A few days prior to its planned July 8th helicopter launch, BYM News editor, Marian Martin, visited the tented Alinghi site in Villeneuve, where the team's Deed of Gift match multihull was being assembled.
Murray Jones, who is perhaps best known to America's Cup followers as 'the man up the Alinghi mast', gave the guided tour and he and Dirk Kramers answered questions.
How big is it?
Murray Jones: I canít tell you exactly, but the tent is 40 metres long and 30 metres wide. (From this I estimated a hull length of 32.5 metres and width of 25 metres.)
You're going to launch it with a Russian helicopter. Is that the Swiss based Russian helicopter that can only lift up to 5000 kgs?
Murray Jones: [Laughs] No, the helicopter is coming from Siberia.
Will you lift it with the mast on?
Murray Jones: No, we'll hold it all together with a dummy mast.
I don’t suppose you can tell me how tall the mast is?
Murray Jones: You’ll see when we go sailing.
Will it have a wing sail?
Murray Jones: We will start sailing with a soft sail.
What are the difference that makes this boat more than just a big Le Black?
Murray Jones: It is a big Le Black, but the hulls are a much nicer shape than Le Black’s, a much more modern shape. I think the concept and engineering of Le Black was brilliant for its time, but this is a modern boat, a much better engineered boat. It’s part of the modern lake boat family. Of course, the big difference is in the forces; you don’t get 100 ton forces in small boats.
How do you feel about sailing it?
Murray Jones: Oh …………. Going sailing on it for the first time is going to be just brilliant. Think of being on that hull, flying 20 feet above the water, watching the leeward bow. That’ll be so exciting.
Will you be a bit nervous the first time?
Murray Jones: I certainly will.
There must be a chance that you could break something during testing; will you be building spare hulls and other parts?
Murray Jones: They won’t be spare hulls, but we’ll be building other hulls as the testing and development goes on.
So, how far is this off the boat you’ll eventually race?
Murray Jones: [Laughs] I don’t know. Anything could happen; we could have another boat.
Will Ernesto helm it first time out?
Murray Jones: I think he probably will, he’s certainly got a lot of experience of these sort of boats.
Do you think he might helm in the actual Cup?
Murray Jones: I don’t know. It’s his boat, but whether he’d want to helm it in the race is something that hasn’t been discussed.
How much greater are the loads on this compared to the loads on Le Black?
Murray Jones: Ouff, much, much higher; it’s in a totally different league to Le Black. The main sheet load will be 10 times more. We’re talking 100 ton loads on this boat. The forespreader is the structure that transfers the fore and aft loads onto the big beam. The mast will sit in front of that pole that you can see, which is keeping the structure in place for the time being.
Murray Jones: Yes [laughs], when you see it sailing it will have one mast.
What are these guys doing now to get it ready for the launch?
Murray Jones: Just detail work; the guys up there are detail fitting the net and the one over there is working on the rudders, getting them prepared for fitting. The painters are doing some painting in the cockpits.
I like the graphics.
Murray Jones: It's really cool; one of our engineers did it. We were talking about having to get some people in and one of the guys said “I wouldn’t mind having a go.” and I think it’s great. It suits the boat. This is a refined boat, every single part of it is refined as you’ll see when we start putting the fittings on the boat. Every single thing we put on this boat is a work of art.
The bolts we see in various places, are they titanium?
Murray Jones: Some of them are, but in some cases they aren’t titanium because we had to use a higher strength material.
Have you used any carbon fibre fastenings?
Murray Jones: Some yes, but a lot of the boat is bonded; it’s just the structural connections where these high strength bolts are used, the rest of the boat is mostly glued together.
Is there anything about the carbon fibre that’s very special?
Murray Jones: Well there are a lot of different types of carbon in it. The rigging is a different fibre to the hulls and they are different to the beams and it depends on whether a part is autoclaved or not – we have an autoclave on site – and on the way you cure it; that’s quite different too. The construction is a work of art in itself; the design has been a challenge, but the construction process has also been a real challenge for the boat builders; because some parts of it are so big and so thick they’ve been making carbon fibre parts in a way that hasn’t really been done before.
Will the steering positions be outside, like the BOR90?
Murray Jones: No, they are part way along the hull. You’ll have a guy on the other wheel during the tack or the gybe, whilst the helmsman gets across two tennis courts.
Wouldn’t it be more efficient to have two helmsmen?
Murray Jones: I don’t think so. It’s only for coming out of the tack, or going into the gybe, but we could do; we’ll have to see how it all goes, but don’t forget you want all the weight up top.
Even with water ballast?
Murray Jones: We haven’t got water ballast.
So, without water ballast how do you achieve enough righting moment?
Murray Jones: [Laughs] That’s why it’s so wide………….. You know though, with boats like this weight is so important. The lighter you can make it the faster you will go, so that has been the emphasis.
You have also managed to make a beautiful boat.
Murray Jones: Yes it is beautiful; it’s a very elegant boat. Imagine what it will be like for people to see it sailing along with the mountains behind. For us it will be great too, because we’ll be able to see how fast we’re going; being on something like this on the open sea, you wouldn’t get the same sensation of speed.
How many people have you had working on it?
Murray Jones: Mostly about 40 boat builders.
Were most of them New Zealanders?
Murray Jones: No, they came from everywhere; there were a lot of Swiss boat builders among them.
How did you stop them letting out details of the boat?
Murray Jones: You make them part of the team and then they want to keep things quiet, because they want their boat to win, their achievement to be the best. I don’t think there’s been much leakage at all, just outside speculation. It wasn’t very difficult to guess what sort of a boat it would be, because we did a lot of sailing on Le Black in Valencia last year. That was a very worthwhile thing, because we learned a lot of stuff that was really valuable.
You went and watched BOR trialling and one imagines they’ll come and watch you. Where will they think your boat is better and where will they think they’ve got an edge?
Murray Jones: Well it’s actually quite difficult to accurately monitor performance when you’re just observing from another boat. Apart from that, I don’t know the answer, because we don’t know what their modified boat, or new boat, is going to be.
Do you think they might go for a catamaran?
Murray Jones: I’ve no idea. We haven’t focussed on them very much at all. We decided on our concept way back in November 2007 and we’ve focussed on making our boat as quick as we can for a windward leeward course. We’ve focussed all our efforts on our own boat and not worried too much about what they are doing.
Will it top 50 knots?
Murray Jones: I doubt it; I don’t know. It hasn’t been designed for top speed, but for a course. There’s a reach, of course, but basically it’s windward leeward racing and you don’t design the same sort of boat for that as you would for an outright speed record.
What’s the number of crew going to be?
Murray Jones: We don’t know yet, we’re just going to work it out as we do the testing. We’ve 23 in the sailing squad, but I wouldn’t expect them all to be on board.
Dirk Kramers - the man responsible for the engineering that will handle those 100 ton forces - joined us.
How nervous are you about the first time it sails?
Dirk Kramers: I don’t know. [laughs] It goes in the water on Wednesday, then there are about 10 days setting up before it goes sailing. What makes me really nervous is that there’ll be so many boats out on the water to watch it sail and they aren’t going to realise how fast it is.
Have you got the water police involved?
Dirk Kramers: Yes, but I still keep thinking about some little sail boat out there, in 2 knots of wind, and we come out doing 15 knots and they can’t get out of the way. …….. Well you see, quite often on the lake there is no wind on the water, but there is up in the air; that’s why you see all the pictures of D35s flying a hull on glassy water.
Will you be on board first time?
Murray Jones: [Laughing] We're not going sailing if he's not coming out.
Dirk Kramers: Yes, I'll be one of the listeners. Just about everything is strain guaged, but we'll also be relying on people listening out for unusual noises. [He wouldn't say what safety factor had been used when deciding maximum permissible strains.]
Did you design the strain guage system, or was that something the University covered?
Dirk Kramers: It’s all been done in-house, but we have a guy on the design team who came from EPFL and he’s a specialist in fibre optics, a real expert in this field, so that was a huge benefit.
Did you use lasers for aligning?
Dirk Kramers: Lasers and other methods; lasers have been around for a long time.
So everything is spot on?
Dirk Kramers: We're assuming. [Much laughter]
Murray has said that you’ll be developing it and changing things as you get feedback from the testing. When will you say “That’s it, this is the final configuration and we leave it like this.”?
Dirk Kramers: I don’t think you ever leave it. It’s always an ongoing process. The thing is that we just won’t have enough time to do all the development we’d like to do.
Will you go on developing it, even after the match?
Dirk Kramers: No, for us the world ends in February 2010. [laughs] .…… I don’t know; it’s up to Ernesto really.
What happens after you’ve done the shake down trials on the lake? Will you go for further testing in Valencia, where you’ve got a base, even if that’s not the venue?
Dirk Kramers: Valencia, in February, isn’t the ideal place for a race. We have to announce the venue on August 8 and that’s not far away, so it makes more sense to go straight to the venue.
Murray Jones: We might go to some interim place.
Have you used boron in this boat?
Dirk Kramers: [Laughs] You’re thinking of the time I gave a talk and some guy in the audience asked “Have you considered using boron?" Of course we’d considered boron, like everything else, and I said we had. So the story flies round that we’re using boron; it’s really funny how you only have to say one little thing and it’s picked up on, distorted a bit, turned into fact and analysed endlessly on the internet. There is no boron in this boat;. I’ve worked with boron years ago, it’s nothing new and it has its problems.
Is everything made in Switzerland?
Dirk Kramers: Yes, depending on how far back you go. I guess the carbon fibre came from Japan and the hydrocarbons in the resins came out of a Saudi Arabian desert, but then the cotton that made 19th century English sails wasn't home grown.