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S/Y Be Happy
Peter van Oossanen was a member of the design team of the First Swiss Challenge for the America’s Cup.
The design of an International America’s Cup yacht is a complex matter requiring a lot of patience and diligence. All avenues that could possibly lead to a small or large improvement in sailing performance need to be mapped out and explored. This leads to various experimental research programmes (in the towing tank and in the wind tunnel) and numerical calculations. At some stage a decision has to be made to home in on a particular geometry at the expense of others. The research stage is then left behind and the actual (detailed) design stage begins.
Early in December 1998 the FAST2000 design team took the decision to adopt the twin keel concept. It was agreed that we needed to start sailing the boat at least 3 months prior to the first race to learn how to fine-tune the performance. Financial difficulties, early in 1999, prevented the building of the yacht on time. When building finally commenced in May 1999 it had to be halted soon thereafter. The last wind tunnel tests, to finalize design details of the appendages, were carried out in July 1999. These appendages were completed at the beginning of September.
The hull too was finally completed early in September. The yacht was flown to Auckland on September 9, arriving on September 12. The crew and building team worked hard to fit the appendages, fit-out and step the mast, prepare the base, etc., in time to have the boat measured prior to the first race. The boat was then named “be hAPpy” (the letters “AP” stand for Audemars Piguet, one of the sponsors of the Swiss challenge).
The adoptation of twin keels on the boat, about which much has been written, was a calculated risk. We knew that the boat would be less manoeuvrable. However, our research had revealed that the straight line speed would be particularly good and perhaps sufficient to compensate for that lack of manoeuvrability. Since the details of our unusual yacht became known on October 30, we received many faxes and e-mails from designers and other technically-oriented people, expressing admiration for having developed such an unusual boat. Some of the technical reasoning and results of research carried out by us for FAST2000 has been published by Seahorse International Sailing magazine in the April 2000 issue.
With the dismasting of “be hAPpy” in the second race of the third round robin of the Louis Vuitton Cup, the FAST2000 (the First America’s Cup Swiss Team) project – and our involvement therein – came to a close. Peter van Oossanen was closely involved with the team in Auckland. Prior to the start of the third round robin we had carried out some modifications to make the yacht more manoeuvrable and faster upwind. Against America One, in the first race of the third round robin, “be hAPpy” showed good straight line speed, upwind as well as downwind. Downwind the yacht had always been one of the fastest and now – as result of the modifications made – the upwind speed was equal to that of America One. Because of not possessing a spare mast, the Swiss team had no option but to withdraw from the competition. All together the boat had been on the water for only 24 training and racing sessions when the mast broke. We were on a very steep learning curve and although the task of reaching the semi-finals had become very difficult, the team was confident that by the end of round robin 3, the speed of the boat would have been similar to that of the best of the other yachts. That would have constituted an acceptable beginning to the Swiss involvement in the America’s Cup.