As training sessions go, today (Friday) in Barcelona was about as valuable as it can get for any team aspiring to win the America’s Cup. Alinghi Red Bull Racing launched their AC40 into a heady Catalonian swell and put on a performance in light airs that will have every other Cup team analyst poring over the footage. It was classic Barcelona chop, the kind that gives Flight Controllers sleepless nights, with a confused swell beneath an onshore breeze that rose and faded around the 6-9 knots mark all afternoon.
All credit to the Swiss, they banked some serious intel today and stayed resolutely at the task fighting, cajoling, caressing the boat through the high volume manoeuvres over short dynamic courses in equal measure. Turns had to be at full commitment, especially downwind with high exit angles to keep the bustle clear and stay on the foils. Upwind, the tacks were a study in board drop execution and timing with the bow sweeping through the wind at exactly the moment the board was dropped. Pure technique sailing and not something that can really be replicated anywhere else in the world with any degree of accuracy. What Alinghi Red Bull Racing learnt today will be invaluable come the main event.
But let’s be clear, what we are seeing in recent sessions with the Swiss is a massive closing of the gap in terms of experience to those teams that competed in AC36. Resting on laurels is a dangerous game, the Alinghi Red Bull Racing team is out for glory and although they won’t admit it, the air around the camp has changed. Good things are happening on the water and it’s an infectious habit that’s spreading through the organisation.
When the Chase Boat put down marker buoys, suddenly the game of angles came to life and the requirement to gybe downwind at specific points looked like meat and potatoes to Arnaud Psarofaghis and his team. Calls were more than good. Roundings were crisp. Co-ordination looked slick and it’s clear that the open team culture is paying handsome dividends in terms of communication.
Lucien Cujean, a double Olympian in the 49er class and one of the new breed of coming Cup superstars was sublime in interview afterwards comparing the AC75, AC40 and his own experience in the 49er dinghy class, saying: “I think the most different thing is the load, definitely the loads you have to manage and to have a look on your screen and also the shape of the sails…and that’s why it’s so interesting to sail on the AC40 because you can have a quick look on the data and then sailing with your feeling. It’s still a 40-foot boat so you can really sail and turn it around in Barcelona.”
Comparing the America’s Cup with the Olympic Games, Lucien gave an insight into a winning mindset saying: “I think the game is still the same you know it’s a regatta and you have to win and I think the boat is a bit bigger, the team also is a lot of people involved so I think it’s quite different but the game on the water is still the same so that reminds me that you have to be ready any day, anytime and ready to compete.”
After a stellar training day, that saw the AC40 complete a whopping total of 78 manoeuvres over 40 nautical miles, one of the biggest signs of the confidence oozing around this team came right at the end with Dean Barker aboard. After a reasonable length upwind leg, they bore away to head back for the entrance to the Port Vell and threw in a total of 25 gybes before foiling into the port and dropping down into displacement just metres off their base. Stunning. Alinghi Red Bull Racing are fast learners and there’s an air of 2003 and 2007 around the team at the moment.
Sailing continues this weekend. Relentless dedication – it’s a formula that the senior members of the team know all too well – and they also know, it works.
On-Water Recon Unit Notes: With a light east wind forecast, Alinghi Red Bull Racing rolled out their AC40 at 08:30 and were sailing out of the port entrance just before 11am. With the M1 main and J2 jib, the yacht was initially slightly underpowered, as the team struggled to get on foil in the chop bouncing off the sea walls. A 1m East swell lingered all day, which required a more delicate take-off procedure; sailing the boat with the waves to build speed rather than maintain a constant TWA of 90°.
The team sailed three solid stints of a 1 Nautical Mile windward/leeward course, completing a total of 78 foiling manoeuvres, beating their personal best of 75 foiling manoeuvres set two days prior. The day saw some of the most challenging conditions for the AC40 due to the light wind and strong chop, which made completing foil to foil manoeuvres essential. Compared to previous days, the team pulled off relatively the same ratio of “fully foiling” tacks and gybes to “touch and go” and “touch down” manoeuvres as on days with flatter seas. When taking today’s conditions into consideration, this can be seen as a successful effort.
Crew swaps were made just after 1pm, with Dean Barker stepping on for a go in the final stint. After a short upwind, the team sailed a long downwind to the port, during which an impressive 25 gybes were performed, 18 of which fully foiling.
The yacht sailed into the port entrance on foil and came to displacement mode just in front of the base. Sails were dropped, the yacht docked and finally craned out for the final time this week.
The team sailed over 40NM over four hours on the water. Sailing will resume after the weekend.
Driving Group: Arnaud Psarofaghis / Nicolas Charbonnier / Maxime Bachelin / Dean Barker / Pietro Sibello
Flight Control: Yves Detrey / Lucien Cujean / Nicolas Rolaz
Recon Notes: Arnaud Psarofaghis, Nicolas Rolaz, Maxime Bachelin and Yves Detrey started in the yacht. 13:10 crew swap
Conditions: Onshore Wind – 5-7kn E @ 11:10, 7-9kn E @ 12:40, 6-8kn E @ 13:15. Weather AM: 13°c, Intermittent Clouds. Weather PM: 14°c, Intermittent Clouds. Sea State: Beaufort 1 – short chop + 1m swell.
M1 (M1-1): 4 hours
J2 (J2-1): 3 hours 50 minutes
Total Tacks: 33 – 14 foil-to-foil, 8 touch & go, 11 touchdowns.
Total Gybes: 45 – 31 foil-to-foil, 9 touch & go, 5 touchdowns.
10:55 – 11:10 Sailing (1 Tack – Touch Down)
11:15 – 12:05 Sailing (5 Tacks – Fully Foiling, 2 Tacks – Touch & Go, 5 Tacks – Touch Down, 9 Gybes – Fully Foiling, 2 Gybes – Touch & Go, 2 Gybe – Touch Down)
12:40 – 13:00 Sailing (1 Tack – Fully Foiling, 3 Tacks – Touch & Go, 1 Tack – Touch Down, 4 Gybes – Fully Foiling, 1 Gybe – Touch & Go, 2 Gybe – Touch Down)
13:15 – 14:30 Sailing (8 Tacks – Fully Foiling, 3 Tacks – Touch & Go, 4 Tacks – Touch Down, 18 Gybes – Fully Foiling, 6 Gybes – Touch & Go, 1 Gybe – Touch Down)
Take off speed: 15 knots at 90° TWA
Dock-Out: 1030 Dock-In: 1450