Serious, controlled power sailing was on display out in Cagliari today as Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli kicked off the working week in fine style giving the LEQ12 prototype a thorough workout in absolutely pitch-perfect conditions. This was a pedal-to-the-floor day right from the get-go with Marco Gradoni and Francesco Bruni pushing a frightening high pace whilst Andrea Tesei and Vittorio Bissaro looked utterly masterful on the trim and flight control.
With the big M1 mainsail up and the J2 complementing it, this was a morning session of the highest order. The LEQ12 was being thrown through tacks like a dinghy at an astonishing pace with high co-ordination between board drop and steering angle at entry – interesting to note how much faster their tacks are now compared with when they first started – and gybes were so sharp you could slice a fine Italian tomato with them. Exit speeds on both manoeuvres were crisp with the bow-down style that the Italians have completely perfected amplified by the signature measured raise of the windward board to induce heel and maintain flight. It’s co-ordinated and highly effective.
Once the Chase Boat had laid a leeward gate and set an appropriate windward mark, the Italians went at the racecourse as if the America’s Cup itself was on the line. This is training at such a high level now that it will send shockwaves through the Cup community. The bar is being raised day after day in Cagliari. Upwind, Andrea and Vittorio were making minute adjustments on the cant to maintain the power mode whilst keeping the bustle clear but low on the relatively flat water with gusts approaching 15 knots. Downwind it was power all the way. High flight, bow-down and such wonderful calls on the laylines that it was hard to know whether it was computer aided or simply Gradoni/Bruni brilliance – we suspect a combination of the two.
And the most striking thing was the team’s willingness to attempt the tricky moves – the JK’s, single foil head-ups at pace, the two board roundings. It was all there today over a short course plus several time-on-distance runs into an imaginary line for good measure. This is a team fully dialled into their boat and fully dialled into winning the America’s Cup. Scintillating to witness, mesmerising to watch, it may well have been another A/B testing day on the foils but at race pace, the Italians look devastating.
The path to glory at the America’s Cup is a hard one. Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, the beaten finalists from 2021 know this all too well but there’s a pragmatism in their approach which was superbly exemplified by Gilberto Nobili, the team’s highly experienced and no-nonsense Operations Manager, in interview afterwards. Asked what it will take to win the Cup, he gave a comprehensive and detailed overview saying: “You know that the Defender is always few points ahead of you because they know the stuff better than you and is only racing really a few days so they can narrow down the selection of the boat, how to develop stuff. You have a little bit more practice, and as we saw last time we got to the Cup, to the final, very prepared on the field, on the racing course, they were little bit faster for sure so this time we need to close the gap, keep doing what we were doing and see if there is something there that we didn’t experiment with so we need to learn a little bit more and see what the other people come out with, because now we see the other teams are starting to put new wings and new stuff in the water. It’s going to be, in the next 2-3 months, I think it’s going to be very interesting to see what all the other teams has done and how we can approach the future.”
That future, on today’s on-the-water evidence, looks more than bright. This is a team with serious talent all over, performing at the highest level. The Italians are coming for the America’s Cup and leaving no stone unturned to win.
It’s a mighty challenge for 2024.
On Water Recon Unit Notes: The LRPP team rolled out their LEQ12 prototype at 8:15, quickly stepped the mast and craned in undergoing the usual protocol checks at the dock to be prepared for dock-out which was scheduled 1.5h later at 9:45am. Shortly after the latter and with the bigger mainsail M1 locked in the mast, the team headed a mile off from Sant’ Elia to fully hoist it with the J2 jib.
In the gulf, the team encountered flat waters with original NW Maestrale breeze between 9-11kn. Sailing action started with a self-take-off after which the LEQ12 bore away and headed off the coast, reaching boat speeds in the lower 40’s downwind. In this first foiling stint, the LEQ12 foiled for 3/4h including a number of gybes until trimming up for a tack before taking a break.
During the day, the team seemed to try some modes on several occasions and no rotation by the crew members has been observed. While the Chase Boat dropped some marks, two for a leeward gate and one on windward, the LEQ12 performed a second self-take-off with a more smooth and stable transition heading towards the racecourse. The Recon unit alternated between waiting for the prototype at marks and following for some legs, out of which 5 upwind and 4 downwind were recorded.
Beside some short breaks due to touchdowns exiting manoeuvres, several mark roundings manoeuvres were observed. Around noon, the team had a break for lunch while exchanging what seemed to be a battery being passed between the Chase Boat and the LEQ12 with electricians below deck.
With all 4 crew members back onboard sitting in pods, the LEQ12 took off in the middle of the racecourse heading to the gate for a time-on-distance try out. Several legs followed before falling from the foils after a JK on the leeward gate and practicing once more the time-on-distance, crossing the line and heading upwind for two last legs. At 1:30pm the Chase Boat recovered the laid marks while the prototype headed slightly offshore before returning and stopping. A total foiling time of 115 minutes with 25 tacks, 19 gybes was recorded during the day.
Dock out: 0945 Dock-in: 1400
Helms: Marco Gradoni/ Francesco Bruni
Crew: Andrea Tesei / Vittorio Bissaro
Mainsail M1 (MN1-1S): 3 hours 45 minutes
J2 (J2-1-B): 3 hours 15 minutes
Total Tacks: 25 – 21 foil-to-foil, 4 touch & go.
Total Gybes: 19 – 16 foil-to-foil, 2 touch & go, 1 touchdown.
Wind Strength: 9:55 NW 9-11kn/ 11:45 NW 10-12kn/ 12:40 NW 12-14kn Weather AM: 14°c Sunny/Cloudy. Weather PM: 17°c Sunny.