“Up Where the Air is Clear”

Let's go fly a kite
Up to the highest height
Let's go fly a kite
And send it soaring

Up through the atmosphere
Up where the air is clear
Oh, let's go fly a kite!
--song from “Mary Poppins”

Yesterday it was Team New Zealand’s “false hull.” Today it is Oracle’s “kite.” Things are finally getting interesting in Auckland.

For many months Sailing Anarchy has been hearing rumors that an AC team or two may have been working intensively to develop a kite-sail to fly in lieu of the conventional gennaker or spinnaker.

No, the photo as right is not a trick photo. Today on the Hauraki Gulf, in 6 to 8 knots of breeze, Oracle launched and flew this kite for all the Cup world to see. It flew for nearly 30 minutes [actually 43, ed.]as Prada and OneWorld, and the media and TV boats assembled for that match, bobbed around under postponement not too far away.

Our sources tell us that such a kite-sail, if it has been perfected, could be a huge advantage because:

a kite is aerodynamically more efficient than a standard spinnaker -- it doesn’t just pull like a spinnaker, but “sails” back and forth at the end of its tether(s) thereby increasing the apparent wind it “sees.”

a kite is deployed aloft where there is more wind than the surface winds in which normal sails operate; and

for the purposes of the racing rules, i.e. “overlaps” and the “definition of finishing,” the kite’s “normal position” can be several hundred metres out front of the yacht. In theory, a yacht flying a kite could cross the finish line well before a yacht four or more boat lengths ahead but flying a conventional spinnaker. We hear it is legal under AC Class rules.

The only drawback seems to be launching and retrieving it, but Oracle would appear to have somehow solved those problems. The other problem is keeping it flying once launched. It reminds us of the old saw about senior-citizen kite-fliers: “I can get it up, but can I keep it up?”

Why would Oracle make such an obvious spectacle of their new kite if it is a secret weapon? Our sources tell us the development time is so long-lead that any team that does not have it perfected by now will not have a chance in the time remaining. Perhaps Oracle figured they had better give it a final real-time shakedown on the Gulf for possible deployment in the upcoming sudden-death Semifinal Repechage. Or is this kite-thing really just a “red herring” to send their remaining opponents off on a wild goose chase?

Speaking of a goose chase, Sailing Anarchy has learned that “The Goose” is the code name Oracle has given the mysterious white pod swinging off the antenna frame on the back of their race boat, USA-76. We are working on The Goose story, but Oracle is among the least leaky syndicates on Halsey Street so it has been slow going. Alinghi, on the other hand, like their neighbor OneWorld, is starting to leak like a sieve. So much information is now coming out of Alinghi via Team New Zealand sources that it is widely speculated that a former Team New Zealand member now with Alinghi has “gone bad” and is passing Alinghi info to his Kiwi mates next door at TNZ.

Stay tuned; the “false hull,” the kite and “The Goose” seem to be only the beginning of the techno tango emerging downunder.

12/17/2002

[Source, Sailing Anarchy]