Alinghi Red Bull Racing, one of the hardest working teams in this America’s Cup cycle, rolled out a bunch of upgrades on Saturday for what the sailors hoped would be a step-change day in the development of their systems onboard AC40-4, the raceboat from the Vilanova Preliminary Regatta.
After returning from the regatta, the team opted to use AC40-7, their newer boat, to conduct a series of cross-over aero tests with their new J2 and J3 jibs, comparing them to their one-design versions over long runs out in Barcelona. Meanwhile AC40-4 has been back in the shed and what looks like a copy of the bespoke AC75 flight control system that the team installed on ‘BoatZero’ has been pared down and fitted into the Flight Controller pods on either side.
Towing out just after half past two, the race team of Arnaud Psarofaghis, Maxime Bachelin, Bryan Mettraux and Yves Detrey were clearly in manual flight control and getting to grips with the new handlebar-style, twist-grip control as they played around with cant settings, beaming out the starboard foil and playing with ride height. Finessing this system whilst getting comfortable with it in a real-world environment is key to progress and plenty of time was spent in conversation between the crew as they dialled-in the settings and adjusted the sensitivity.
Unfortunately, the wind off Barcelona and down the coast at Badelona failed to materialise as expected through the afternoon and the team were on the water for just an hour and a half towing up and back down the coastline, passing a fleet of Saturday racers in the Pati Catala catamaran class. Back at dock, Rodney Ardern, one of the most experienced Cup campaigners in this cycle gave a fascinating interview as the Swiss team look ahead to their winter training programme.
With the Jeddah Preliminary Regatta looming large on the calendar with racing at the end of November, Rodney confirmed that the team will be down there and training, saying: “I think everyone is looking forward to getting there and yeah, I think the conditions will be really good. We’re going to be a little bit careful that we don’t get too comfortable in flat water because ultimately the racing is going to be going on here but there’s definitely things with flat water testing that will really benefit us.”
Back in 2007, the Swiss team then known just as ‘Alinghi’ set up a base in Dubai for winter testing and Rodney intimated that they could do something similar this winter, saying: “It hasn’t really been 100% decided, we had mixed results over the winter here in Barcelona so I mean anything is possible…I think even the race period that we have in September/October is maybe a little bit out of season and not potentially the best conditions that Barcelona offers. The winter was pretty mixed I would say, and we had plenty of big jobs to do on the AC75 anyway with the jib track and installing the cyclors over the winter, so it got broken up through projects, as well as the weather, so we’ve managed to achieve everything we want over the winter here last time, but I don’t know we’ll have to wait and see.”
From the interview it does, however, sound like the AC75 ‘BoatZero’ will stay in Barcelona with Rodney adding: “We’re going to continue sailing this boat all through the winter and yeah it’s always valuable to get feedback from the cycling systems and the logic and everything that we try on that boat, so it’s going to continue to sail.”
Could we see a dual programme through winter with a Swiss base in Barcelona and Jeddah? Interesting move if so and something that could really propel the team’s boat-handling and testing schedules to the next level. (Magnus Wheatley)
On-Water Recon Unit Notes: Alinghi Red Bull Racing rolled out the AC40–4 at 12:00 with one design foils in place. The mast, equipped with GoPros at the masthead, (same mast as previous day on the AC40-7), was stepped before craning in.
A significant focus on the cockpit during pre-sailing checks indicated potential adjustments or work on the Flight Control System (FCS). Electronics, Hydraulics and IT engineers were seen on board, congregating around the starboard cockpit. The top of a flight controller was spotted in the cockpit, the same as used on boat zero.
The AC75 was also rolled out briefly, with the American Magic rudder (AC75_R1) back on.
The team docked out at 14:35 without sails on deck. In open water, tow testing began. An initial 5NM tow test was carried out, with foils canted at a range of angles, with the yacht clearly flying on manual control, evident by the yacht’s inconsistent steadiness. Engineers were seen on-board and inspecting below-deck systems. A subsequent tow test of 2.5NM towards Badalona included a brief halt after just a few minutes, signalled by a trimmer.
On reaching Badalona, the team spent 5 minutes in the area, presumably determining whether to sail. With wind averaging less than 6 knots, the yacht was towed back to base. Despite available sails on the chase boat, no sailing occurred. The day featured light south winds of around 4-6kn and a 0.8m swell from the southeast, with a 5 second period.
The team docked-in just after 16:00, offloaded sails from the chase boat and craned out the AC40 at 16:25.