America’s Cup Class (ACC) boats are the Formula 1 cars of sailing, but unlike Formula 1, their design is largely determined by the Defender—in this case ORACLE TEAM USA. Each team must build the fastest boat possible but within specific parameters laid out by the rules for design. That means each team’s designers and engineers are tasked with finding creative and innovative ways to make their boat the fastest on the water. All racing in 2017 will be done aboard ACC designs.
If you were lucky enough to see any of the races in 2016, you will have been watching the AC45F in action. While the name might sound complicated, it’s rather simple. “AC” stands for “America’s Cup”, “45” means the boat is 45 feet long, and “F” signifies that it uses hydro-foils. Raced in the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series, these boats are “one design”, meaning they are identical.
This levels the playing field, allowing teams that don’t have massive budgets to go toe-to-toe with the major contenders for the Cup.
Between the AC45F and the final ACC boats, there is the AC45T (T stands for Turbo). These are the research and development boats teams use to test out new technology that will eventually be used in the final ACC design. Depending on their budget, some teams will have more than one AC45T and split their usage between testing and training, but they are never used in official competition.
Teams cannot change the length of the hull, but other than that, they might as well have free reign on what they can do to the boat.