The America’s Cup boats are megafast, 40 knots or so. Scary fast. When these AC 72′s are nearing their top end, they’re hardly in the water, scooting along on daggerboard, rudder and skinny hydrofoils.
Big boats, biggish wind and almost no drag. What’s not to like? It is absolutely thrilling for spectators, and that’s a new one in yacht racing and exactly what the organizers were going for.
So what happened? Preliminary reports tell us that the boat pitch poled. I’ve done that, but on a relatively tame Hobie 16 (also on a 14). It was thrilling: we were scooting along at 8, maybe 9 knots. The leeward (low side) hull starting nosing down. We moved our weight aft. We went faster. The hull edged down. We went faster and finally we had no more room to go aft, no way to balance out the forces. The hull dug in and we went from about 10 knots to zero in a few feet. I felt like I flew 40 feet. It was probably 10 feet. But picture a boat of many tons traveling at 40 knots and doing that maneuver.
Here’s a Hobie Cat — if the video doesn’t run immediately, click here. Start at about 0:50. There are several spectacular moments, the best at about 1:20.