Thursday, February 22, 2024
HomeRegattaAmerica's CupIntense Testing Days Unfold in Barcelona

Intense Testing Days Unfold in Barcelona

The search for reliable, dependable systems control goes on in Barcelona with INEOS Britannia looking sensational in ‘T6,’ Alinghi Red Bull Racing fresh off the plane from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and straight back into the groove with ‘BoatZero’, whilst NYYC American Magic had another day of difficult system calibrations to contend with as they bring ‘Patriot’ back into commission.


With Ben Ainslie and Giles Scott, steering the British LEQ12 in what can only be described as perfect conditions for the 40-foot prototype, the British team had a glamour afternoon in the late summer Mediterranean sun of Barcelona. Flight was rock-solid initially with the bustle skimming accurately and Luke Parkinson and Leigh McMillan totally in tune with their helms. Arguably, one of INEOS Britannia’s best days on the water, the LEQ12 was rocketing around the America’s Cup racecourse, eating up the miles and delivering the data that the Mercedes analysts back at HQ in the UK are craving.

The new mainsail control system really does look to be the game-changer for the British with super accurate trimming and real control of the lower third which translates up to the skinny/narrow head of the MN2-2 mainsail which looks like a re-cut to provide more power lower down. Perhaps a major gain has been found on initial take-off with so much power generation evident but it’s very clear that once in flight and going, the team can trim and spill at ease with such a positive effect on the smoothness of flight.


Upwind the mode of the boat was described by recon ace and Argentinian Olympic coach Peri Brusa as: “In medium wind conditions, the boat continues to be sailed almost completely upright when sailing upwind, with the leeward wing tip out of the water on an 80% to 90% of the time, and it called my attention that they sail with very little forestay sag. The main traveller continues to be played pretty aggressively up and down, to work the boat balance.”


The day was marred however for the team with another structural issue on the rudder after a series of two downwind nosedives that almost resulted in capsize with Ben Ainslie confirming: “Reliability is going to be key so as you saw today we had an issue with our rudder again, that was the rudder that we fixed from the previous issue with some tow-testing and while it’s only a test boat and test rudder, it’s still good learning, really good learning going into the raceboat and trying to ensure that we don’t suffer those reliability issues.” Asked what the issue is, Ben responded: “We don’t know quite yet but some structural issues with the rudder and the rudder case, don’t know quite how bad it is yet, so we have to look into that, figure out what the fix is and how long it’s going to take.”


A disappointing conclusion to the day for a team high on confidence and making great strides forward with a very singular focus on the delivery of their AC75 and making sure that’s a boat capable of winning the Louis Vuitton Cup and going deep in the competition. Ben reflected on the task ahead saying: “If you look at all of the other teams, they’re pushing in every area because certainly when you look at Emirates Team New Zealand the gap between them and the other teams in the last Cup was pretty significant, so if you think: ‘well they’re going to make another pretty significant jump’, the jump the rest of us have to make is pretty huge so you’ve got to look in every single area where you can, make it ideally big gains but even if there’s small gains they’re all going to stack up and count and that of course is the secret…”

Hopefully the rudder issue is a quick fix, and the positive momentum can continue for the British in the coming days. Impressive work from the Chase Boat team who sent a diver down quickly to assess damage to the rudder.

Alex Carabi / America’s Cup

Over at Alinghi Red Bull Racing, it was red-eyes after the flight back from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia with the team straight back into AC75 testing on ‘BoatZero’ after a two week block away for the helms, trimmers and AC40 shore teams. The drive continues for the hard charging Swiss and they put in a highly impressive performance, setting a windward/leeward course right on the America’s Cup course area and in the early afternoon with the breeze at 15-16 knots, they just looked sublime.

Flight was low, speeds were supersonic and the ride was stable and measured. Once the breeze clicked-up a couple more knots as the afternoon progressed, arguably some of the finest AC75 footage was taken (It’s a must-see) with ‘BoatZero’ right on the edge of control as the sailors had the confidence to push harder and harder.

Alex Carabi / America’s Cup

Watching Alinghi Red Bull Racing sailing so well was a pleasure in that breeze and although there were occasional transition issues that caused a bow stuff or a truly death-defying bear-away at the top mark where everyone held their breath, this was a day for the sailors to be extremely proud of their efforts.

Alex Carabi / America’s Cup

Nico Stahlberg, a member of the Power Group at Alinghi Red Bull Racing paid credit to the shore team for delivering ‘BoatZero’ in perfect condition today when asked what the objectives were, saying: “First it was to come together again after a long break. We managed quite well. The boat was in great condition, it worked super fine so the shore team did a great job over these two weeks and yeah that’s the main goal to be here in Barcelona and sailing the AC75 again.”

Top work from the Swiss who are making gains on the water through sheer hard work and commitment.

Ugo Fonollá / America’s Cup

For NYYC American Magic, there was a tinge of frustration around the sailing team as the re-commissioning work continued on the water again today and with ‘Patriot’ having undergone extensive systems and controls upgrades down-below, patience is going to be required to get it to the level that the sailors want. A messy first attempt at flight on starboard tack and error screens popping onboard pretty much curtailed the day before it had even started and from there on it appeared to be an uphill struggle for the technicians. Even a tow away from the parked container ships and down towards the flatter water near the harbour was eventful with ‘Patriot’ feeling unruly on her foils and causing the team to trip the line before towing-on in displacement.

Terry Hutchinson, Skipper and President of Sailing Operations, was a wise and calm head speaking afterwards to the recon team saying: “Today was a little bit of a beep test. You take steps backwards to take steps forward and I think that was basically how the day got quantified. You know working on systems inside the boat that aren’t co-operating and on these boats, certain parts of them are incredibly complex, and so you have to just have the patience and time to work through it. We basically had the patience and had the time and weren’t getting to where we needed to and so took the sails down and came back towards the harbour and went into a bit of a holding pattern to see if we were going to be able to get the issue resolved on the water and could not, so here we are.”

Ugo Fonollá / America’s Cup

And Terry put the day into the perspective of the whole programme saying: “We’re in the phase of the programme where we’re developing for ‘Boat3’ and so you know I think as you contemplate strategically what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to set ourselves up when ‘Boat3’ arrives and circumvent the time component that goes into that.”

Good progress is being made out in Portsmouth, Rhode Island for the build of ‘Boat3’ as Terry could attest after recently returning to Barcelona from the boatyard, saying: “I was there last week. Nothing but huge complements and kudos to our team in Portsmouth Rhode Island, you know they they’re literally on an island right now, on Aquidneck Island, but they feel a little bit out there occasionally and such a critical part of our programming of our team to go and see really the quality of the work that’s being done. These boats are in some ways…very simple but in the same breath it’s not you know, it’s a very complex piece of machinery and to see the quality and the enthusiasm of the team doing that, it brings new meaning to everything that we’re doing here.”

Ugo Fonollá / America’s Cup

NYYC American Magic will be back at it tomorrow as the pace of winter testing ramps up for all the teams as design and systems decisions are being taken on an almost daily basis. So much more to come this week. (Magnus Wheatley)

On-Water Recon Report – INEOS Britannia: Team INEOS Britannia rolled out their LEQ12 at 09:30 am, with foil wing and flap #1 on the port side, foil wing and flap #2 on the starboard side, and with the LEQ R01 rudder. Two more Go-Pro cameras were added, one on each rail ahead of the jib track, close to the jib´s clew position, pointing up. Probably to take pictures of the jib´s leech and profile.  On the other hand, the lower of the three patches that were on the front face of the mast got removed.

‘T6’ was craned to the water at 10:10 and the team docked out at 11:37, seven minutes later than planned. The shore team had to work on the cables and connectors of the anemometer on the bow, that required the stick to be removed and then reinstalled.

The MN2-2 mainsail and J4-2 jib were selected for today´s session and were the only sails used during the day. This main has a considerably narrower head when compared to the MN1-3 used during the past week. In addition, this MN2-2 saw a cover added on both sides of the clew since its last use. Sails were hoisted at 11:55, and at 12:15, respectively, before coming out from the port.

Team INEOS Britannia started sailing at 12:40, after staying heading to the wind for a while just outside of the port. Nothing in particular could be identified during this 20-minute stop.

From 12:40 till 14:10 four downwind – upwinds were carried out, performing four to five gybes and three to four tacks, respectively. The length of the legs were a little bit longer than the standard racing distance for this wind conditions.

In medium wind conditions, the boat continues to be sailed almost completely upright when sailing upwind, with the leeward wing tip out of the water on an 80% to 90% of the time, and it called my attention that they sail with very little forestay sag. The main traveller continues to be played pretty aggressively up and down, to work the boat balance.

At 14:10 there was a fifteen-minute short break in which a batteries replacement was executed.

Sailing continued at 14:25 with one short upwind-downwind. At the end of the downwind on the last gybe, the team nosedived hard ending up heading into the wind, not far from capsizing. Five minutes later, the same happened again, and that was the moment when apparently the repaired rudder got damaged.

Team INEOS Britannia stopped completely, one of their chase boats came along and one person was sent to the water to dive and inspect the rudder. Once out, they decided to suspend sailing for the day. ‘T6’ lowered the jib at 14:44 and the mainsail at 14.56. After folding both sails, the boat was towed back to the base, docking at 15:48. The boat was craned out at 16:15, indicating the end of the day.

Team INEOS Britannia will assess the situation and proceed as required. Sebastian Peri Brusa – Recon on INEOS Britannia

On-Water Recon Report – Alinghi Red Bull Racing: Alinghi Red Bull Racing rolled out their AC75 at 09:15. The mast was stepped, and the yacht was craned into the water by 10:00. The old ETNZ rudder, identified as “AC75_R0_0003” was used today as well as the new mainsheet system.

The Flight Control System (FCS) and sail control systems were tested, with the team all using their on-water communication headsets to do so. The team docked out at 12:00, with Nico Charbonnier and Rodney Ardern in the starboard and port guest seats, respectively, and assuming Nico C to rotate helm in the middle of the day.

The M2-2R mainsail and J3-1R jib were raised while still in port, with particular attention given to the mainsail control systems at the clew. The wind conditions fluctuated throughout the day, ranging from 10-13kn from 195° to 12-15 knots at 210°, before settling back to 10-13 knots at 195°. The sea state was primarily from the S/SSW, with wave heights between 0.5 to 0.8 meters and a period of 4-5 seconds.

The first stint began at 12:50, as the yacht was sailed downwind with both boards down and sails open, executing four gybes, before coming to a stop at the Forum. Here, a battery was brought onboard, and the J3 jib was exchanged for the J4-1R, with Rodney Ardern seen inspecting the mainsheet system from the transom.

During the second stint, the team completed two laps of the 2NM course (oriented at 210) followed by preparations for pre-start practice. The third stint involved a starboard entry pre-start, with one and a half laps sailed. However, the session was briefly interrupted after a gybe led to a touchdown. This incident brought the crew together at the jib clew and jib track, working on the jib sheeting system. A notable change in the crew was the cyclor rotation, with Nils Theuninck and Augustin Maillefer replacing Barnabé Delarze and Arthur Cevey.

The fourth stint saw a short upwind sail of two tacks, followed by a downwind course to the start gate. The team faced a control issue during a starboard entry gybe into the pre-start box, as the team aborted the manoeuvre by touching down and heading dead downwind before turning back upwind, resuming sailing after recovering. The yacht then completed an upwind course, rounding the windward mark, and returning downwind to the leeward gate, concluding with a port rounding and a brief pause.

The fifth and final stint saw the team sail briefly downwind and a subsequent pause following a touchdown on the second gybe. The team then proceeded upwind towards the port entrance and called it a day. Sails were lowered by 15:40, marking the end of the session.

After four hours on the water and 90 minutes of sailing, the team docked in at 16:00. The team performed a total of 52 manoeuvres, with 85% of them being fully foiling. Post-sailing activities included further inspection of the mainsheet system by Rodney Ardern alongside Elliot Pilcher, the hydraulics technician. Additionally, the day saw a change in hydraulic fluids coinciding with the rig being lifted off.

On-Water Recon Report – NYYC American Magic: The Americans’ second week of sailing their previous-generation AC75 got off to a frustrating start today after technical issues on board prevented the boat from getting airborne for the entire three-and-a-half-hour session which took place in 13-15 knot southerly winds and a sea state ranging light chop to steep heavy chop up to 0.5 metre.

The boat rolled out at 1015 and was rigged and launched by 1047 when the regular group of laptop-carrying technicians jumped on board to conduct two hours of pre-sailing checks. Particular attention appeared to being given to the jib traveller and sheeting setup. Dock-out was at 1300 and by 1330 the boat left the harbour flying the MN8 mainsail and J3-6 headsail. The wind at this point was 13-15 knots from 180 degrees with a building sea state.

The crew’s initial take off attempt on starboard looked uncontrolled – requiring the windward foil to be dropped briefly – and was quickly aborted on the edge of a pack of 10 anchored container ships. Perhaps due to shallower water in this area, the sea state quickly became much steeper (up to 0.5 m) – which made taking off even more difficult for the American Magic crew. The boat sailed in displacement mode at around 8-10 knots to the south-east for 55 minutes and on several occasions looked to be primed and accelerating for a take-off attempt, before slowing down again. A couple of times the boat heeled steeply to leeward before regaining stability. 

At 1425 and with the sea-state much reduced (sub 0.3 m), the boat stopped for a RIB to come alongside and the sails were dropped for the boat to be towed downwind to a spot close to the harbour entrance. The tow started on foils but after 10 minutes the crew appeared to lose control, with the boat going steeply bow up before crashing down and coming off the tow. The second part of the tow was conducted in displacement mode. After stopping at 1550 the sailors prepped the mainsail and looked ready to re-hoist, but at 1600 the sail was dis-connected, and the boat put on a bow tow home. Dock in took place at 1625. Sailing has been scheduled for tomorrow (Tuesday November 14).

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