Why sailing is recruiting world champion cyclists

Road 26/01/24 11:07 Migue A.

America's Cup sailing teams have set their sights on cycling in the search for crew members who can provide maximum energy to their yachts for the next edition, which will be held in the waters off Barcelona between August and September 2024.

Legs have more strength than arms, the argument of the renewed America's Cup yachts

The America's Cup is the oldest sailing competition in the world, having been held since 1851. In it, two sailing yachts go head to head in what is known as a match race format. Today, this competition has become one of the greatest exponents of technology applied to sport, with the participating teams investing huge amounts of money to develop the true Formula 1 of the sea.

Compared to traditional sailing yachts, modern America's Cup yachts use a complex hydraulic system that allows the sails to be trimmed, i.e. adjusted according to the wind direction, to make the boat sail as fast as possible.

The task of trimming the sails was traditionally carried out by grinders, crew members who operated pulleys to adjust the tension of the ropes that attached the sails to the yacht. A tough task, which required great strength and explosiveness to be able to undertake the different manoeuvres as quickly as possible and thus minimise the time in which the boat stopped using the force of the wind.

The rules as to what the America's Cup yachts should look like vary from edition to edition, and are set by the winning team. In the latest editions, following the technological evolution, the boats, as we said, modify the position of their sails by means of a hydraulic system. At the same time, this same system is used to raise and lower the foils, fins that allow the boat to literally float on the water.

The energy to activate the hydraulic system, according to the rules, can only come from the energy generated by the crew, so the grinders have become real human motors, which is why we were looking for real bodybuilders, rowers, or similar sportsmen and women to provide the greatest possible energy to the boat.

In this next 2024 edition, the number of crew members has been reduced, so to provide the necessary energy, the pulleys have been replaced by a kind of static bicycles, which has also changed the profile of the athlete for this position, who are now known as cyclors.

This is why America's Cup teams have mainly looked for track cyclists to fill these positions as the power requirements are truly impressive. A cyclist is asked to be able to maintain an average of 450 W for 20 minutes, 580 W for 8 minutes and to be able to do real 30-second sprints at 1,100 W. Truly elite numbers.

Such is the importance that cycling is gaining within the America's Cup teams that even brands such as Campagnolo and SRAM are collaborating with the Italian and American teams respectively.

Among the crew members joining the America's Cup are some notable former cyclists such as Simon van Velthooven, keirin bronze medallist at the London Olympics in 2012; triple Olympic rowing champion Hamish Bond, who later became a cyclist and won the New Zealand time trial championships a couple of times; and Ashton Lambie, former world champion in pursuit.

It remains to be seen whether the INEOS Britannia team will use the riders from its professional cycling team to secure a tremendous amount of wattage. Surely that would be quite a spectacle.



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