After a fairly quiet week, the America’s Cup world exploded into life on Monday with some surprising and interesting developments both in Barcelona and Jeddah. The stand-out storylines of the day are that INEOS Britannia brought ‘T6’ back into commission, NYYC American Magic re-launched their AC75 ‘Patriot,’ Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli unveiled their latest foil design – Wing 04 – and Alinghi Red Bull Racing pursued a one-boat training session with custom sails in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Busy day.
So, we start with the news in Barcelona, venue of the 37th America’s Cup Louis Vuitton Match and Louis Vuitton Cup with the heart-warming news for every British fan that INEOS Britannia have completely repaired their LEQ12 prototype ‘T6’ and used it in anger for a long session of testing and data capture in tricky conditions. This has been a monumental and highly efficient exercise conducted under the radar with little to no fanfare after their catastrophic rudder failure whilst under tow on the 6th October 2023.
The team docked-out into the afternoon, sailed to sunset, and immediately looked sharp, dialling ‘T6’ low to the water in her usual mode in a patchy but building northerly breeze but with what looked like a new control system in the lower third of the mainsail that appeared to offer full span control and really give the sailors the ability to induce drive in the marginal puffs. Looking at the system with the benefit of Barcelona’s sunlight, it appears that a frame comes off the clew with heavy battening arcing towards the tack.
Speaking afterwards, naturally Ben Ainslie was full of praise for the shore team for getting T6 back and operational and allowing INEOS Britannia to continue their extensive testing work, saying: “It was good to get back on the water we had a number changes to ‘T6’ our test boat which we wanted to try out and good conditions in the end, a little bit light, a bit tricky and a bit of ground swell coming in and then right at the end we had a good northerly breeze come in so what could have been an unproductive session actually turned out pretty productive we’ve got quite a few things checked off the list which is good and nice to get ‘T6’ back out on the water.”
Talking about the rudder issue and asked whether it was new or a repair, Ben confirmed: “It’s a repair, so it took a couple of weeks to get that sorted out and the team did a nice job in the shed getting that resolved and getting the boat back out in water because it’s obviously critical period for all of the teams making a lot of decisions and trying a lot of components that will end up going on to the race boat, so days like today are really important to the team, great be back out on the water.”
Ben also confirmed that the swooping manoeuvres conducted by the team, as we’ve seen everyone from the Italians, Americans and the Kiwis do to test foils and accuracy were not rudder related. Asked what the focus for the team will be over the next couple of weeks before flying to Jeddah for the second Preliminary Regatta, Ben confirmed: “Quite a few different setups in the control systems and so on which we’re looking at which went well…some other little bits and pieces that we’re looking at but predominantly the controls, the systems and then looking forward to Jeddah…it would be really nice for us to have a better showing and we did in Vilanova, nobody likes to finish last so we took that one on the chin and we spent as much time as we could in the AC40 trying to get our focus and strike a balance between developing T6 and getting some time on the AC40. We will get some decent time in Jeddah before the event hopefully and we resolved some of the reliability issues we had with AC40 that didn’t help us either so we felt like we’ve made some good gains there – of course all the other teams have stepped forward as well, you know Alinghi Red Bull Racing’s already out two boating in the AC40s in Jeddah as we speak so no doubt they’ll make some good improvements as well but yeah looking forward to Jeddah and trying to get ourselves a better result.”
Great to see the British back in ‘T6’ and firing on all cylinders. Plenty more to come from them in Barcelona over the coming few days.
Meanwhile over at the MB92 shipyard on the eastern side of the Port Vell, a familiar and popular warhorse emerged from her shed with the unmissable dark blue scalpel-shaped hull of ‘Patriot’ making an appearance and splashing. No sailing today for the Americans, this was a day for the technicians and engineers to get fully immersed into the detailed re-commissioning of a boat that means so much to the American syndicate.
The word dockside is that she is unlikely to sail until Wednesday at the earliest as the boat will undergo more fit-out work in the shed on Tuesday. For American Magic this is a huge shot in the arm for their winter programme as the last time we saw ‘Patriot’ was on the 4th February 2023 where she docked-in with red, white and blue smoke flares and a fly-by from the Blue Angels. It was thought then that we might never see her again in racing trim but clearly the team can see a great store in value and potential in bringing her to Barcelona to train through the winter before the team’s new AC75 is launched in the Spring.
Over in Cagliari meanwhile, the Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli team have been beavering away on adjustments to their LEQ12 and today, the final secret, the ‘last card’ as they called it, was played with the arrival of Wing 04 hanging from the port foil arm. An interesting, incremental step on from Wing03 that the Italians have found to be very compliant across a range of conditions, the bulb is even further refined with a noticeably flat run off underneath and Michele Melis from the on-water recon team noted: ‘Beside some light differences in surface distribution over span, tip angles and flap length over the span it looked like a further iteration of Wing 03.’
Performance wise, it was impossible to tell or gauge differences visually on this, what was very much a tricky-weather commissioning day as Umberto Molineris, Flight Controller confirmed saying: “We know that with the westerly wind here in Cagliari, it’s very tricky and if you sail out of the Bay you have too much wind and waves if you stay inside you have no wind but we tried, it was a commissioning day for us so we just needed to go out and check the basics and looking forward for the next days, it looks promising for testing so we just have to wait for that.”
In total the Italians sailed on foil for 34 minutes with Jimmy Spithill and Francesco Bruni helming whilst Umberto Molineris and Andrea Tesei took care of Flight Control. Marco Gradoni and Vittorio Bissaro were also onboard today with the team executing 9 tacks, 4 of which were foil-to-foil and just 3 gybes of which only one was foil-to-foil. At 1520, after almost three hours on the water, the team called it a day and towed in.
Over in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on another pitch perfect day for sailing, the highly efficient Alinghi Red Bull Racing team put in another stellar AC40 performance with Arnaud Psarofaghis and Maxime Bachelin switching boats from yesterday and taking charge of AC40-4, the older of the team’s AC40s with the boat they were using yesterday kept dockside due to some technical, presumed to be comms, issues. Regardless of the fact that they faced a one-boat tuning day, the team docked out with custom in-house designed AC40 sails and rifled through a detailed matrix of test scenarios over a three-and-a-half-hour session with senior management members Brad Butterworth and Silvio Arrivabene watching on.
After a blistering opening session where the team executed high-technique gybes and precise tacks, an interesting switch down from the J2 to J3 to check on transitions, combined with the slightly larger M1-1LE mainsail with the wind resolutely sticking in the 8-11 knot region saw a slight loss on horsepower through the manoeuvres. Watching the footage you almost willed the AC40 through the gybes but a few splashdowns probably confirmed that the J2 would have been the right choice and as Arnaud commented: “Straight line it felt quite similar, of course manoeuvres were a bit trickier but we did try a lot of different things as well on board so we just did a bit of mistake but the wind was a lot up and down but for sure the small jib didn’t really help on some of the marginal ones.” And he went on to say afterwards: “I think today we had a good idea which jib we would use if we were racing!” but declined to say any more – we suspect the J2.
However, overall Arnaud looked very pleased to be in Jeddah, saying: “Jeddah delivered really great conditions we went sailing yesterday and today again, really nice breeze between 8 to 10/11 knots, really nice sea state and we sailed on the racecourse and everything looked really nice for great racing in a few weeks, so we’re really happy to be here and taking advantage of the great weather and the great wind and being here.”
Talking through the sail testing Arnaud, himself a sailmaker, gave an insight into the process the team are executing in Jeddah saying: “Today we stuck to the plan, the initial plan, even with only one boat we got what we needed and we tested all the things that we had in the plan, and I mean the conditions were perfect for that, so we’re really happy with all the data that we collected…the main focus is, a bit like everyone, we try to get really smooth sails and then working a little bit on the finishing and some little ideas that the sail designers have and some of the sailors as well, so everything is put together here just to get the best out of the winter for next year.”
Interesting to watch the intensity of the Alinghi Red Bull Racing sessions. This is a team pushing hard and relentlessly with high hopes of a very good showing coming in the second Preliminary Regatta that starts in Jeddah on the 29th November. The team to watch, for sure. (Magnus Wheatley)
On-Water Recon Unit Report – INEOS Britannia: Team INEOS Britannia rolled out their LEQ12 T6 at 10:00 am, with foil wing and flap #1 on the port side, and foil wing and flap #2 on the starboard side. The broken LEQ R-01 rudder from two weeks ago had been repaired and was ready to go.
While rigging the boat, the mast was held up in the air intentionally for some shore team members who performed different kind of checks and preparations for approximately 45 minutes close to the mast base. At 11.45 the mast was stepped and T6 was craned to the water. The team docked out at 13.00, one hour later than scheduled, with Ben Ainslie, Giles Scott, Leigh McMillan and Luke Parkinson.
A possible new main and a potential new J3 were hoisted at 13:20 and 13:45, respectively, while coming out from the port (to be confirmed in the next 48 hours).
Today´s training consisted mainly about testing different control systems, reason why there was not much VMG sailing, a lot of stopping for adjustments, and plenty of sailing on unusual courses, probably to test the controls being used on the ends of their ranges. Two of the exercises identified were the following:
(I) Sail upwind, zigzagging from closed-hauled course to broad reaching course multiple times, on both tacks, adjusting both sails while changing course.
(II) Sail reaching on displacement mode on both tacks, with the main traveler all the way down and with the mainsail eased far out.
From 15.00 till 16.00 there was a long break.
During today´s sessions, we also noticed on multiple times different members of the crew doing manual adjustments on the clew of the main and of the jib. However, it could not be identified what they were specifically moving or adjusting.
Finally at 17.00 one upwind and one downwind were performed with the new northerly breeze, just before heading back to the base.
Offshore, shifty conditions prevailed during the entire day varying from 270 to 240 in direction and from 6 to 11 knots in intensity, approximately.
At the end of the day, at 17.05, the wind shifted to the north, picking up to 13 knots.
T6 entered the port at 17:30, sails were lowered at 17:40 and the boat was docked at 17:55. Sebastian Peri Brusa – Recon on INEOS Britannia
On-Dock Recon Unit Report – NYYC American Magic: NYYC American Magic rolled their previous-generation AC75 Patriot out of the shed this morning and after stepping the mast spent the day calibrating the rig – both ashore in the cradle and in the water on the pontoon.
The boat emerged at 1024 with the mast craned on to the boat at 1045 with the rigging attached and ready for calibration by 1210. A small number of mast rotation movements were observed while the boat was in the cradle before – after a break for lunch – the boat was craned afloat at 90 degrees to the pontoon at 1353.
More setup and calibration work followed – including more mast rotation (which looked to be powered by cycling) – before the boat was cleared at 1800 (20 minutes after sundown) ahead of crane-out beginning at 1808, with the boat in the cradle by 1816. The American AC75 will remain in the shed tomorrow (Tuesday November 7) with the first sailing day scheduled for Wednesday November 8.
On-Water Recon Unit Report – Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli: After two weeks in the shed, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli rolled out their LEQ12 prototype at 10:50, stepped the mast and craned the yacht in by 12:05.
Regarding the appendage configuration: Wing 03 mounted on starboard while the newest Wing 04 has been mounted on the port arm. Beside some light differences in surface distribution over span, tip angles and flap length over the span it looked like a further iteration of Wing 03; shots from different perspectives will follow in the upcoming sailing days.
During usual dock checks, the team seemed to focus on FCS tests, raising boards really slow and silently before proceeding with the usual speed for the drop and rises. When the yacht was docked out at 12:30 with 6 crew, the conditions looked glassy with some light chop filling in from the south and the team conducted some tow testing between 20, 25 and 30 knots running through some cant angles on the new wing.
While awaiting for the breeze, several technicians were observed diving below deck while the main M1-1 was hoisted with the newly declared J1.5-2. To find some pressure, the prototype was towed along the south-west coast offshore of Pula where the breeze looked patchy and was measured from 215TWA 14-16kn with some significant waves of 1m. Once released from towline on starboard tack, the prototype sailed a while before tacking and falling hullborne bearing away.
Once back on the towline, the J1.5 was lowered and instead the newer J2-2 was hoisted. The next two foiling stints did not last long as, after successfully self-taking-off and completing a foiling tack, the LEQ12 lost its foiling stability exiting the second tack manoeuvre from port to starboard tack. Another self-take-off followed, looking quite challenging due to the sea-state, and after several minutes sailing downwind the LEQ12 came hullborne after hitting a wave. Then the LEQ12 took off on port tack once again and successfully completed some tacks with longer two-board transitions before finally bearing away, completing two gybes and splashing down on the last one.
At 1520 the sails were lowered, and the yacht was towed back with a total of 34 foiling minutes, 9 tacks and 3 gybes. [Michele Melis AC Recon].
On-Water Recon Unit Report – Alinghi Red Bull Racing: Alinghi Red Bull Racing initiated operations with the rollout of their AC40-4 (Yellow) and AC40-7 (Red) at 09:30 and 09:55 respectively, at their base in Obhur Creek, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Masthead-mounted GoPros were installed on the rigging of both boats for sail monitoring. Control boxes were noticed on the inboard sides of the Yellow boat’s steering wheels, however in the post sailing interview, Arnaud P claimed they were not in use today. The recon unit think this is part of the controls for the manual FCS (Flight Control System), previously tested on the Yellow boat in Barcelona prior to shipping the yachts to Jeddah.
Following launch, the team conducted hydraulic canting system checks alongside the Chase Boat, towed a few meters off the dock. A canopy was installed on both decks to mitigate the
effects of the 32℃ heat during work sessions. Electronics technicians were observed seemingly addressing the communication systems on the red boat. Sailing activities for the red boat were subsequently cancelled due to extended maintenance.
Wind conditions varied from 9-15 knots coming from 290 to 295 degrees throughout the day, with a sea state described as flat with a 0.3m chop.
The primary sailing team transitioned to the yellow boat, which docked out at 13:20, hoisted the M1-2 LE mainsail and J2-1 LE jib, and commenced sailing at 13:45. After the jib clew sheet position was adjusted following a couple minutes sailing, the team continued on a 35-minute stint, sailing between Obhur and Jeddah Waterfront. During a pause leeward of the racecourse, the M1-2 LE mainsail was replaced with the M1-1 LE.
In the second stint, the team engaged in a pre-start sequence and long upwind-downwind stretches to evaluate the M1-1 LE mainsail. The leeward shrouds were noticeably loose during this stint, with substantial movement of the leeward spreader observed. The team subsequently exchanged the J2 jib to J3-1 LE jib, as well as rotated sailors from the alternate team.
The third stint started with a take-off at a 90° angle, with the J3 jib exhibiting signs of being underpowered, also noticeable during manoeuvres. The focus remained on a series of successive tacks.
Gautier Sergeant, Lead Aero Engineer, was present on the Chase Boat, observing the LE sails performance in practice. Also on the Chase Boat was Silvio Arrivabene and Brad Butterworth.
Overall, the team covered 49 nautical miles in three and a half hours on the water, with 85 minutes of sailing time. Out of 60 manoeuvres completed, 89% were fully foiling.
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