de-rig ETNZ for the night between races. Make note of the team member in the bright orange vest – just in front of Kelly and Ross, handling a line that is wrapped around a fairly large self-tailing winch, mounted to a 1000 lb concrete block, all riding on the powered pallet truck/lift.
As the wing is removed and lowered, the trickiest, and potentially most disastrous, part of the entire process is encountered. Ross Blackman recounted for us the first time they dropped the wing in a stiff breeze, and how with the masthead (winghead?) still 50 feet or so off the deck – a bit lower than shown in above photo – the crew manning a guy line directing the masthead to its cradle by hand, radioed the crane operator to keep lowering. Only to have the operator reply that he was, and that he showed no load on the crane cable. The wing was flying!! Ever since they have only dropped the mast if the wind is under 25 knots, leading the masthead guy line through the winch/concrete block/pallet truck rather than holding in hand.
Once horizontal and in its cradles, the wing is very carefully moved into its shed. You can see from the photo above that there are two wings on-site, with one already tucked away in the shed with the red header. You should just be able to make out the ETNZ boat, kept in the shed to the right with the blue header. The entire de-rigging process probably took just under an hour. Having spent a large portion of my time in this industry as a sailboat rigger, I really enjoyed watching the entire process.
Now for the really cool part. See the photo above? That is Burns Fallow (left), lead wing/sails engineer and designer for ETNZ, giving us a very personal and very thorough VIP tour of the shed(s) and the facilities at ETNZ base. The headsail on the loft floor is solid carbon fibre. Burns was an amazing tour guide to the details that make the entire program “click”.
Understandably, we weren’t allowed to touch much – but the photo above shows Logan Cripps of Circa Marine giving the grinder work-out machine a go. Much like my rowing machine at home, the blue chamber you see in front of Logan had a fan of sorts. But rather than air, resistance was provided by moving it through a thick gelatinous substance. I’ve decided to stick to my rowing machine.
In the sheds that hold the wing mast and the boat, no one is allowed to take photos. Being an American with a friend in the Oracle camp, I understood, but it sure would have been cool to show you some of the amazing details that have gone into the AC 72’s. The wing panels with their carbon structure, the hydraulics and control systems, the daggerboards that carry 7 tons of boat PLUS sailing loads, the carbon stays and struts. On and on it went. All very impressive in terms of bleeding edge materials, engineering, and design – but equally the amount of teamwork to bring it all together.
Something repeated throughout our visit, by various members of ETNZ, was how we should take it all in and enjoy it while we can because there will never be another America’s Cup raced with AC 72’s – so bleeding edge, so fragile, so expensive. So I encourage all who can, to get to San Francisco to see these marvelous machines that may never race again. Here’s to hoping that this America’s Cup provides some exciting, competitive, and close racing. I end with a photo I took of the Kiwis on stage at the America’s Cup Park on Pier 27/29, celebrating their Louis Vuitton Cup win, but knowing from our tour of the ETNZ shed, that it was just a stepping stone to their goal of taking THE Cup, back home to Auckland. First race is today – Saturday, September 7th, 1:15 pm PT.
For more information on the FPB series, contact Sue Grant: Sue.Grant@Berthon.Co.UK.