The unmistakeable, and indeed unforgettable, sight of the scalpel-shaped NYYC American Magic AC75 ‘Patriot’ lifted-off in Barcelona today and opened a whole new chapter for the team’s winter training programme.
For the Americans it was another super-early pre-dawn start for the entire team as they prepped and tweaked ‘Patriot’ ahead of her first proper sailing day and for once, Barcelona just wasn’t playing ball with her weather delivering rain initially and then when the sun rose above the mountain range in the east, it revealed a leaden, heavy, low cloud patch that sat resolutely across the coastline and seemed determined to suck the life out of any meaningful breeze-build.
Nonetheless, ‘Patriot’ was launched with a very happy and busy team really gelling well together as the mast was set and the technicians descended, armed with the obligatory laptops to check through every possible detail. Dockside it was hard to see the systems upgrades that the team have implemented other than perhaps a phalanx of cameras and screens but once sails were launched, the tell-tale signs of heavy-re-cuts and patches on the now aged sailcloth of AC36, became apparent.
With the breeze sub-5 knots and a rolling swell, the big J1 was carried, and the trimmers gave ‘Patriot’ every chance of hitting target speed with wide angles and deep camber on the mainsail as Paul Goodison and Tom Slingsby coaxed the first magical flight. When the breeze built to 10 knots, the game was on and suddenly with a quick head-up to catch the momentum, Patriot was flying with her familiar bow-down, stern-up posture. Speed quickly built and although it was perhaps not the most memorable eight minutes of the sailor’s lives, the significance was enormous – the third AC75 to fly in Barcelona was a sight to behold.
A further three flights were achieved over the session with some pauses in-between, and by the final flight downwind with the swell running behind, NYYC American Magic looked almost back to her best. Andrew Campbell, the ace Flight Controller and always the most open of interviewees spoke afterwards about the work ahead for the team with the AC75, saying: “We have a long, long, list to make sure the boat is ready to go for the next few months, today was a big step-on to make sure we got closer to our racing format…the fact of the matter is that when you take the boat offline for as many months as we did and you add new things and make adjustments it’s got to be re-formatted again and really re-launched basically. So that’s what we’re going through right now with teething moments of getting the new boat online and starting afresh.”
And reflecting on Patriot’s maiden flight in Barcelona, Andrew added: “The sea state is the big factor here that makes these boats difficult to sail and we’re trying to understand how the boat works in those conditions, trying to understand how the boat takes off in those conditions, different lead on one tack compared to the other today was a big difference, the swell was coming from left to right across the course as we were going upwind so it made a big impact on all of our sailing and all of our set-ups and all of our protocols onboard.”
Great to see ‘Patriot’ back and the coming weeks will be fascinating as the team unwind into a full test mode. No sailing tomorrow (Friday) but the team is eyeing a Saturday sail depending on the conditions. All go for NYYC American Magic and a real buzz around their base at the moment.
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