Team New Zealand Is Shifting from Grinding to Peddling – Is This a Wingsail Revolution?
Team New Zealand has shocked the sailing community through the introduction of pedal-powered designs to replace classic arm powered grinding. Grinders traditionally power the hydraulic systems that drive the wingsail and foils on the power-hungry 50-foot catamarans. The new theory is that as so much power is needed, pedaling could be more effective and deliver more output than using one’s arms. It seems logical; however, it is still in the testing phase and has only been tried out on the water in Auckland.
How Does Pedal Power Create an Advantage?
According to skipper Glenn Ashby, initial results have yielded "unprecedented performance”. With crews reduced from 11 to six in 2017, he explains, the new system is a way to exert more power from less people. These boats can sail up to 20% faster than their predecessors. The main consideration for the riding style design is the aerodynamic impact it has on the boat’s performance and the crew getting on and off the bikes as efficiently as possible. In off-water training, Team New Zealand has recruited ‘secret’ advice from a top New Zealand cyclist and trialed various ways of transitioning from one hull to the other.
The Response from Other Syndicates
News travels fast in America’s Cup sailing as ‘scouts’ watch and observe other teams’ performances and improvements. A number of syndicates have indicated that they had considered pedal power, but to date no other team has progressed with the innovation.
Innovation on the Water
Team New Zealand’s designers have been working on this new approach for three years and they feel that they are onto a game changing innovation. Innovation and the America’s Cup go hand in hand and the team’s CEO, Grant Dalton, believes the 72-foot catamarans used in San Francisco seem like the 'dark ages' compared to the new editions. Crew members are also confident in their ability to revert back to traditional grinding methods if the on-water trials don’t yield positive results before racing starts in Bermuda on May 26.