Home' Afloat : AFLOAT Sep 2014 Contents 20 AFLOAT.com.au September 2014
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“ We were always ahead of them. Right
up to a month before the America’s Cup
we were foiling and gybing on the foils
and skimming or semi-foiling upwind at
28 knots. We were sailing slightly wider
angles but sailing faster with a better VMG.
But then, about three weeks before the
Cup they started gibing while fully foiling.
“ They developed a computer-based
hydraulically powered automatic pilot
system to help keep the boat in stable flight
while gybing. With that autopilot system
there was no need for the helmsman to
physically drive the boat.
“It was all finger-tip control.
“If you look at the television footage
of Dean Barker driving Team New Zealand
you can see him with both hands on
the steering wheel going backwards and
forwards struggling to keep the boat in
the groove. Look at the footage of (Oracle
skipper) Jimmy Spithill driving his machine
and he has just got his fingers on the helm.
So there was a huge difference.
“ This particular piece of software is
said to have cost Oracle US$30-40 million.
It was designed by a large aerospace
company and was developed very quickly
over the last few months before the Cup
“ They only got it working just before
the Cup and even so it would only work
downwind. Everyone assumed that Oracle
would be faster upwind because they had
smaller bows with less wetted surface
area but when it came to the Cup we were
faster upwind. We had learned to skim-foil
upwind and they had not. We were able to
lift our hulls a little more out of the water
than they were.
“It took them and their secret weapon
about a week or 10 days to learn how to
do this. When that happened, they were
going so much faster than us. We were
eight races up and yet we lost every race
“Just as foiling was way outside the
original concept of the catamaran, so was
Oracle’s ‘secret weapon’. These were not
simply grey areas.
They were so far outside the class rules
that no one had ever considered them.
The system was so sophisticated and
so elaborate that the measurers just did
not fully understand it.”
Badham pointed out that one of the
first announcements Oracle made after
their 2014 Cup win was that they were
going to allow stored energy for the next
challenge in 2017.
“Funny that,” he said.
Roger Badham has a nice dry sense
“I can’t justify my job at all,” he says,
“except for the fact that I redistribute
wealth. Some rich bugger pays me and I
in turn pay someone else.
“ The America’s Cup involves a
staggering waste of money that would be
much better spent on world health or world
peace or something. Team New Zealand do
it for about a hundred million Kiwi, give
or take a bit.
“Oracle last time supposedly spent
about $300 million US. I call that obscene.
It’s totally obscene. And what benefit is
there in winning? It beats me. The only
benefit to Team New Zealand lies in the
financial impact on a venue city like
“ The last time they raced for the Cup
in New Zealand it was supposed to have
been worth NZ$900 million to Auckland.
For a truly wealthy person like (Oracle boss)
Larry Ellison who is supposedly worth 50
or 60 billion, then spending $300 million on
an America’s Cup campaign is neither here
nor there, really. It’s like some ordinary
person spending a thousand dollars.
“ There is no benefit to him whatsoever
apart from bragging rights and more
importantly, running the next Cup. He is
able to say I own the America’s Cup, the
world’s greatest sporting trophy.
“He can drink out of it or piss in it. He
can do whatever he likes with it. It’s his
Cup. And that is the ultimate ego trip.” h
I was curious as to why it hadn’t been
“We had only very limited ideas about what
they had developed” Roger said. “The team
went to the jury the day prior to the start on the
grounds of stored energy and the protest was
“Why? Probably because the measurers did
not grasp the situation but probably more
from the jury itself as they were under some
pressure having given bans for three members
of Team Oracle Racing for illegal modifications
of the boat during the lead up AC45 regattas.
“The jury got quite a deal of criticism over
this and I think they wanted to tread lightly as
we went into the Cup and not be seen to be
heavy-handed on the same team. I don’t know
this, but that was the gossip at the time and it
“There was a bit of reporting in the Kiwi press
immediately after about what they developed,
but it then faded. As losers, I guess you can’t
just whinge and complain! It was our fault as
well. We lost one race through bad tactics. One
race when the arbitrary time limit was exceeded
by less than two minutes and we agreed to a
no sail day when we should not have.
“Hindsight – ain’t it wonderful.”
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