Another day of two boat testing on the Hauraki Gulf. For those of you who do not know what two boat testing involves, let me give you an idea.
The day begins with launching USA 49 and USA 61 starting at 8:00 AM. The next hour and a half is consumed by preparing both boats to leave the dock by 9:30 AM. Once away from the dock it is approximately and hour tow behind our tender to the Rangitoto lighthouse where we begin our testing.
The upwind two boat testing is accomplished by lining the two boats up approximately 150 to 200 meters apart with the leeward boat slightly ahead. We run eight minute tests measuring the relative difference in range and bearing between the boats. After eight minutes the boats swap sides and the whole procedure is repeated. The downwind testing is similar, except the line up between the boats varies depending on the type of downwind sails we are testing. We consider a good day of testing to be 20 or more tests. This may not seem like many, but when you consider all the jockeying that Paul, Gavin and the crew have to do to get the boats in the proper alignment, it is a monumental task.
As sailors onboard the boats, we keep basic information on the starting and ending wind direction, and relative bearing and gauge (loss or gain) between the boats. The real analysis is done onboard the tender by Chris Todter and Bill Cook. Using Visteon’s integrated telemetry transmitters and receivers, we transmit in real time all the data (approximately 50 different variables) from USA 49 and USA 61 back to the tender. The transmitters operate on an encrypted UHF frequency and are crystal controlled to assure that the data is stable, reliable and private. For those of you that know anything about electronics and boats, you will appreciate how important reliability is to us. These are the same race proven transmitters and receivers that Visteon uses in race cars in the Formula One and Cart series. My thanks to Kirk McNeil and Visteon for making that part of my job that much easier.
Once the information is received onboard the tender, Chris and Bill begin to analyze the data. They analyze the boat’s real time performance and give us results in seconds per mile. The key is that the data is relayed to them in real time (they see the same information on New Zealand Challenge that we see on USA 49 and USA 61). This allows them to give us results on the water instead of waiting until we get to the dock at the end of the day. Again something that appears straight forward, but a lot of things have to go right for it to work.
The testing usually comes to an end at the Rangitoto lighthouse where it all began six or seven hours earlier. The boats are towed back to the base, and if all goes well they are out of the water by 6:00 PM. A long day on the water, but we are one step closer to our ultimate goal of winning the America’s Cup and bring the Cup to San Francisco.