These are important days of real-world testing with the challenging teams assessing the likely conditions that they will face should they be successful in the Challenger Selection Series this time next year. One thing we know for sure is that Emirates Team New Zealand will be on the start-line in Barcelona as the Defender in the Match for the 37th America’s Cup and their autumnal programme got underway with their AC75 ‘Te Rehutai’ back in action.
Light winds that struggled above 7 knots greeted the Kiwis on a flat-water day off the Barceloneta beachfront, so they took every opportunity to practice the key low-wind take-off skills and sought to translate lessons learned from the AC40 programme in recent weeks, back into the big bus AC75 sailing.
This was a session to test the patience and the Kiwis had it in abundance, persisting when many would have towed back for the day – and it was fruitful. With dexterity, Blair Tuke and Andy Maloney co-ordinated well with the helms and the cyclors, squeezing every ounce of power into the main and jib and eventually with a tiny increase in windspeed a very interesting and profitable four session ensued. Light weather technique could be everything in the 37th America’s Cup and on this form, Emirates Team New Zealand looked accurate and working hard as a team.
Nathan Outteridge, helmsman on the port side with Pete Burling in his familiar role on starboard, gave an insight into the process of take-off in the light, alluding to a whole team effort to get the AC75 up and rocketing saying: “There’s a there’s a big role division when it comes to trying to get the take-off to happen. You’ve got to generate as much power as you can out of the sails, so those trimming the sails at the time are always trying to strive for the most power they can get out of the main and the jib and the flight controllers are trying to keep the boat as flat as possible. Then there’s a moment where you think you’re at your boat speed for take-off and that’s when you squeeze everything on harder and generate more lift from the foils and if you can push it up in the air you’re away, but if you’re not patient enough and you go too early then the speed starts to drop, so it’s a collective effort and they’re the moments when the cycling team have to push hard as well because when you want to pull stuff on quickly, they’re the ones that actually pulled it all on.”
Nathan broke the day down, coming ashore after a long session as the shadows got longer in Barcelona saying: “It was mostly just a shakedown day to be honest because we haven’t sailed the boat for a month, it was just checking that we remember a) how to sail the boat and b) on the systems side everything was behaving as a standard. So we broke the day up into four shortish sessions where initially it was quite soft so it was a little bit about take-off and just trying to sail at whatever angle to get the boat going, and then slowly moved into some laps and tacks and gybes and just reminding ourselves on all of our roles and then eventually we set up a bit of a virtual course, just did a few laps in close to the beach and it’s also pretty important on the venue development at the moment coming into the time of year where we’re going to be doing the Americas Cup.”
Te Rehutai looked blistering in flight with consistent power generation and the Flight Controllers end-plating her close to the water’s surface. Gybes were super-high whilst tacks were heart-in-mouth moments to keep the momentum through. A good day all round and the ring-rust was certainly dusted off.
For Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli it was a super-early start for the whole team, desperate to make the most of the early morning autumnal mistral breeze. The days are closing in on the European summer, and with a sunrise in Cagliari today of 7.14am, Luna Rossa was rolled out of the shed at 7.30 and craned in just ten minutes later.
Onboard, it was a full-on driving and trimmers day today with Marco Gradoni, Francesco Bruni and Ruggero Tita all in the LEQ12 whilst the full trim team of Umberto Molineris, Andrea Tesei and Vittorio Bissaro swapped through roles and got familiar with some new, but unseen, upgrades that the shore team have made. In the early morning breeze that touched some 18 knots at the masthead, Luna Rossa was flying, and it was a demonstration of accuracy – so important as the event in Vilanova in the AC40s proved. Sailing these boats with high degrees of accuracy through the tacks and gybes is essential and the Italians nailed it pretty much all day today across some 31 tacks and 27 gybes.
From the Recon Team’s perspective, it looked like a day of boat-handling, and it was interesting towards the end as the sailors went freestyle and started really pushing the boundaries. We see that often with the American Magic team and Emirates Team New Zealand and it’s there, at the outer edges, where feel for the boat is really gained. For the majority of the session, it was low-riding, bustle skimming and going through some foil cant modes whilst the team could be seen on the stops looking at the clew areas of both the jib and mainsail. Valuable day again for the Italians as Francesco Bruni commented: “It was a very good day for us today, we started in something like 18 knots, nice mistral day, sunny, and then as happens very often here, the wind slowly starts dropping after 10:00am but we had a very good session of three hours maybe more, in all sort of wind speeds.”
Asked what the team were focussing on, Francesco replied: “We were looking at some small modifications that happened during the break, testing some manoeuvres, usual stuff, the boat was going fine with a couple of issues at the beginning of the day that we fixed and yeah the boat was going fine…we had some issues in the hydraulics but very easy fix and the guys did a good job on fixing it quickly.”
One thing the team were certainly testing and getting familiar with was the one-design comms system that the teams will use for the America’s Cup with Francesco saying: “The comms system we have now is a mixed system between the one-design official system that we’re going to use during the Cup, which is a Riedel (Communications) system, and our old system so we are trying different settings for the mics and we’re learning about this new system really but we have one here to learn about this new system and then we’re going to use it as every other team during the Cup.”
Great morning session for the Italians who were back on the dock before 1pm and their intense training period continues through this week.
NYYC American Magic were back into the training on Tuesday afternoon with their heavily-modified AC40 ‘America’ and pushed through a solid session of foil testing and technique analysis. The drama continues with the American’s skinny foils as the team adapt to using some of the slenderest configurations that we’ve seen from anyone in this cycle. It’s a fine line between outright speed and stability, particularly through the tacks and gybes and the recon unit noted that they are dropping their bespoke foils quicker and earlier than on the one-design set-up where the foils are more forgiving and designed for general use by the teams and the Youth and Women’s AC squads.
Talking about the foils specifically, Lucas Calabrese who alternates between trim and helm so has one of the best feels for the nuances of the AC40 in both one-design and LEQ12 mode, commented: “I feel like the one designs were really designed to be really reliable and easy to sail and ion our side we’re trying to come up with the fastest foil so obviously you give away a little bit of that reliability for speed… everything’s on the table really, we’re trying different things, different timings, different speeds, and we’re trying to come up with the configuration that suits us the best so yeah nothing set in stone. We’re really early still and trying to come up with new configurations that work the best.”
That work will be relentless in both the hydro (foils) testing and the aero (sails) testing programmes over the coming weeks as American Magic push on with finding the limits. It will be interesting to see when Patriot, their warhorse AC75 makes a re-appearance out in Barcelona, with rumours of launch next week. Asked whether the team will be concentrating on component development in the AC40 or sailing the AC75, Lucas commented: “A little bit of everything, I think. The development always keeps going all the time we’ve got to make sure we’re getting the fastest equipment for next year, so mostly focused on that, and then when it comes down to Patriot sailing, we’ll try to keep learning on our other factors, so I think we’re going to keep working on both.”
Interesting times for NYYC American Magic who will continue training this week.
INEOS Britannia were out in Barcelona in their AC40 in One Design mode so no recon unit followed them whilst neither Orient Express Racing Team nor Alinghi Red Bull Racing were spotted on the water today. (Magnus Wheatley)
On-Water Recon Unit Report – Emirates Team New Zealand: Emirates Team New Zealand sailed their AC75 B2 for the first time in a month today clocking up an almost four-hour session this afternoon in light winds and on flat seas.
B2 rolled out on time at 1200 with rig setup complete by 1232 and launching take place at 1237. B2 left the harbour at 1358 with the M1-3 mainsail hoisted with the J1-6 headsail going up minutes later. With the southerly wind only touching 5 knots at this stage the team opted for a bow-tow at 1408 which produced two brief two-minute flights.
After 30 minutes of unsuccessfully trying to self-take-off (the boat did break free of the surface for a few seconds once) a third tow up triggered a 20 minute foiling session with multiple tacks and gybes. Once foiling the boat looked comfortable in the air and foiled through the vast majority of the manoeuvres. A stop at 1523 saw the J1-6 swapped for the J2-6. This and a fractional increase in the wind (6-7 knots) saw the New Zealand AC75 taking off easily on the flat seas. A 20-minute and a 30-minute foiling session followed with multiple manoeuvres before the team rounded off the day with six or so laps of a virtual course. Time was called at 1725 with sails down by 1735 and dock in at 1800.
Another day of AC75 sailing is scheduled for tomorrow (Wednesday September 27).
On-Water Recon Unit Report – Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli: The Italians opted for an early start rolling out their LEQ12 prototype at 7:30, quickly stepped mast and cables before craning in by 7:40. After the usual dock checks, the team docked out at 8:30 as the offshore Mistral pressure was up and measuring 12-14kn from 315 TWA at first. The main M1-2 was hoisted by 8:40 followed by the J2-1. The LEQ12 was boarded by six crew – three trimmers and three helms – swapping during the session and were quickly up foiling after a self-take-off with the usual leeward crews to windward and then crossing once they had gained some boat speed.
During the first two short foiling stints, the LEQ12 performed several touch & go manoeuvres and started heading offshore where, after trimming back up on two boards, the yacht came to a stop. Here the pressure was measured at 14-16kn with some significant wind chop; the J2-1 was lowered to hoist the J4-1. Several shore crew members jumped onboard gathering around the sailors, having a look at the sheeting systems and below deck.
The second foiling stint lasted 45 minutes and the LEQ12 was set up or long straight-line runs both up and downwind. As the pressure seemed to be decreasing, the J4 was lowered to rehoist the J2 for another 45minute long foiling stint with some additional straight-line sailing. During these runs, crew members were observed walking on deck checking out the foot and sheeting systems of both sails.
The foiling stint ended closer to shore with some freestyle manoeuvres such as the Chicago, early gybes, tack-bear-aways as the offshore breeze was decreasing further to approx. 7-9 kn. Three foiling stints followed in the last hour of sailing in which the team seemed to focus on foil-to-foil manoeuvres in light airs.
The day was called after a total of 31 tacks,27 gybes, and 162 total minutes foiling time (Michele Melis AC Recon).
JOB VERMEULEN / AMERICA’S CUP
UGO FONOLLÁ / AMERICA’S CUP