Kiwis turn to pedal power on America's Cup catamaran
SAN DIEGO (AP) Emirates Team New Zealand has the America's Cup world spinning with its latest seagoing innovation.
The Kiwis have secretly been using Olympic cyclist Simon van Velthooven for the last year to help their sailors transition from turning winches with their hands to using radical cycling pedestals aboard their new America's Cup catamaran.
Van Velthooven's work with the syndicate came to light in Auckland in recent days as the Kiwis tested and then christened the wing-sailed, foiling catamaran they will use in the 35th America's Cup this year in Bermuda.
The syndicate said it's too early to say if van Velthooven will actually sail in the cup trials that begin in late May. He tied for the bronze medal in the keirin in the 2012 Olympics.
The Kiwis have long been known for America's Cup innovations.
They believe tapping the grinders' more-powerful leg muscles via the cycling grinding system will be better to produce the energy that powers the hydraulic systems that control the wingsail and daggerboards.
Team New Zealand has placed four cycling grinding stations, called pedalstals, on each hull of the catamaran, which measures just less than 49 feet.
Van Velthooven told 1 News that the learning curve has been steep for both him and his new teammates.
''It's good to share my knowledge to them. Their numbers have improved exponentially and so have mine,'' he told the TV network. ''We've become huge, powerful beasts with endurance.''
When the catamarans reach a certain speed, the hulls lift out of the water and ride on foils, reducing drag and increasing speed. The boats for this cup are smaller but faster than the 72-footers that were used in 2013 on San Francisco Bay.
The Kiwis were hard-luck losers in that regatta to Oracle Team USA. Team New Zealand was on match point and leading the potential clinching race when the wind died, forcing an abandonment. Oracle then staged one of the biggest comebacks in sports, winning eight straight races to retain the oldest trophy in international sports.
Team New Zealand CEO Grant Dalton called the christening ''a proud day for us, a day our opposition tried to stop happening and still tries to stop happening.''
The Kiwis have struggled during this cup cycle. Two years ago, they supported an Italian syndicate's opposition to an unprecedented mid-course reduction in boat size. The Italian syndicate dropped out and cup organizers pulled a qualifying regatta that had been awarded to Auckland. That caused Emirates Team New Zealand to lose several million dollars in sponsorship from the government.
''The campaign always just gets real when you launch the actual boat that you hope will be the one to win the America's Cup back for New Zealand,'' Dalton said. ''It's when things get exciting. And despite the long, hard hours everyone has been putting in, there is definitely an added edge to the team now this is in the water.''
Emirates Team New Zealand design coordinator Dan Bernasconi said the cycling grinding system has had its challenges.
''When we sat down to think about the overall design of this boat three years ago the benefits of cycling opposed to regular grinding were obvious, but certainly not without issues and difficulty with functionality, and this is what we have been working incredibly hard on overcoming for the past three years.''
Follow Bernie Wilson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/berniewilson