Terry Hutchinson, captain of NYYC American Magic, on all things AC37 – including sanctioned spying
Reconning the America’s Cup fleet has always been a tricky part of the event. In past cycles, each team spent an inordinate amount of money to watch other teams’ development of their boats. In 1983, a skirt on Australia II hid her winged keel from the public eye while the paint job perfectly camouflaged what was in the water. I can remember helicopters taking video and pictures, but it was to no avail and, inevitably, this evolution won Australia II the regatta. Fast forward to 2013 when Emirates Team New Zealand began foiling on the AC72. It was discovered just a bit too soon, which allowed Oracle Team USA to develop a foil system in the nick of time. This goes to show how important reconnaissance is to each team’s development process.
The 37th America’s Cup has introduced “shared” reconnaissance, meaning each team is responsible for helping America’s Cup Event (ACE) provide this as a service to the entire fleet. The expectation of the program, managed by ACE, is that all teams will evolve equally, regardless of their budget, because each team has equal access to information.
The next evolution of the recon program is on-site management. Now we must provide a chase boat, a sailor and what amounts to an all-access pass to our sailing days. Sitting here on August 23, I see one advantage: NYYC American Magic is not the first in the recon queue, so to speak – Alinghi was first out of the gate with a first-generation AC75.
The reconnaissance team is on site videoing, interviewing and recording in a stock spreadsheet the actions of the day. On its best days, the interview of the sailor and the process behind it have the potential to be slightly less exciting than a Bill Belichick interview post-Patriots win. “Coach Belichick, how did you win the game?” Coach Belichick: “We scored more points, next question?” Not to sound pessimistic, but it will be interesting to see how all of this unfolds.
For NYYC American Magic, this program poses a challenge due to very specific US rules and laws that oversee the ownership, operation and charter of chase boats and the potential liability. I am not sure the rule’s architects considered the legal framework in each challenging country before it rolled out and touted this program as a financial saver.
As I write this, NYYC is a month from the launch of Patriot in Pensacola Bay, and the work list will be everything from system to sailor development. The new rule has brought back the “cyclors” that produce hydraulic power with the legs instead of the arms, and there is a lot to learn about this transfer of power. Sailor development will be just as challenging as the team relearns how to race the world’s fastest boats. I can’t wait to see Paul Goodison and Tom Slingsby rip around Pensacola Bay with flight controller Andrew Campbell flying Patriot millimetres off the bay’s surface. It’s an exciting time at American Magic. To quote Winston Churchill, “Success demands a greater effort!”shop now
First published in the November 2022 issue of BOAT International. Get this magazine sent straight to your door, or subscribe and never miss an issue.