America’s Cup: new AC40s go into production

Construction of the new AC40 monohulls is underway, just over 11 months since Emirates Team New Zealand’s AC75 Te Rehutai crossed the finish line to claim the 36th America’s Cup.

The new AC40’s hull shape is based on that of Te Rehutai – but organisers say the AC40 class is a “generational step forward”, incorporating a number of developments learned after the completion of AC36 last year.

The next America’s Cup event will feature women and youth America’s Cup regattas, which will use the new AC40 class. Organisers hope the one-design foiling monohull will help expand pathways into the main event.

The first AC40 is expected to be ready to be shipped from the McConaghy facility in July this year to the Emirates Team New Zealand base in Auckland for its on-water commissioning in August, organisers confirmed in a statement. There are currently eight AC40s under order with McConaghy.

The AC40 design and production timeline has been a collaboration led by Emirates Team New Zealand design team with Dan Bernasconi and Richard Meacham central to the management of the production process, alongside Mark Evans, group managing director of McConaghy Boats.

“While the genesis of the AC40 project comes from the familiar design and innovation of the people within the Emirates Team New Zealand design department we have really had to push the limits by utilising a combination of the best of the New Zealand Marine industry as well as key offshore partnerships,” says Meacham.

“Specialised elements like the rigs are being built by Southern Spars and the boat building talent we have at the ETNZ build facility are producing the foil arms. We also have a great partnership utilising the production power of an organisation like McConaghy Boats in China for the hulls, decks and fit-out as well as North Sails Marine group with the aero package.”

McConaghy Boats has been building composite race boats for over 50 years across a range of classes, from Maxis to foiling Mach 2 Moths and Waszps.

But for now, the focus is firmly on rolling out the fleet of AC40s, Meacham says. “Currently there are already eight AC40’s under order with McConaghy’s, with teams lined up awaiting possession. We have a world-leading marine sector here in New Zealand, but like so many industries there are labour resource constraints, so without partnering with McConaghy’s and utilising their production capabilities we simply would not be able to fulfil the orders in time.”

After the first AC40 is shipped in July, each successive boat will be rolled out in 5-week increments as the Challenging teams take possession and prepare to hit the water.

In light winds the AC40 is expected to be able to sail at up to 26 knots at 46º upwind and 30 knots boat speed at 138º downwind. At the upper limits of 20 knots TWS, the boat speeds are expected to escalate to 39 knots upwind at 41º and 44 knots at an angle of 155º downwind.

Due to the AC40 being a ‘production boat’, the process has been a bit different to usual for head of design, Dan Bernasconi. “Normally during the build of an AC boat the design team has a bit more time to develop and finalise the hydraulics, electronics and systems, but because the production process is so rapid in this case we have had to finalise a lot more of our designs in respect to those areas upfront and make sure they are spot on,” he says.

As well as being used for both the Women’s and Youth America’s Cup, the America’s Cup teams will also be using their AC40s for testing, development, match race training, and preliminary event. Emirates Team New Zealand has developed an AC40 simulator for pre-delivery training.

The AC40 and the simulator will be available to private owners.

“There is even the possibility of private owners having a long-term ambition to race, but initially wanting to give a prospective Youth or Women’s AC crew a leg up with their campaigns by buying one early as well,” says Meacham.

“So, despite the pressure of design and pushing this all along, it is exciting to see the moulds completed and production underway on a class of boat that will cover a wide range of use cases.”

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