After a blisteringly intense period in Barcelona gaining familiarity with the AC40, and where they mightily impressed on all front, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli returned to Cagliari to continue the development programme of their LEQ12. Milestones have been reached by all teams in terms of lines for the hulls but the appendages, wings, rig, sails and ultimately technique are now all under the microscope in this most competitive America’s Cup perhaps in living memory.
What Jimmy Spithill and Francesco Bruni appeared to have taken away from Barcelona, and most acutely in racing against NYYC American Magic is windward heel. Tom Slingsby and Paul Goodison, former International Moth World Champions, looked sensational against the Italians at times and no doubt that has seared into the memory banks of the coaches and sailors and translated into a review of their sailing style. Furthermore, the Kiwi approach of ultra-low-flight upwind was perhaps another take-away from the practice racing and although in recent Cagliari sessions that technique had been on display, today it was more pronounced.
But it’s all in the refinement. And there was no blind-copying going on, rather the Italians and their coaches looked for the inducement of windward heel just before the tacks to give the boat a power-kicker going through the wind before maintaining what appeared to be a relatively flat mode upwind and downwind but with big depth in the mainsail to really keep max power on in conditions that began at 7-9 knots and steadily increased to top out at around 13 knots in the afternoon.
Max Sirena, the Team Director of Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli and one of the true forces in this America’s Cup cycle gave a wonderful interview after sailing, summing up the day brilliantly saying: “I think it was good to get back to home water and go back to our LEQ12 because at the end it’s where we’re going to do most of the development of this campaign. We had a pretty good and intense session in Barcelona, it was good to have a chance to race against the other teams for the first time and so we came back from Barcelona with a pretty good feedback from the practise we had, and I think it’s going to be a pretty big learning curve for everyone for the first event of Villanova in a few weeks’ time and in the meantime we’re going to sail here for a couple of weeks, or a touch more, to keep going with our development and then we reach a racing mode finally.”
Luna Rossa was carrying updated foils with a little bit of confusion around what was really onboard. Max claimed that ‘Wing 04’ was on the port side, but the recon team recognised this as an updated ‘Wing 02’ and we will have to wait for the declaration sheet to confirm if indeed ‘Wing 04’ was mounted. In interview afterwards, Max said: “It was wing four on port and wing three on starboard and it was good. I think it’s good to have all the boys onboard and get the feedback of everyone. The previous session we didn’t have Jimmy (Spithill) and so it’s good to have feedback of the other guys as well and again it’s part of the process, I think everyone is getting close to final calls in some of the departments so the more days we sail, the more info and more confident we will have to take the final decision.”
Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli have been relentless in their on-water time in this America’s Cup cycle and look to be stand-out contenders to go deep into the Challenger Selection Series but Max is clear that it’s ‘quality’ over quantity that is the key determinant, saying: “The only thing you cannot buy is the time so everyone is pushing, everyone is rushing to try to make as much as possible out on the water. Obviously you need to look for quality as well not just hours in the water just for fun, so again I think the next couple of months are going to be pretty intense for everyone because soon next year we’re going to launch the boat and everyone has to be more focused on racing and with the fact that we can only build one big boat, you need to be spot on.”
We’re creeping towards the business end of this America’s Cup cycle with just over a year to go until the gloves really come off. Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli is 100% focussed on the end goal and with the form they’re showing on the water, they are hard to bet against. All eyes on the delivery now of a fast boat that can develop speed through the round robins. Fascinating sporting team, operating at the highest level. More to come from Cagliari in the coming days.
On-Water Recon Unit Notes – Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli: The Italian team rolled out their LEQ12 prototype at 11:00 and quickly proceeded with the mast stepping procedure craning the yacht in by 11:15.
On the boat configuration side, it has been noticed that what seems to be an updated wing 03 was mounted on the starboard arm while the anhedral updated wing 02 remained mounted on port arm. This is yet to be confirmed in the upcoming sailing days as the interview revealed perhaps a wing 04 on port.
Routine checks followed and dock-out was scheduled for 12:30 after having locked in the newest mainsail M1-2 in the mast fittings. Just outside the harbour the main was fully hoisted and then paired to the J1.5. Forecast looked light & flat at the beginning, approximately 7-9kn from 150 TWA with increasing light chop & mid-range wind intensity towards the afternoon.
Once released from towline, the LEQ12 performed two displacement tacks before setting the boat up for actual take-off on port tack with usual crew members hanging on the windward side and crossing right before reaching dynamic take-off speed at 17-18kn on 85 TWA.
The first foiling stint lasted a complete hour and began with a series of tacks before bearing away, heading downwind for a series of gybes, finally alternating between hard bear aways and trim-ups. After the latter, the LEQ12 was observed testing some upwind performance flying low for end-plating before tacking. Today while entering the tacks, the crew seemed to induce more windward heel than usual before dropping the windward board, perhaps trying new manoeuvres protocols.
After a final long straight line downwind run, the LEQ12 stopped, Chase2 laid out the usual racetrack and the J1.5 was lowered to hoist the J2 as the breeze increased to 12-14kn 145TWA.
Once back up foilborne via a tow-to-fly, the LEQ12 engaged the racetrack from the windward mark sailing one leg before practicing a first prestart with time-on-distance followed by four legs and coming to a stop shortly after. During this break some crew swapping between helmsmen and passengers was observed.
Once again foilborne via self-take-off, a second prestart was observed while the distance between the marks seemed to have been increased for some final laps before recovering the marks before the LEQ12 sailed for a short while closer to shore focussing on manoeuvres.
The LEQ12 came to a stop close to the harbour gate, sails were lowered, and the day was called with approx. 131 minutes of foiling out of 203 minutes total, 2 starts, 9 legs, 33 tacks and 31 gybes.
© IVO ROVIRA / AMERICA’S CUP
© IVO ROVIRA / AMERICA’S CUP
© IVO ROVIRA / AMERICA’S CUP