The casual spectator strolling the La Barceloneta beachfront or grabbing a quick lunchtime bite at the various cafes and beach-bars today would have been spoiled for spectacle with the truly awe-inspiring sight of not one, but two, AC75s blasting around at warp speed in a temperate 21 degrees Celsius and glorious sunshine.
Alinghi Red Bull Racing and New York Yacht Club American Magic were both ‘on it’ today with flat water making flight a cinch with a building southerly breeze that obliged from late morning at 9 knots to a healthy 14 knots by mid-afternoon. The days may well be getting shorter in the northern hemisphere, but the teams are simply docking-out earlier and revelling in the late summer conditions.
After the disappointment of yesterday’s session where no flight was attained much to the muted, professional frustration of the sailing team, overnight the mechatronics experts worked wonders on ‘Patriot’ and with a day given over in part to a sponsor demand for photos, for the sailors this was in effect ‘Day One’ of a whole new era. The American AC75 looked almost a different boat and rolled the clock back to those heady days in Pensacola at the beginning of the year where the team could do no wrong on the flat waters of the bay.
Trimming-on, it was a cautious first flight with Paul Goodison and Lucas Calbrese taking the wheels today as Tom Slingsby was away collecting the World Sailor of the Year title for the third time at the World Sailing Awards in Malaga but once up and flying, ‘Patriot’ looked sublime, and the crew-work just got slicker and slicker with more commitment through the tacks and gybes and better transitions between the helms.
With the sponsor commitments completed, the sailors were unleashed over a long windward/leeward course up and down the America’s Cup designated racecourse, building confidence into their sailing of the AC75 but also crucially starting to calibrate the pre-sets that are crucial to maintaining flight and power in these monstrously powerful craft. It wasn’t so much today about flight control, which was on the whole pretty steady, it was more about mainsail trim, mast rotation and traveller loadings plus cunningham pre-sets. A good day of learning for the team.
Afterwards, Dimitri Despierres, the over-worked Mechatronics lead, came to the recon square to download the day and give an insight into his busy world over the last few days and weeks as Patriot comes back into commission, a boat he described as: “a relaunch of not a new boat but almost, and from a system point of view for sure we had a lot on and a few gremlins to deal with!”
Pushed further on what the changes are, Dimitri responded: “It’s nothing you can really see it’s always within all the logics and things that are inside that things are changing, unfortunately for the people looking the boats stay almost the same… we always try to take benefits from the rules and the rules have opened a new era in term of logics and yeah that’s what all the teams are working on, including us… with ‘Patriot’ you know, we are pretty limited to what we can do on the hydro side so we are focused on sail plan and all the things we can do there.”
Dimitri also gave a glimpse both into the future and the present programme with the expected launch of the new NYYC American Magic AC75 in the coming months saying: “We’re trying to ease the way the sailors have to deal with the beast and so that they can focus more on the racecourse and on the tactics and stuff like that so again the rules are kind of helping in that way, we just need to use the rules to our benefit.”
And looking at the new boat and its development path post launch, he added: “You always launch a boat with I don’t know maybe 75% of its capacity and then the crew and the design team is working together and working their magic to get the 25% left, optimising the boat and modifying and you always have what the tools are saying and the computers and then what the crew is capable of pulling out from these boats and yes we will have the same process, every team will have the same process.”
Fascinating programme from NYYC American Magic at the moment and the base and sailors are buzzing.
Equally so down at Alinghi Red Bull Racing’s stunning and expansive base nestled in the heart of the Port Vell just outside the Mare Magnum Shopping Centre where it’s a busy time for the team as they keep the pedal to the floor on a restless, relentless campaign to win back the America’s Cup for Switzerland.
Today it was simply extraordinary sailing by the team who looked to revel in the breeze under the J5, as it hit 15-16 knots along the shoreline. What Alinghi Red Bull Racing are building into their programme is real consistency through the manoeuvres and they are working super hard on fast release bear-aways at the top marks and a host of variables at the leeward mark – double-board gybes to harden-ups on a single foil, straight single-foil roundings and double-board JK’s going straight into the tack post rounding.
If the coaches were to score them today, there would have been 9’s all round – just stunning sailing from the Swiss who might just be proving in this America’s Cup that time on the water is absolutely everything.
Today was day two of the new mainsheet arrangement that the Swiss have brought to production. The double-sheet connector is a step on from their previous iteration creating a very refined exit between the double-skinned mainsail and the new battening along the lower third of the sail looks to be able to induce depth when required and go flatter when over-powered. Quite interestingly, even in the heavier breezes of 15-16 knots, the team were running quite deep cord depth on the lower part of the sail, a lot of cunningham for sure to take the power out along the luff and maintain a tight leech that translates into a flatter upper section but lower down, it’s still deep and powerful. The recon team also noted dockside: “Notably, the mainsail skin actuator was observed moving in sync with the mast rotation. On a separate occasion, the mast was notably rotated with input solely from the forward port cyclor.”
Speaking afterwards Maxime Bachelin, co-driver along with Arnaud Psarofaghis today, seemed pleased with the new mainsheet system although his attentions are naturally drawn to steering rather than trimming, as he said: “We are very happy with the system and it’s working well like the previous one but to be honest for me I don’t feel the real difference but for sure it is.” Asked what the goals are for controls and systems development Maxime said: “The primary goal is to be saving the power, like this we can trim more and having always the good set up that’s the most important.”
Talking about the two-board bear-aways, a move that they executed brilliantly today and where communication through the transition between helm and trim is paramount, Max said: “It’s just to try different stuff on the bear-away and trying to go deeper, having more sailor ease, and as well to manage the power, and I think it’s good always to try that.”
First class sailing from the team today with solid modes both upwind and downwind and a crew that looked totally on top of their game with a 94% foil-foil manoeuvre ratio.
Sailing through the rudderless (yes rudderless!) single-handed Pati Catala fleet at the end of the day along the beachfront as they raced was a sight that can never be unseen – breath-taking. Brilliant Swiss. Brilliant Bulls.
On-Water Recon Report – NYYC American Magic: The American team rolled out of the shed at 0745am with a scheduled 1030 dock-out of their last-generation AC75 Patriot and today were rewarded with some near-perfect sailing conditions on the waters off Barcelona where a southerly breeze ranged up and down during the day from 9 to 15 knots.
With just a light chop sea-state to deal with, the US yacht looked much happier than in yesterday’s steep chop and the crew – led by helmsmen Paul Goodison and Lucas Calabrese – looked to be able to get the boat airborne with ease. The team’s training and testing was carried out in parallel with a sponsor photoshoot involving an additional media RIB and a drone.
After launching at 0825 and docking out precisely two hours later, Patriot left the harbour on a bow tow at 1035 before heading northeast at 30 knots for around 15 minutes. Sails – MN7 mainsail and (we think) J2 headsail – were hoisted by 1105 and by 1110 the boat was airborne in a 15-knot southerly breeze.
Other than some short loops performed for the sponsor media team, over next three hours the crew put the boat through a series of long windward leeward laps during which the boat generally looked stable in flight with its characteristic bow down attitude upwind and down. There were splashdowns at times, but these were perhaps attributable to the often-patchy nature of the breeze which, on occasion, dipped down as low as seven knots. Tacks and gybes looked unstable early in the day but by the end of the session the majority of the tacks were fully foiling, although the success rate on the gybes was lower. There were stops during the session, but these looked to be for battery changes and cyclor rotation rather than for technical issues.
Time was called on the day at 1410, with sails down at 1425 and the boat back on the dock at 1440. No sailing is planned for tomorrow (Wednesday November 15).
On-Water Recon Report – Alinghi Red Bull Racing: Alinghi Red Bull Racing rolled out their AC75, ‘BoatZero’ at 09:00. The day’s activities began with routine pre-sailing system tests, focusing on the Flight Control System (FCS) and sail controls, with particular attention given to traveller movement and mast rotation. Notably, the mainsail skin actuator was observed moving in sync with the mast rotation. On a separate occasion, the mast was notably rotated with input solely from the forward port cyclor.
The team docked out at 11:00 and towed the yacht out to the sailing area a few hundred meters off the W-Hotel. The M2-2R mainsail was hoisted at 11:20, and another 25 minutes were spent fine-tuning control systems at the clew before hoisting the J3-1R jib.
Stint 1: Sailing started at 11:55 but faced multiple interruptions. Yves Detrey and Bryan Mettraux were seen inspecting the jib sheet system on the foredeck, following an issue where the jib sheet was easing by itself, as later clarified by Maxime Bachelin in the post-sailing interview.
Stint 2: Consisted of an upwind-downwind warmup, culminating at the course start line, followed by a brief 5-minute break.
Stint 3: The team completed two laps of the 2NM course set at a bearing of 210 degrees, engaging in match racing with Chase Alpha on the second lap. Two cyclors were rotated and the J3 jib was exchanged with the J5-1R jib at the end of the stint.
Stint 4: Began with a 20-minute warmup, focusing on checking the J5. The team performed a windward-leeward run, executing a 3-point rounding of the windward mark—a manoeuvre trialled for deeper downwind exit post-rounding.
Stint 5: Featured a standard starboard entry and gybe into the pre-start box, repeating the failed manoeuvre from the previous day, followed by two laps of the course, again racing Chase Alpha on the second lap.
The day concluded with the team sailing upwind and lowering sails just before 15:00 outside the port entrance. Post-sailing activities included a hydraulic fluid change carried out after crane out at 15:35.
The team spent just over four hours on the water, with a total sailing time of 125 minutes. A total of 61 maneuvers were observed, with 93% of them being fully foiling.