AC72 101: The Next Generation of America's Cup yachts


Fun Fact: Three AC45s can fit on the platform of one AC72.

Powered by a towering 131-foot wing sail, the AC72 was designed to capture the imagination of a new generation of sailors. Affectionately referred to as “monsters,” it is expected that these boats can travel between San Francisco’s two bridges in less than 6 minutes.

Estimated to be capable of top speeds in excess of 40 mph, the AC72 was designed to thrill both fans and athletes alike, in particular those who call themselves adrenalin junkies. The AC72 are expected to be the most physically demanding boat the America's Cup has ever seen, where athleticism is now a critical requirement for all crew members. Compared to AC teams of the past, the smaller crew size of 11 means there will be no team member who gets a free ride in these races.

Critical to the new racing format is the ability for the boat to be raced hard in both light and strong winds, which extend the range of ‘raceable’ conditions. The AC72 is designed to perform in winds up to 30 knots and to be racing in zephyrs as light as 3 knots, enabling the sport to be more television-friendly with more reliable start and stop times.

November saw the final team launch their AC72, with Sweden's Artemis and ORACLE Team USA practicing on San Francisco Bay while Emirates Team New Zealand and Italy's Luna Rossa tune on Hauraki Gulf in New Zealand. 

(Left to right: Emirates Team Zealand, Chris Cameron; Luna Rossa, Carlo Borlenghi; ORACLE Team USA, Guilain Grenier)

The AC72 design was created independently by Huntington Beach, California-based Pete Melvin of Morrelli & Melvin Design & Engineering, in conjunction with US SAILING, the national governing body for sailing in the U.S. Input on the rule was solicited from potential competitors as well as the wider America’s Cup community.

Each America’s Cup team designs their own AC72 in their home country, utilizing the design and the accompanying specifications. There is some opportunity for new design as the AC72 Rule allows for limited design flexibility, which could provide a crucial advantage on the race course.

AC72 Principal Dimensions

Hull Length                 22.00m (72 feet)
Width                          14.0m (46 feet)
Mast Height                40.0m (131 feet)
Maximum Draft          4.40m (14 feet)
Weight                        5900 kgs (13,000 pounds)