In a story that reached beyond the sports pages, the world now knows that Oracle Team USA completed one of the most historic comebacks in sports history Wednesday by winning its eighth straight race and capturing the 34th America’s Cup.
But even if you’ve been watching the races in San Francisco Bay, you might not have noticed the high-speed umpire boat racing alongside the Cup boats.
The 43-foot interceptor craft was provided by Willard Marine, a 56-year-old builder of high-performance boats based in Southern California. The boat is based on an offshore racing design and Willard originally built it for military special warfare missions, such as interdicting and boarding vessels in the open ocean.
Powered by twin 600-hp inboard turbocharged diesel engines with a high-speed surface drive, the interceptor can sustain speeds of as much as 60 knots.
“The AC72 wing-sail catamarans competing in this year’s America’s Cup challenge are designed to achieve speeds of 40 knots or more,” Willard Marine president Ulrich Gottschling said in a statement. “America’s Cup race management needed an umpire boat that could not only match, but exceed the speed of the racing boats. Our 43-foot interceptor proved to be an ideal platform for this demanding environment.”
“There are a lot of firsts in this America’s Cup and the umpiring is at the leading edge of technology, much like the boats are,” America’s Cup umpiring director Mike Martin said. “We have a boat that does 60 knots — it’s a 43-foot, twin-turbo diesel, 1,200-horsepower racing machine.”