From the first race in 1851, the America’s Cup has been a toy of the rich and mighty who have often engulfed it in controversy, intrigue and lawsuits.
The 36th AC in 2021 will be staged in Auckland, New Zealand. Taking part will be first ever Dutch entry, skippered by Simeon Tienpont, a two-time AC winner (Team Oracle USA).
“We have everything in the Netherlands to make it a success,” Tienpont told Zeilen magazine. “The knowledge. The boat builders. The sailors.”
The Netherlands’ inaugural America's Cup evokes the country’s first brush with AC controversy. In 1983, Australia II defeated the US entry Liberty ending a 132-year US winning streak. What tipped the scales in favour of the Australians was a Dutch-designed winged keel which set off enough turmoil to rumble on for years.
A common sight today, in the early 1980s the winged or upside down keel was a very radical concept. Upwind, it generated 30% less resistance due to side force and increased stability resulting from a very low center of gravity.
Piet van Oossanen's winged keel
The design was wrongly ascribed to Ben Lexcen, the Australian yachtsman and marine architect who designed Australia II. The winged keel was, in fact, the work of Dutch naval architect Piet van Oossanen.
In 2009, 16 years after the race, he spoke on Australia’s ABC network to set the record straight. “Ben said to me, ‘you go ahead and do the difficult (design) approach',” said Van oossanen. “I’ll look at the small refinements in the hope of finding a better boat for 1983.’ He came back to us later on, when we reported very good things, but he had very little to do with the winged keel at all.”
From 1981 to 1983, Van Oossanen worked at the Maritime Research Institute of the Netherlands. After the 1983 AC he founded Van Oossanen Naval Architects.
His company is today best known for its patented Fast Displacement Hull Form that optimizes performance at all speeds. It also markets its patented Hull Vane, a fuel-saving foil below the stern, through a separate offshoot.
Image credit: Thumbnail, Dutch entry AC-36; Piet van Oossanen's winged keel; all credits to Dutch Yacht Building/Jachtbouwactueel