From flat calm to full-on. It seems to be the story of Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli’s winter training camp in Cagliari and today was no different. Dawn broke and the Sella del Diavolo looked inviting, calm, serene even with spring sunshine breaking over the horizon but it was fool’s gold and pretty soon it was snorting at 14-17 knots with an angry sea that looked set to stay all afternoon.
The Italians made a super-early call to get on the water to maximize the morning, launching at half past seven and docking out a little over an hour later. Wise calls were made by the sharpest team in this America’s Cup cycle and the highly manageable M2 mainsail was locked on and paired with the J4 – no questions asked. Early flight was secured and easy on the flat water but very quickly the Bay churned, and the sailors were operating at the outer limits. This is the foil testing in waves that they so desperately crave, and conclusions are, it would seem, rapidly being drawn. Interestingly, the team spent a lot of time on the port anhedral foil and seemed more composed – is this the way they will go for their AC75? Time will tell.
On the flat starboard foil things looked harder, pitch was hit and miss, but a case could equally be made that on port tack they were punching into the waves. Vittorio Bissaro, one of the key Flight Controllers for the programme gave a superb insight saying: “Well let’s say that waves give us some feedback in terms of how the two foils behave, so probably I would say that we have a better feeling with one foil compared to the other in waves but I will not say which one of course.” Yes of course Vito, but the recon video offers a few hints.
A ragged gybe from the anhedral to the T-section down at the beach area, offered perhaps a further clue and as the LEQ12 bronco’d out of the water, only brilliant steering from the starboard helm saved the day. From there on, and with the waves looking to continue building, the session looked prime for an early call to head back to harbour. It was a heart-in-mouth moment and one of those spills that can cause all manner of issues not least to the remaining data gathering programme that has been on fire all week.
The Chase Boat put a buoy in the water once the LEQ12 was back and flying having been checked over by the sailors and tech teams but after a couple of tacks, the wisest decision was taken, and the sails lowered for the tow home. Vito Bissarro summed it up beautifully in context afterwards saying: “It was a kind of a day that we are facing very often this winter – that is no wind at all and then this line of pressure coming in and filling very quickly with the sea state increasing every minute that passes by. It was a lot of fun but let’s say that in a few hours the conditions reached a kind of a limit for us and we decided to cut the day.”
One interesting part of the Q&A session perhaps revealed a lot without saying much. Michele Melis of the Recon Unit dedicated to the Italian team asked whether the foil flaps were connected to the rudder elevator flaps or whether they are operated independently. Vito’s deflected answer and smile perhaps suggests that Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli are deep into this dual control system as we suspect all teams will be.
Whatever the truth may be, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli looked awesome again in big breeze today, working the cunningham system hard on the M2 mainsail to de-power effectively with minimum traveller spills (which is interesting in itself) and holding very steady flight upwind – particularly on starboard.
With a forecast looking, as Vito called it, “spicy” for Saturday, we may well see the team stay ashore and monitor the weather but we can be absolutely sure that if any window appears they will grab it.
A valuable day once again for Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli. Questions are being answered.
On Water Recon Unit Notes: Having chosen a promising window to sail in upper breeze range, the LRPP team opted for an early roll out at 7:15am, quickly stepped the mast and craned in the prototype undergoing the usual protocol checks at the dock.
As dock-out was scheduled 1.5h later at 8:45am, the team loaded several headsails on the chase boats and, while heading out of the harbour, it started hoisting the smaller mainsail M2. The sea and wind conditions looked quite peaceful at first sight with glassy water and dead air. Having fully hoisted the mainsail, Chase Boat 1 headed offshore to take a look on the incoming SE ‘Scirocco’ pressure while Chase Boat 2 towed the LEQ12 further offshore to finally hoist the J4.
As the Recon anemometer showed 12-14kn with incoming SE sea state, the sailing action started with a first self-take-off with the usual crew on windward technique resulting in a first foiling stint of 42 minutes executing one foiling tack before heading downwind more inshore for some gybes.
Considering the increased sea state of 0.8-1.2m and 4s period, it has been challenging for the Recon Unit to follow the LEQ12 closely for the entire sailing time. The first foiling run stopped when, while trimming up on two boards, the prototype was recorded “broaching” fully rising out of the water, falling back hull-borne with good recovery by the crew. The prototype was back on the towline for some checks and released shortly after for a second self-take-off in which the crew seemed to face some challenges while building boat speed considering the increased wavy conditions.
In the meantime, the chase boat dropped one mark as the LEQ12 was finally up and foiling for another 8 minutes executing two last tacks before stopping to drop and pack up the sails heading back to the Molo Ichnusa.
Dock out: 0845 Dock-in: 1130
Helms: Ruggero Tita / Marco Gradoni/ Francesco Bruni
Crew: Andrea Tesei / Umberto Molineris / Vittorio Bissaro
Mainsail M2 (MN2-1S): 2 hours 10 minutes
J4 (J4-1-A): 1 hour 20 minutes
Total Tacks: 3 – 2 foil-to-foil, 1 touch & go.
Total Gybes: 5 – 4 foil-to-foil, 1 touch & go.
Wind Strength: 9:45 SE 12-14kn/ 10:45 SE 14-17kn. Weather AM: 14-17°c Sunny. Sea State: AM: 0.8-1.2m, 4s