America's Cup designers give insight into race

Team New Zealand achieved ''quite staggering'' increases in boat speed during its intensive build-up to the America's Cup races in San Francisco last year, the team's senior design engineer, Andy Kensington, said in Dunedin yesterday.

He was commenting during a ''Battle of the Boats'' lecture, also involving Oracle Team USA senior design engineer Neil Wilkinson, at Otago Boys' High School last night.

This was the third in a national series of lectures being given by the two men, who are both New Zealanders, to mark the centenary of the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand.

More than 200 people attended.

Mr Kensington said increases in boat speed of about 10 knots had been achieved by Team New Zealand within a year of the start of the America's Cup races.

Oracle eventually won 9-8 after a seemingly miraculous comeback, having earlier trailed Team New Zealand 1-8.

Mr Kensington said in some previous America's Cup events, with much slower overall speeds, an increase of 0.1 of a knot would have been viewed as notable, but the increases gained by Team New Zealand had been ''quite staggering''.

That team had been somewhat surprised to have such a marked advantage in some of the early racing.

But Oracle had bounced back later and was sailing 1 or 2 knots faster than the New Zealand boat during the last couple of races, which proved a crucial edge.

Oracle had earlier had a major overall advantage through its greater knowledge of catamaran design and sailing, having won the 33rd America's Cup regatta in 2010, representing the Golden Gate Yacht Club.

For that reason, relatively few challengers had put themselves forward, given time constraints, in the 34th event, he said.

By contrast, Mr Wilkinson said Oracle had begun the 34th event as something of an underdog, New Zealand having achieved significant speed advances through earlier trialling in New Zealand.

The two yachting syndicates had taken different approaches to boat design and development, but in any case the New Zealand economy had benefited, because much of Oracle's specialised boat construction had also been carried out in New Zealand, he said.

john.gibb@odt.co.nz

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