America’s Cup - Sport

Rumours fly of Oracle switch to pedal power

  • Team New Zealand will be relying on pedal power in Bermuda for the America’s Cup (Photograph by Richard Gladwell)

Will Oracle Team USA put their foot down and switch to pedal power for their America’s Cup Class 50-footer?

Italian daily newspaper La Strada recently forwarded a dockside rumour saying “a rumour that is gaining in consistency” has Oracle “working in its hangar on a pedal system like the one invented by Team New Zealand”.

“Oracle may follow them in this innovation to catch up.” Their article continued. “Oracle may even be hiring some champions on two wheels,” suggesting proven cyclists could be used although the compromise would be getting them up to speed quickly in terms of sailing techniques.”

The Kiwis unveiled their America’s Cup Class 50-foot catamaran, choosing a radically different system for powering their hydraulic systems necessary to trim the panels and sheeting system in the huge fixed wing and raising or lowering and timing the daggerboards and the rake of the rudders.

The New Zealanders are using a cycle system, deemed “Pedal Power”, rather than traditional hand and arm grinders to generate up to 40 per cent more juice. The other five teams are stuck with traditional grinders, so far, for now.

The question is, were the “observers” from SoftBank Team Japan who were watching the Kiwis train in New Zealand so impressed with the New Zealand’s performance that their design partner Oracle have decided to throw their feet in the pedal-power ring themselves.

Oracle, the America’s Cup defender, have been allowed to share technology and design with the Japanese challengers to bring the late entry up to speed quickly.

When the “Pedal Power” news broke back earlier this year, all the teams said they considered the new system but rejected it because of perceived difficulties with crew work. In a recent interview with The Royal Gazette, Team Japan’s skipper Dean Barker conformed that they had considered pedal power but rejected the idea. commented: “An Oracle U-turn on pedal power would be a dramatic late development, but desperate times can call for desperate measures, especially in a class were technology is such a dominating factor. Oracle certainly have the resources to attempt this, even with the clock ticking.

Fitting the cycling pedestals into the one-design hulls is possible as Team New Zealand have proven.

Maybe the Kiwi magicians are on to something that will give them a racing edge? More black magic ...