The pace of testing quickened this week for some of the teams ahead of a mega push next week by all the teams as they seek to trial and familiarise themselves in the sort of conditions, air density and swell that they can expect this time next year in the America’s Cup.
Today (Friday), the British and Swiss were taking full advantage of near-perfect conditions but for INEOS Britannia it was a session cruelly cut short by what looks like a cracked starboard foil. These are tricky days for the team who are looking to bounce back from a difficult weekend in Vilanova and T6, their LEQ12 prototype, was booked in and operational for what Trimmer, Bleddyn Mon, described yesterday as an “intense period.”
The team set-up for a long afternoon having docked out just before 1pm but after less than an hour in a relatively soft breeze under 10 knots, and after a fast downwind that the recon team estimated top speeds at 32 knots, the prototype rounded up smartly, raised the starboard wing and called in the technicians to estimate the damage. Chris Schirmer, the INEOS Britannia Boat Captain, climbed out on the foil and assessed what looks like a structural failure just aft of the new ‘fences’ that have been recently installed to reduce ventilation.
After getting back to base and craning out, the spy shots appeared to show two cracks, one along the aft edge of the inner two fences and one, perhaps more serious, extending lengthwise down to the trim tab edge from the last fence. Whatever the cause, this is going to require thorough examination by the build team in Barcelona and the technicians back at the Mercedes Applied Science division in Brackley, Northamptonshire.
Speaking afterwards Giles Scott, helmsman alongside Dylan Fletcher-Scott, wouldn’t give too much away as he commented: yeah he (Chris Schirmer) was just checking out the surface to see what was what and yeah as I said I won’t go into too much detail but it’s obvious we were inspecting the outboard side of that foil and we’ve come into inspect it make sure it’s all good in the shed… as sailors you’re pretty tuned into any tiny little differences, as soon as the control begins to go where you feel the performance isn’t there, you kind of start questioning things pretty quickly and that led us to stop get the foil up.”
Talking about the ‘fences’ that the team have applied to the starboard outer foil, Giles added: “The fences have gone on, it’s something that you see on all the almost all of their competitors have been playing around with fences and certainly in the wave conditions it’s pretty tricky to keep flow attached on those outboard ends and fences are a way to try and mitigate that… it becomes a trade off in drag word versus flow attachment and ideally you don’t need them but as we’ve seen I think here, especially with the sea state, teams have been playing around with them.”
Giles also commented on the programme going forward and gave an insight into where the team are in relation to their new-build AC75 saying: “A lot of the key design decisions have already been said and done so as we move forward from here, there are big ticket items remaining but like in terms of RB3, hulls are generally done and foils are not too far not too far behind, so as we begin to get towards the end of the lifetime of T6 it kind of shifts more systems orientated.”
The British will be out again next week.
Alinghi Red Bull Racing meanwhile, really dived into their testing, perhaps taking inspiration from the free-divers that populated the Swiss team’s base on Thursday, jumping off a craned-up BoatZero at a height of some 18 metres above sea-level. Fabulous activation again from the team’s principal commercial sponsors, attracting a whole new audience to the America’s Cup but it’s on the water where they continue to impress.
Arnaud Psarofaghis and Maxime Bachelin took the helm for what was an extensive aero testing session with jib cross-overs in the spotlight as the wind filled, died and filled again and the team got the chance to test and compare their LEQ J2 and J3 jibs against their one design supplied jibs over a three-hour testing period. Long straight lines were executed over similar runs throughout the afternoon with their AC40-7, the newest of the two AC40 that the Swiss have, being dedicated to LEQ12 testing mode and featuring a battery of GoPro cameras looking both up and down the sail to measure cord depth and sail performance.
The sailing team, under guidance from the RIB team with designers and sailmakers onboard, played with numerous settings at the clew and tack with plenty of play on the jib cunningham to de-power and power-up. The jibs were covered in tell-tales, shaped in an arrow formation with plenty of coverage down at the tack and clew areas where the team are really concentrating on flow dynamics.
Speaking afterwards, Bryan Mettraux one of the senior trimmers alongside Yves Detrey, compared the LEQ versus OD sail set-up saying: “There are a lot of differences, we are working on big things and small details and yeah every day we’re learning a lot and today especially was a really efficient day on the water with perfect conditions for testing…we were playing with the sails, playing with the battens, with the settings, with the sail height, the clew, there are a lot of parameters… they are really different so I think the one design setup I would say is easier to use and we pushing more on the limit on the LEQ so it’s asking more to trim the sail but you have a much better range, a larger range.”
A super-productive and as Bryan says ‘efficient’ day on the water for the Swiss who very much look the real-deal with every session. Tacks and gybes were 100% foil-to-foil and in pure boat-handling, the sailors are rapidly improving. Expect more of the systems and sail testing in the coming week. (Magnus Wheatley)
On-Water Recon Unit Notes – INEOS Britannia: INEOS Britannia’s second day of testing aboard their T6 LEQ12 test boat was cut short today after the crew discovered an (unidentified) issue with the upper surface of the outboard section of the yacht’s starboard ‘banana’ foil.
After rolling out on time at 1000 and launching at 1040, T6 left the harbour mouth at 1245 and by 1305 the M2-2 mainsail and J3-2 headsail were hoisted in anticipation of a forecast of winds up to 15 knots during the afternoon. The boat was soon up and foiling in a southerly breeze touching 8 knots and the crew set about running through their testing schedule for the day.
After running out of breeze offshore around 1340 T6 was foil-towed north back into a building 8 knot breeze. Shortly after setting off on a fast (32 knots) downwind run on port gybe, the crew suddenly rounded up and tacked before stopping. A crew member was observed climbing out to inspect and photograph the upper outboard surface of the starboard foil.
Shortly afterwards, T6 Boat Captain Chris Schirmer was dropped onboard from a Chase Boat and did the same thing. After a period of consultation onboard, the crew set off back towards the harbour on port in displacement mode at around 8 – 10 knots. At 1430 they stopped to drop sails before continuing back to the harbour in displacement mode on a bow tow.
Dock in was at 1518. The British team is not scheduled to sail until Tuesday September 26 earliest.
On-Water Recon Unit Notes – Alinghi Red Bull Racing: The Swiss rolled out their AC40–7 at 9:30. The yacht was equipped with one design foils. Before stepping the mast, two GoPros were attached to the masthead, aimed to capture footage from each side of the mainsail. More GoPros were added to the shearline, at the bow, centre of jib and centre of mainsail.
The yacht was subsequently craned in and placed alongside the chase boat. Pre-sailing checks were executed, during which the IT manager was observed working on the communication systems through the rudder quadrant access hatch. A communications issue caused a delay to the dock out time, with a faulty cable identified as the culprit. Once the issue was addressed, the team proceeded to dock out at 13:15. They hoisted the M1-2 OD mainsail and the J2-2 LE jib in the port, commencing sailing from the port entrance at 13:40.
Wind conditions varied during the session. In the southern sailing area, outside the freeport, lighter winds prevailed, making it ideal for J2 testing. As they sailed north towards the Badalona area, stronger winds were encountered, in line with the team’s forecast, proving conducive for J3 testing. Maximum wind strength reported by the sailors was read at 18 knots towards the end of the day. A significant South swell was present, peaking at 1.5m with a 7 second period.
The team undertook four stints to test and compare LE jibs vs OD jibs, on long stretches of approximately 3NM in each direction. The first involved testing the J2-2 LE jib, with extended upwind and downwind stretches outside of the freeport, with a stop after 30 minutes to adjust the jib sheet clew position. The second transitioned to the J2-1 OD jib, maintaining the prolonged stretches of sailing in both directions. In the third stint, the J3-1 LE jib was tested, where they sailed a long downwind towards Badalona, followed by a short upwind, as wind speed began to increase. Further adjustments were made to the jib clew position and batten tension. The final stint saw the testing of the J3-1 OD, sailing a similar course to the previous stint, ending with a few tacks in quick succession before dropping the sails.
All the jibs used today featured identical tell-tale formations, with added tell-tales along the luff, and square formations in the tack (25 tell tales) and clew (22 tell tales). The Vilanova race crew sailed throughout the whole session, with no substitutions made.
The team spent three and a half hours on the water, covering 55NM, of which 115 minutes were spent sailing. 19 manoeuvres were performed, all of which were fully foiling.
UGO FONOLLÁ / AMERICA’S CUP
ALEX CARABI / AMERICA’S CUP