Refitting USA 76 to become a Passenger Vessel

USA 76 is Retired in Valencia, Spain

USA 76 was retired after competing in the Louis Vuitton Acts of 2006. Her fate was undecided and the yacht was stored in a yard in Valencia.  To replace her, BMW Oracle Racing debuted USA 87 – the IACC yacht that would go on to compete in the remaining Louis Vuitton Cup Acts.

Four years later, in 2010, the America’s Cup returned to the Spanish sea-side city. This time the defender and challenger would race on a catamaran and trimaran. BMW Oracle Racing successfully challenged Alinghi claiming the “Auld Mug” as it’s own. The trophy and the regatta would return to the United States for the 34th America’s Cup. USA 17, the victorious 90ft trimaran, would return to the United States too to be commemorated at Oracle headquarters in Redwood City, California.

ACsailingSF is born in San Francisco

Meanwhile, Brad and Karen Webb, the owners and founders of ACsailingSF, dreamt of sharing an authentic America’s Cup sailing experience with the public. With more than a decade of sailing in America’s Cup campaigns and the former bowman on USA 76, Brad Webb knew exactly what boat would make this dream a reality – it was in a boatyard in Valencia.

USA 76 was sitting unused, a shadow of her former glory, but Webb knew she was the sailboat to introduce the public to high-caliber yacht racing. With modifications, the yacht could hold up to twenty guests with five crew. San Francisco Bay, where the Webbs were based, was the prime location to showcase the yacht’s magnificence. The Webbs bought the yacht and USA 76 joined the caravan back to the United States. She was loaded into a container and shipped back to her home port alongside USA 17.

Before taking to the cool waters of San Francisco with paying passengers on board, the carbon fiber yacht had to undergo rigorous modifications. With passenger safety in mind and the goal of obtaining the USCG Certificate of Inspection (COI), USA 76’s new “shore crew” went straight to work when the yacht arrived in Oakland, California. A crew of professional yacht builders, engineers, and riggers who had experience working on high powered yachts facilitated all of the modifications at KKMI boatyard.

Modifications to USA 76

  • Life rails on cockpit combing – The stainless steel life rails give guests something strong and secure to hold onto when the yacht heels over. During the America’s Cup Races and Louis Vuitton Cup, racers would sit on the cockpit deck. There was no hiking and there were no lifelines.
  • Thru-hulls – In order to meet COI regulations, an engine and bilge pumps would need to be installed. Thus, thru-hulls had to be fitted in the carbon fiber hull.
  • Saildrive – A saildrive was installed along with the thru-hulls and the engine.
  • Engine – IACC yachts didn’t have engines. They were towed to and from the racing areas. To be COI compliant, USA 76 needed an engine. The brand new 75HP beast had to be hoisted into the yacht with a crane.
  • Bulkheads – Originally, there were no bulkheads in the hull of USA 76. Three were installed to divide the hull into four sections. This isolated the engine and created an “engine room”.
  • Keel bulb modifications – With the addition of the bulkheads, life rails, and engine, USA 76 would need modifications in the lead bulb at the bottom of her keel to help unload the rig and redistribute weight. More than 2.5 tons of lead were removed from the bulb with a chainsaw. The crew had to replace the chainsaw blade three times in order to complete the job.
  • Branding – Last but not least, “USA 76” would replace the “ORACLE” branding that had adorned her hull in the past.

USA 76 refit at KKMI

Launching an America’s Cup Experience to the Public

In early 2011, the modified yacht was launched (sans the rig) and the waterline was re-measured. After a brief shakedown to ensure there were no leaks or issues with the engine and other modifications, the mast was stepped, the boat was rigged and the bottom painted.

At long last, 11 months after the inception of ACsailingSF, it was time for the moment of truth. USA76 was inspected by the USCG and deemed seaworthy for up to 20 passengers and 5 crew. The COI was obtained. Success! USA 76 would sail once again – bringing the thrill of America’s Cup sailing to sailing enthusiasts from around the world.