November 20, 2013
Inside America's Cup
with Harken Engineers & Members of Team Oracle USA Ben Biddick and Matt Schmidt
Photo Credit: Jori Lenon
Harken engineers Matt Schmidt left, and Ben Biddick share their experience as members of America's Cup Team Oracle USA at a special presentation sponsored by the Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club
Two weeks ago, 4LIYC Commodore Don Anderson mentioned during our club meeting that we should replay some America's Cup footage at our next meeting. Two weeks later, not only did we watch some video, we also had the pleasure of hearing Ben Biddick and Matt Schmidt share their experiences from inside the Oracle compound, from the chase boats, and from on (and in!) Oracle.
4LIYC club members Wes Wilcox and Daniel Hearn helped make the event possible and Daniel made his office available to handle the crowd of nearly 100 interested sailors.
As we walked in the door, guests were greeted with Daniel's newest DN hull and a sign instructing them to "follow the Cups to the Cup", a trail of Harken plastic cups that led us to the upstairs conference room.
Wes Wilcox introduced Ben and Matt. They worked with the hydraulics of Oracle and spoke about the challenges of designing the system and staying focused on the goal of winning the America's Cup.
I had planned to take notes but ended up devoting my full attention to the presentation. Some of the things they talked about:
The hydraulics were revised during the months leading up to the regatta and made in Pewaukee at Harken.
A hydraulics engineer was always on one of the chase boats during practice and the regatta ready to jump on the boat and into action if necessary. Some great stories about when it was necessary.
Like ice boat runners need to be sharpened after a day on the ice, the foils had to be wet sanded every night.
Boat weight (including sailors) was super critical and was carefully watched to the last gram.
Their personal video from when they were on the chase boats was spectacular especially one where Oracle tacks and is seemingly headed full steam right towards them and the chase boat bears away in the nick of time. (As someone who stands around on ice boat race courses, it was oddly familiar.)
There was a detailed discussion of the changes made on the boat to improve speed.
Wish you all could have been there!