Why Desafio Espanol?

Nobody can have any doubts about Farr Yacht Design's ability to build racing yachts capable of winning at the highest level of competition, yet the office has never won an America’s Cup, or even a Louis Vuitton Cup. Now, everyone at Farr is hoping that Desafio Espanol will change that, in AC 33.

Some will see it as poetic justice if the Spanish Challenger does break Farr’s duck, in a new rule 90 foot boat, since, but for an unequal contest against a catamaran, they would almost certainly have won the Cup, in 1988, with a boat of that length. It’s worth looking back on that unsuccessful challenge, by New Zealand merchant banker, Michel Fay, for boat size is not the only thing that it had in common with AC 33.
Fay challenged the defending San Diego Yacht Club to a one on one match with a 90 foot monohull, dubbed the Big Boat, which he thought would be unbeatable, thus bypassing the challenger series. This time round, Larry Ellison has challenged Société Nautique de Genève to a one on one match, with a 90 foot multihull.

Fay was defeated by a catamaran and, having cried “Unfair”, had his yacht club take the matter to the New York Supreme Court. Ellison’s team has already cried “Unfair” and gone to court, because one lesson learned from the Big Boat episode was that, when you won the Cup, you signed up a Challenger of Record on the spot, to avoid a repetition of 1988. So, before it can hope for a one on one match, the Golden Gate Yacht Club has had to start off in court, to dispose of the signed up Challenger of Record.

Like Ernesto Bertarelli, Michael Fay not only wanted to win the America's Cup, but to bring back the grandeur and spectacle of the J-Class era. He took his idea to Bruce Farr, who conceived a narrow hull, with a planing shape, a minimum of wetted surface and a sail area of more than 600 square metres.
Before they arrived in San Diego, Fay and his team knew they would be racing against a catamaran and had almost no chance of winning, but they worked on improving the chances of the Big Boat by reducing weight and drag and providing even more downwind sail area. “The development program has resulted in better boat speed, but even though it's the fastest monohull keelboat in the world, the chances of New Zealand beating the cat are close to zero.” said a rather Bruce Farr.
Farr Yacht Design was BMW Oracle’s designer for the 32nd America’s Cup, but not this time. The office, recently, signed a contract with Spanish team Desafio Espanol, the very Challenger of record that the Golden Gate Yacht Club is trying to have deposed. BYM News asked Patrick Shaughnessy, a naval architect on Farr’s America’s Cup design team, why?
Why have you signed with Desafio Espanol?

Patrick Shaughnessy: Following discussions with a number of potential Challengers we have elected to join Desafio Espanol because we believe that they are the best fit for the services that Farr Yacht Design can provide. Another large factor was that they already have substantial guaranteed financial backing.

It’s been announced that there will be another lead designer, have you had any say in who this will be?

Patrick Shaughnessy: The team does have a specific person in mind to fulfil a complementary role and we have been in discussions with them regarding that person. The subject of having a shared conceptual leadership has always been on the table in our discussions with Desafio Espanol.

After the last public airing of differences, are you happy about sharing the design role?

Patrick Shaughnessy: The example of the shared design role from the last AC is an unfortunate one. Last time the work was well shared, so it was a shame to have a very public airing of differences at the end. On the whole, we believe that it is good to have the conceptual development shared amongst a group of people. Certainly an established team like FYD can benefit from having others involved, who think in a different way.

I think you are the only design office with previous 90 foot America’s Cup experience. Will this be an advantage?

Patrick Shaughnessy: That is true, where the America’s Cup is concerned, but there are many other designers, with experience in large racing boats of this size. Any data collected during the K-boat campaign in 1988 is so old that it will likely be irrelevant. 

Desafio has access to Europe’s most powerful supercomputer, how much of an advantage is that?

Patrick Shaughnessy: Access to resources like that is always an advantage. Right now, when we are waiting for the rule, it is not easy to say just how much of an advantage those particular computing resources will be.

How easy do you think it will be to arrive at the rule?

Patrick Shaughnessy: Prior to the September 15th rule meeting it's difficult to say how developed the rule is. Having Tom Schnackenberg acting as the chair should help, but it’s never easy to arrive at a rule by consensus. There will always be people with ideas at different ends of the spectrum, so there has to be compromise, which isn’t always easy to achieve. That said; I believe that there is a real will among the Defender and Challengers to reach agreement, as quickly as possible, and having a man like Tom Schnackenberg leading the process means there is a good chance that will be achieved.

What do you think about having a new rule?

Patrick Shaughnessy: As designers we are all excited to have a new rule. It’s always exciting to work on something new, although I can understand some of the criticism regarding the timing, and the concerns ,about loss of investment in the version 5 boats.

Several lower budget teams have said they think a new boat will level the playing field. Would you agree?

Patrick Shaughnessy: I think teams with larger budgets will still have an advantage. In a new rule space a new team could be disadvantaged because they lack existing proven general concepts to mimic. That said, it is certainly possible, with a new rule, that a team with a smaller budget could hit on something nobody else does.

What happens if there isn’t a new rule, because of the court case?

Patrick Shaughnessy: I believe that there will be a new rule independent of the court case. The real question surrounding the court case is when the new rule would be used. I have to think there is a will for people to solve this and there will be a new rule and an event to use the new rule. If there is a multihull challenge, there will be a delay, but I believe that the Cup after that will be with 90 foot boats.

Is a multihull challenge likely in your view, given that Alinghi has said it is not focussing on it and wouldn’t have time to develop a worthy defender for a match in June 2008?

Patrick Shaughnessy: I think that, if SNG were to lose in court, there would have to be an extension granted, before a multihull match could take place. I think there are precedents for that.

Farr has not yet won an America’s Cup, or even a Louis Vuitton. What is it about Desafio that makes you think they can change that?
Patrick Shaughnessy: Winning the Challenger series, or the America’s cup requires excellence in all areas of a program and maybe even a little bit of luck. At Farr Yacht Design we believe strongly that we are capable of designing at a level high enough to win those type of events. Because of the change in rule and the relatively short time frame for the design work this event offers some unique opportunities. We felt strongly that with our existing team of talented designers and tools we could be a functional AC team on the first day of rule availability. The opportunity to work with Desafio Espanol allowed us to bring our whole team into theirs, which should be good for Farr Yacht Design as well as Desafio Espanol
In addition to stories in this 33rd America's Cup section, you can read stories from the 32nd America's Cup . You will also find some older stories and interviews, from the last event, HERE.
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