Only the very brave and the very best in the world dare to take an AC75 out in a lumpy, short-period sea-state where confidence, co-ordination, trust, skill, technique and communication are the deciding factors of a safe and productive day on the water. For Emirates Team New Zealand, on this their last day of sailing in Barcelona, it was a demonstration of the level that’s going to be required to take them on head-to-head in the Louis Vuitton 37th America’s Cup Match in 2024.
Docking out, on schedule, as usual, at midday after another mega effort from the most proficient and experienced shore team in this contest, it was short order before the smaller M2 mainsail was launched set against the heavy-weather J4 jib. Once into the mouth of the Port Vell, near the fearsome breakwater, ‘Te Rehutai’ was sheeted on and flying immediately for one last dance on the playground that she has made her own.
Barcelona was throwing its best at the Kiwis with a heavy-running swell from the south west that has been in place for a couple of days set against an offshore breeze, that was banging through the clock, and producing desperately tricky conditions up along the Barceloneta beachfront.
‘Te Rehutai’ with her angular profile looked up for the task but the sailors were still exercising caution, opting for the always uncomfortable-looking double-board down mode on manoeuvres and downwind when running with the swell. As the wind eased, we saw increased confidence in raising the windward board and when they did, the boat just took off. Blair Tuke and Andy Maloney were battling the ride height, particularly upwind on port tack whilst there was some super aggressive and positive steering from both Pete Burling and Nathan Outteridge through the waves and, crucially, through the lull patches.
Over short laps and across time-on-distance start lines, this was no ‘survival mode’ sailing – this was race practice with the pressure firmly on the sailors. Fascinating to watch as the two-hour session progressed and the hard-learned techniques from Auckland’s late summer came to bear. Tacking up the beachfront, just off the Port Olimpic, the Kiwis were more than happy to let their AC75 drop into displacement, believing in the sheer power that they could generate to get low-riding again. Downwind, runs were deep VMG, scarily so at times but the concentration on rudder immersion throughout was admirable. What a boat. What a team. Very much operating all round at the highest level.
Much credit for the on-water operations must go to Ray Davies, the super-respected, no-nonsense coach of Emirates Team New Zealand who spoke to Justin Chisholm of the on-water recon team after sailing, saying: “Te Rehutai’s been absolutely incredible, we just had a pretty special team photo with everyone onboard and you know it’s always a bit emotional you know when a boat like that’s just given so much to the team and a bit of an end of an era with it for us who knows what its future is we certainly need a grab a few parts off it for the next boat as that’s the way we operate, we don’t double up on too much kit, so we will grab some equipment off it but yeah who knows whether it ends up in a museum or it ends up to another home not sure.”
Looking forward, Ray gave a small insight into just how different the new boats will be when they start arriving next year saying: “They’ll certainly look a bit different. Everyone’s designs will be locked in now so yeah it’s hard to imagine everyone’s going to look the same and I think if they all look like that (Te Rehutai) that’ll be second generation boats, you know life moves on, and designs move on and yeah we’re expecting some changes.”
After a thoroughly productive summer in Barcelona where Emirates Team New Zealand have impressed from top to bottom, Ray gave his thoughts on where the team are at the moment: “I think we’re pretty much on track. I don’t think we’re miles ahead. We had a bunch of testing goals we wanted to do here, we got through those, but it wasn’t a long list and we go back to New Zealand now with a substantial amount of equipment to test. It’s a bit hard when you’re seeing other teams pulling out a lot of equipment all the time, this has been a busy time for them, we’re going into that phase. We’ve learned a huge amount about the venue so that’s been priceless, and we’ve done a lot of good sailing and learning how to sail on the course here so that’s been invaluable too. So, it’s pretty much where we hoped to be, but I don’t think we’re miles ahead but we’re certainly not behind where we wanted to be.”
Te Rehutai will now be de-commissioned in Barcelona and will stay at the venue whilst the sailing team return to New Zealand for extensive testing work before travelling to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for the second Preliminary Regatta at the end of November. Emirates Team New Zealand have set the bar high – and everyone knows it.
‘Te Rehutai’ however, was not the only AC75 out on the water today as Alinghi Red Bull Racing also braved the elements and the choppy sea-state for a short session dogged perhaps by some hydraulic issues that saw ‘BoatZero’ sail predominantly in displacement mode, semi-surfing.
This was a day for the team to really work on getting comfortable in big breeze and it certainly underlined how far the young Swiss sailors have come in just one year. Yes, they erred on the side of caution, (and who can blame them with the breeze up at 24 knots at times) but some superb flight times showed their building technique on an asymmetric foil set-up and a hull profile perhaps more suited to flat-water. It was a wet day for the sailors as the waves broke across the fine-point bow and delivered plumes of spray down the cockpit but over two hours, they persisted and delivered a sailing time of some 44 minutes. Hard day but vital as this dynamic team progress upwards on the learning curve.
Talking afterwards, Maxime Bachelin, the port helm and someone forming a superb partnership with co-helm Arnaud Psarofaghis summed up the day saying: “It was one of our trickiest days that we ever had here in Barcelona with big waves of more than one metre and the very short period, so it was a very hard to manage the boat on the waves and as well the wind was not helping because it was coming from the shore so very patchy so a lot of differences of the pressure making it very hard.”
Rudder immersion in the upper wind ranges is absolutely vital, something Max is acutely aware of saying: “yes today for sure the rudder always needs to stay in the water this is the biggest objective we all have for sure, and yeah like for us the goal of the day was to sail quite a short session just getting out and trying to sail a bit more with the two boards on the water and I think was just actually what we wanted.”
Alinghi Red Bull Racing called time on the session just before 2pm and towed back into their Port Vell base to prepare for tomorrow’s planned session. The grind goes on for the Bull.
New York Yacht Club American Magic, keen to continue their foil testing on their AC40’s sensibly took a Chase Boat out to assess the conditions and, on seeing the wave, heights, canned sailing for the day – oh for Patriot to be operational!
Final word to Emirates Team New Zealand who gathered aboard ‘Te Rehutai’ for a team-shot with a banner quickly found saying “Go the All Blacks” in reference to the national rugby team who secured their place in this weekend’s Rugby World Cup Final against South Africa. The Kiwis will be back in Barcelona next Spring where, one suspects, the bar will be even higher. (Magnus Wheatley)
On-Water Recon Unit Report – Emirates Team New Zealand: Emirates Team New Zealand’s final day of sailing in Barcelona for 2023 saw the team take on gusty and wavy conditions with a strengthening westerly offshore breeze building up a confused state during the three-hour afternoon session aboard their America’s Cup winning AC75 – possibly for the last time ever.
The Kiwi AC75 was rolled out of the shed on time at 1030 with the mast setup complete by 1100 and the boat touching down in the water by 1110. The team left the dock bang on time at 1200 and – like yesterday – hoisted sails (the M2-3 mainsail and the J4-6) in the inner basin of Port Vell, before sailing out of the harbour at 1225 into a 13 knot north-westerly breeze and a rolling swell sea state offset to the left of the wind direction by some thirty to 40 degrees. Once again, the sea-state made it impossible to chase the boat upwind or downwind.
After taking off port upwind the boat soon bore away on two foils (really one and a half) as it began a long fast downwind run with five gybes before turning back upwind at 1235 for a beat with three tacks. After another downwind / upwind lap the boat came to a stop at 1300 by which time the chase boat had set a windward / leeward course with the windward mark up close to the shore by the W Hotel.
From what we observed the increasingly confused sea state and the shifty offshore breeze (particularly in-close to the shore at the top of the beat) was making life difficult for the sailors, with numerous splash downs and a number of somewhat unsteady tacks and gybes.
The boat set off again at 1320 for the first of two practice starts and two-lap ‘races’. After the finish of the second of these races the boat headed upwind back to the harbour entrance where it sailed in at 1410. Sails were dropped in the inner basin and the boat docked in at 1425. To recognise what might well be the end of Te Rehutai’s sailing programme the entire team gathered aboard the boat for a final commemorative photograph. Today’s sailing session marks the end of Emirates Team New Zealand’s time in Barcelona for 2023, with the team expected to return to the city in the Spring of 2024.
On-Dock Recon Unit Report – NYYC American Magic: NYYC AM rolled out their AC40-5 America at 12:40 on LEQ12 mode, half an hour later than planned, due to container and shore team movements that were taking place this morning at the base. On top of that, Magic was seen packed, ready to be loaded in the container.
America was rolled out with foil wing and flap #4 on the starboard side, and with foil wing and flap #3 on the port side. In addition, a piece of hardware was added to the starboard side wing. Possibly, containing cameras inside to record the fluid dynamics of the water going over and under the foil wing and flap. America was craned to the water at 13:12.
At 13:40 the coach together with some of the core sailing team members headed out on Chase Boat #3 to check on the sailing conditions. When they came back at 13:55, they decided to cancel the training day. America was craned out at 14:30 Training is planned for tomorrow. Sebastian Peri Brusa – Recon on NYYC AM
On-Water Recon Unit Report – Alinghi Red Bull Racing: The Swiss had a short session with high winds from onshore and a complicated sea state. The team rolled out their AC75 at 9:00h. The yacht was craned in, and the usual pre-sailing checks were carried out, with engineers onboard testing on the hydraulics, as last Saturday they experienced some problems.
The team docked out at 11:00h and the chase boat towed the yacht heading to El Forum, where they hoisted the M2-2 mainsail and the J3-3 headsail by 11:15h. The wind conditions outside were 9 to 11knts from shore 270º, and big waves with a very short period. Only Emirates Team New Zealand and Alinghi Red Bull Racing were spotted sailing today in Barcelona with their AC75’s.
Sailing started in displacement mode on both of their foils upwind and downwind. At 12:02h, they did two laps, again with both arms down during all the run, testing the different shaped foils and trying different cant angles. Twenty minutes later, with wind gusts of 20 knots, the team stopped for a battery change. At 13:00h, they did 6 manoeuvres upwind with several touches-down and a lot of displacement mode, ending the session by the port entrance, where they lowered their sails at 13:32h.
The team covered a total of 25 nautical miles over two and a half hours on the water, 44min were spend sailing with 8 maneuvers performed, 60% fully foiling.
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