A pretty special day for Alinghi Red Bull Racing as the team recorded their 100th day of sailing in ‘BoatZero’ in Barcelona with a stunning performance from the sailors that mirrored the brilliance they displayed yesterday in similar conditions. With a strong south-westerly greeting the Swiss, with gusts at first up to some 27 knots, this was a session of high intensity where the Flight Controllers showed maturity and skill in keeping the AC75 low and fast, often using double boards in the pre-starts, and the helms put on another masterclass of accuracy.
Alinghi Red Bull Racing divide their sailing team into ‘Driving Group’ and ‘Power Group’ but today they were utterly unified and with such a milestone day, it’s worth looking back at early videos to really assess just how far the team have come. Back in January and February 2023, in similar conditions, the majority of manoeuvres were ‘touch & go’ with a real, but totally understandable, hesitancy. Ride height and pitch were erratic. Sail trim felt dis-connected from front to back.
Fast forward to the end of October 2023 and it’s a very changed scenario. ‘BoatZero’ looks like a completely different vessel, staffed by sailors showing their hard-won talent and techniques with consummate confidence. Manoeuvres are executed with commitment, mark-roundings are a lesson in co-ordination and the sail trim is pure symmetry in action. Ride height is precise – low and fast – with the ability to dictate according to conditions and unafraid to ride high downwind or around marks. It’s impressive to watch and whilst much credit goes to the sailing team, equal praise can be shared around from the coaches through to the shore and chase teams. Ernesto Bertarelli, the founder of the syndicate, must be very pleased with what he’s seeing his team achieve.
Alinghi Red Bull Racing’s young team have come so, so far and on a day like today in Barcelona, with flat water and a solid, building breeze they could push on, perform the drills and look tasty whilst doing it. Yesterday they sailed very well. Today they capitalised and laid down a serious marker of intent for the upcoming racing in 2024 with all eyes on the Louis Vuitton Cup in August.
The thirst for learning goes on though with the team who retain a real humility and passion about how they operate. Felipe Portilla, one of the Swiss team’s electronics engineers summed it up perfectly afterwards saying: “We are focused on trying to capture as much data as we can from the boat for the conditions in Barcelona so I guess in the future we have to be ready for what can happen in next year because at the end we are going to have these conditions so I would say that every day is a learning day so we will try to apply that to the boat…every single day is new and different for us here. In Barcelona the conditions are completely different every day and the designers and us are learning from that and then we will apply that.”
Docking out today just before 11.30am, the team were quickly into their warm-up drills setting the smaller M2 mainsail and J3 jib and beginning the session sat in displacement preparing for flight. Crew-work looked tight from the outset with a smooth flight in a breeze that struggled above 6 knots and, in those conditions, the legacy Emirates Team New Zealand T-foil on the starboard wing arm is always favoured for take-off. Once launched, they never looked back and after a quick stop, the pedal was pressed to the floor with an upwind and downwind that saw speeds well into the high forty-knot barrier on a super low ride with BoatZero hugging the surface and looking powerful. Notable were the wide cant angles that induce the low ride and an upwind trim that saw the jib almost on the centreline whilst the mainsail traveller was regularly above with a beautifully cambered sail-shape.
As is usual in Barcelona, the south-westerly picked-up just before 1pm and the call was made to skip code and drop down to the very manageable J5 jib which places even more emphasis on mainsail control for de-powering. Now the skins were being trimmed heavily on the cunningham and mainsheet to induce a much flatter profile that in the lulls looked almost over-done. The Chase team had thrown in marks and a starting gate and it’s here where the team came alive.
Arnaud Psarofaghis and Maxime Bachelin’s time-on-distance was almost perfect start after start and the team practiced the two-board entry to the starting box when coming in on port – something that we will see a lot more of in breeze above 12 knots when we get to the Louis Vuitton Cup next year. The two boards immersed gives the helms so many options and Alinghi Red Bull Racing, although shadow-boxing against an imaginary opposition, very much looked like there might have been a computer system dictating the playbook in those pre-starts. Once away from the line, the team were into quick boundary tacks, ‘JK’ moves around the leeward mark (again with two-boards down) and looked super in-control despite gusts at times that were later said to be some 27 knots.
An unspecified issue, assumed to be with the hydraulic system owing to the aggressive cants the team were exploring today, brought the session to a halt with technicians onboard and soon afterwards at just before 2pm sails were lowered, and the team towed back to base in the Port Vell.
Looking back on the stats on this, the 100th day of ‘BoatZero’ and the coaches can be happy with 100% foil-to-foil over 13 gybes and 20 out of 22 tacks also being foil-to-foil – a superb way to mark a milestone day for the whole Alinghi Red Bull Racing team.
On-Water Recon Unit Report – Alinghi Red Bull Racing: The Alinghi Red Bull Racing team demonstrated their technique, sailing around a racecourse on a puffy and gusty day. 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 the hydraulics.
The team docked out at 11:00h, hoisting the M2-2 mainsail and the J3-3 headsail inside the port and being towed out by 11:23h. The wind conditions outside were 6 knots from 290º and more of a flat sea state with some clouds all over the sky. The sailors started sailing in displacement mode by the port entrance, following by the first take-off on their starboard foil and a quick touch down, the gusts and the puffy wind was not making it easy.
At 11:38h, they did a long upwind-downwind at a blistering 45 knots and stopped by the marker buoy that the team placed. The wind increased rapidly and also the sea state with short little waves.
At 12:00h, with a tow line, they changed the headsail configuration, dropping the J3-3 and hoisting the J5-1. At 12:17h, the wind shifted and the breeze decreased 7-9 knots while they sailed around the mark. Following the same pattern as yesterday, they foiled at pace testing different settings and cant angles. Next, they practised pre-start procedures and trained around a 4 nautical miles leg course.
At 13:45h, they had an unexpected problem onboard and after fifteen minutes the team decided to lower the sails and tow the yacht back into the base, where they docked in by 14:20h.
The team covered a total of 45 nautical miles over almost three hours on the water, 75min were spend sailing with 35 manoeuvres performed, 91% fully foiling.
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