Sailing Top Speed: Mystery Or Meaningless?

June 7, 2017

With the new America’s Cup Class boats being dubbed the fastest to ever compete in the 166-year old event, it is natural that there is curiosity about how fast they actually go.

From the public to the media, it’s one of the first questions asked of team members. In last Friday’s press conference, a member of the media asked all helmsmen to comment on top speeds attained on the day and to say where it happened on the race course.

America’s Cup Bermuda June 2017 (1)

The five helmsmen looked at each other for a few beats, until Franck Cammas of Groupama Team France said, “40 knots.” But it sounded more like a question than a statement.

America’s Cup Bermuda June 2017 (2)

In fact, it is far more likely none of them knew. It seems the only people who don’t care about the top speed of the boats are the sailors themselves.

When asked whether top speed is ever a discussion point in a debriefing, the answer is a resounding no..

America’s Cup Bermuda June 2017 (3)

The teams are interested in developing boats with a high average speed around the race course.

Having a higher bottom end speed in maneuvers is a much bigger performance driver than being able to flash extreme speed for a moment when bearing away around mark 1 [and that’s almost certainly where the record will fall].

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