America's Cup 2000 entrants are moving through design and construction phases for next-generation sailboats suitable to race in changeable wind conditions off Auckland, New Zealand.
Sixteen likely challengers, including six U.S.-based teams, are beginning to craft new polymer-matrix-composite sandwich hulls, carbon-fiber masts and booms and related gear.
Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron hosts the sailing series as a result of Team New Zealand's America's Cup '95 victory in San Diego. The innovative defender is an early favorite to repeat.
Challenger elimination rounds begin in mid-October and continue for four months. The best-five-out-of-nine America's Cup series against New Zealand occurs in February and March 2000.
Time is short to revise computer-modeled designs. It takes months to build a 75-foot-long International America's Cup Class monohull.
On Nov. 23, James Betts Enterprises of Truckee, Calif., began constructing the first of two boats for the America True team of the San Francisco Yacht Club of Belvedere, Calif.
In late December, Westerly Marine Inc. of Costa Mesa, Calif., began building the first of two boats for the AmericaOne team of the St. Francis Yacht Club of San Francisco.
By late January, the most experienced domestic America's Cup shop, Eric Goetz Custom Sailboats Inc. of Bristol, R.I., will start constructing the first of two boats for Young America. New York Yacht Club and partner clubs in Portland, Maine; Annapolis, Md.; St. Petersburg, Fla.; Detroit; Chicago; and Fort Worth, Texas, back the Young America team.
Team Dennis Conner of San Diego's Cortez Racing Association anticipates announcing construction plans in late January or early February.
A group from the Aloha Racing team is building the first of two planned boats on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. Waikiki Yacht Club in Honolulu supports this team.
Plans call for sailing the first boat in June and the second in July.
Team Caribbean of the St. Thomas Yacht Club in the Virgin Islands is the other domestic entrant.
Two teams from France and one each from Australia, England, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Russia, Spain and Switzerland round out the challenger field.
Auckland's stronger winds require sturdier designs than those used in San Diego.
San Diego was ``a relatively light air venue'' with ``more wave action than [was] consistent with wind strength,'' said Duncan MacLane, Young America's design technology project manager in Annapolis.
``As a design team, we must handle the whole spectrum of air,'' MacLane said. ``[But] we won't plan for extremes.''
Young America took two older boats to New Zealand in October and has conducted hundreds of two-boat speed tests to see what falls apart, MacLane said. ``All that information is fed back to the design team.''
Team Dennis Conner's Bill Trenkle said the boats need sufficient internal structures for Auckland conditions, but designers need to avoid overbuilding. Trenkle is the team's president and director of operations and on-board sail trimmer.
In a March 1995 race, heavy San Diego weather broke and sank OneAustralia's boat, which had a bare minimum internal structure.
Trenkle said designs were targeted for 8 knots in San Diego and need to account for 15 knots ranging to 20-25 knots in Auckland.
However, the designs need to deal with winds heavier during the early competition and somewhat lighter in the February time frame, Trenkle said.
AmericaOne skipper Paul Cayard agreed, anticipating some early days with more than 30 knots. As the season progresses, ``we can have some very San Diego-like days [with] 8-10 knots,'' Cayard said in a team video report.
Aloha Racing team designer Ian Burns is adding more carbon than the boats used in San Diego.
``We're building substantially more structure and a different hull structural configuration to deal with higher wind speeds and likely operator error in these conditions,'' Burns said in an e-mail response to questions.
``Our main changes or advancements are in structural arrangement rather than materials or processing.''