hang hopes
on hula

Associated Press

AUCKLAND, New Zealand >> Five dancers whirled and a Red Hot Chili Peppers song blared as the normally reserved Swiss unveiled the boat they'll sail in the America's Cup.

An hour later, one door down, two-time defending champion Team New Zealand took a much more subtle tack. There was no fanfare when the public was allowed into the compound, just the jet-black NZL-82 resting on a travel hoist.

As is their tradition, the Kiwis did have the 20-ton, cigar-shaped lead keel bulb painted in a flame motif, the kind favored by hot-rodders.

"It's a good look, isn't it?" said Clay Oliver, an American who came up with the Kiwis' latest design breakthrough, a hull appendage that's called the hula.

Spectators and media walked between New Zealand's and Switzerland's yachts during the unveiling ceremony before the America's Cup, in Auckland, New Zealand, yesterday.

There were no real surprises as the two syndicates revealed the undersides of their 80-foot yachts yesterday morning, showing off the hull shapes, keels, keel bulbs and rudders that they'll use against each other in the 31st America's Cup starting Saturday on the Hauraki Gulf.

In Team New Zealand's case, the unveiling meant another look at the hula, which has been described as the most revolutionary design breakthrough in the America's Cup in 20 years.

The hula is a 33-foot panel of rigid carbon fiber that fits like a second hull, starting just aft of the keel and stretching past the rudder. The idea is to give the sloop additional waterline length and, in theory, more speed. The gap between the hula and the hull is slightly wider than a credit card.

As expected, Alinghi of Switzerland did not try to put a hula on their black-and-red SUI-64. But the Swiss did change the shape of their bow and shortened it at the waterline, which will allow them to add a few square meters of sail area. That's their way of trying to catch up to the perceived advantage the hula will give the Kiwis.

The Kiwis first revealed the hula a month ago when they had to unveil their two boats along with Alinghi and San Francisco's Oracle before the challenge finals.

It was designed by Oliver, a Naval Academy graduate who's in his second campaign with Team New Zealand.

The hula is expected to be more effective in moderate to high winds. In light air, the gap would cause friction.

"It's a wave-drag reduction feature," Oliver said. "Think about when the boat's going fast and if you see waves coming off these boats, the hula's starting to work. If you're really ghosting along and not making very many waves, then the hula's not doing much work."

Under the rules, the hula can't touch the hull except for a narrow area along the centerline where it's attached.

E-mail to Sports Editor


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2003 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --