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Burns Fallow interview: 21 years of America’s Cup sail design

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Black Magic and the 3DI revolution

First America’s Cup win for New Zealand

With 28 years’ experience at North Sails, two J-class yacht projects and five America’s Cup campaigns under his belt, it’s fair to say Burns Fallow knows a thing or two about sail design.

The New Zealand native was one of the driving forces behind Team New Zealand’s first triumph in 1995, but his involvement with the Kiwi team goes further back than that: “One of the first projects I was involved in, in late 1993, was commissioning a wind tunnel specifically for testing sails at the University of Auckland.

“We recognised pretty early on that we needed a specialist facility to simulate the conditions we see on the water, because the wind tunnels that were around at the time weren’t suited for that.”

In addition to the extensive research and development, Fallow explained that Team New Zealand was an early adopter of new materials.

“Up until 1995 sails were built out of flat panels of sailcloth sewn together. The big revolution that really came to fruition in 1995 was the one-piece string sail technology that we now know as 3DL. Most other teams were torn between keeping on developing panel sails and investing in 3DL. We were one of only two teams that said from day one: ‘We’re going to put all our effort into this new technology.’”

This all came to fruition in San Diego, when NZL-32 Black Magic trounced the Defender Sail America and their boat USA-36 Young America 5-0 in the 29th America’s Cup to bring the Auld Mug to New Zealand for the first time.

Picture: North Sails archive

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