Top America's Cup correspondent, Bernie Wilson spoke with NYYC American Magic skipper and CEO, Terry Hutchinson to get an update on the team's progress at their Florida winter base. The New York Yacht Club team is working up towards the 36th America's Cup in their 38ft foiling monohull being used as a test platform ahead of the launch of their first AC75
Out on Pensacola Bay, the combination of a fantastical-looking test boat called the Mule and technology from aviation giant Airbus is giving the New York Yacht Club’s American Magic a flying start toward trying to win the America’s Cup in two years.
When the 38-foot Mule reaches a certain speed, it undergoes a striking visual transformation as it rises up on hydrofoils and slices across the top of the waves. American Magic confirmed this week that it is sailing “dry laps” at its winter base in Florida, with the Mule’s hull never touching the water as it flies on foils all the way around a course that’s roughly six miles long and two miles across.
“When we get the right breeze direction ... we can do 16 miles of sailing out of the water. It’s amazing how fast that happens,” Terry Hutchinson, American Magic’s executive director and skipper, said in a phone interview.
Although spies from rival syndicates have certainly seen the development, American Magic revealed just this week that it has been doing dry laps for about a month.
It’s a big step because American Magic is the only one of the seven teams for the 2021 America’s Cup that has built the closest thing allowed by the rules to what the actual race boat, the AC75, will look and perform like. American Magic is building its first AC75 in Rhode Island and expects it to be finished by the middle of the summer.
American Magic isn’t patting itself on the back because teams never feel they have enough time to prepare for sailing’s marquee regatta.
“It’s significant only in that it’s teaching us the steps to improve our success day in and day out for boat one,” Hutchinson said. “It’s one of these milestones that everyone’s going to have to achieve. We all know that the boat that can stay out of the water for basically the entire race and achieve 100 percent fly rate, that’s going to be a hard boat to beat. It’s nice to be laying the foundation in the early days to be figuring it out, but we also know there’s a long way to go.”
And as dry laps go, “You’re really only as good as the last one, so if we touch down on the last one, our coach, James Lyne, lets us know about it: ‘That doesn’t count,’” Hutchinson said.
The Mule was launched in Newport, Rhode Island, last fall. The team set up its winter base in Florida in December.
Automotive giant Roger Penske, one of the team principals along with Doug DeVos and Hap Fauth, nicknamed the boat Mule, a term for a test car. “That just stuck,” Hutchinson said.
It performs anything like a mule. Canting arms tipped with T-foils mounted on both sides of the hull make it look somewhat like a nautical insect. In full flight, the boat rides on foils on the rudder and the leeward foil arm, with the windward foil arm out of the water. When the boat tacks, the foil arms switch positions.
Hutchinson said the team has tacked and gybed through three or four laps without touching down.
“I guess what it says is the concept works, which is exciting,” Hutchinson said. “It bodes well for America’s Cup racing.”
That said, “There’s a lot of work to do. Just because we do it here doesn’t mean it will happen straightaway in the 75-footer. It took us a while to get to this point. Without the help of Airbus, we wouldn’t be experiencing this as quickly as we have in the manner we have.”