There are a few major competitions in every sport. Competitions that make a sports fan sit up and take notice. In the world of sailing that competition is the America’s Cup. And Wattbike played its part helping Emirates Team New Zealand take home the ‘Auld Mug’, as it is commonly known.
Oracle Team USA performed one of the greatest comebacks in sport in San Francisco, USA in 2013. Finding themselves 8-1 down, Oracle Team USA won eight straight races to claim the victory, and with it the rules for the 35th edition.
Some of the decisions made was that Bermuda would host the event, the boats would be smaller catamarans and they would have less people onboard.
The boats used were called AC35’s. All teams that competed had to make a boat to a one-design rule, which to the general public meant the boats looked the same. Despite the looks, there was room for creativity, and this is where Emirates Team New Zealand excelled.
So, this is the bit for the non-sailors.
The boats use a hydraulic system to help move the wings and foils, the bits to help manoeuvre the boat. Because the wind is constantly changing, so is the boat. This means that the hydraulic system is working overtime and needs to be pumped up to work properly. This is done through grinding.
Traditional grinding is done with the upper body, imagine a massive coffee grinder that takes two people to work it. Emirates Team New Zealand recognised that legs work harder than the upper body and the power output is greater. Also, instead of two people on one grinder, they could have one each.
Leg power had been used before, and banned before. There was nowhere in Oracle Team USA’s rules that banned it this time around.
Another problem was getting across the boat when you change direction and clipping in. Emirates Team New Zealand felt confident that they had overcome this obstacle sufficiently that leg power was the way to go.
Once the decision was made to switch from traditional to leg powered, the sailors then had to change and adapt to the new role. They had to train as cyclists and drastically change their physical shapes. To do this, they chose the Wattbike.
To train as cyclists you also need a cyclist. Emirates Team New Zealand brought in Olympic track cycling bronze medallist Simon van Velthooven to work with the team as a consultant. He was later added as a crew member onboard as a cyclor (or a grinder).
The grinders can be thought of as the engine room for the America’s Cup boats. Emirates Team New Zealand showed the world they had the best engine winning by a scoreline of 7-1. Word out of the camp was that the team could hold 1000 watts for a minute and 1300 for 30 seconds on the Wattbike. Some serious power.
Being innovative meant Emirates Team New Zealand claimed a victory in one of sailing’s pinnacle events. By being bold and stepping away from the traditional helped the team take home the Auld Mug.
In 2000 Wattbike had the vision of creating the ultimate indoor bike. When the first Wattbike was released in 2008 the landscape of indoor cycling was changed completely by its unparalleled data. Now, in 2017, Emirates Team New Zealand may just have changed the shape of the America’s Cup landscape, and Wattbike was part of it.