All week, Emirates Team New Zealand have been eyeing the heavy-weather system that was due to hit the Hauraki Gulf today (Friday) with a certain mischievous glee in their eyes as the opportunity to push the LEQ12 into top-end wind ranges was too good to miss. And today, they didn’t disappoint, putting on a masterclass of heavy weather technique whilst pushing the performance envelope of both foils and sail control systems.
Pete Burling, Nathan Outteridge, Blair Tuke and Andy Maloney were seriously ‘on-it’ today with a mean of 15 knots but gusts in areas that pushed into the mid 20-knot region, so it was very much a case of picking the best area on the Hauraki Gulf for both shelter and sea-state to get the maximum from the testing session without being foolhardy. The Eastern Bays and Rangitoto Island were favoured initially and what we saw was desperately low ride height married with an upright mode on wide cant angles through the chop, reverting to windward heel (particularly on port tack with Nathan and Blair in control) when the chop eased.
A quick word on the sail trim, as today, looking at the video and speaking to the on-water recon team who had a heck of a job keeping up with the LEQ12 moded AC40 in the chop, it does appear that some form of synchronisation between jib and mainsail trim was evident.
A lot of talk in the America’s Cup world is about linking the two and in training sessions in Barcelona it has been nigh on impossible to get a visual on the two trims working together, however on a breezy top-end day in Auckland, the case could well be made that when the mainsheet (not the traveller) is dumped, there appears to be a correction on the jib trim also. A caveat could well be that: so in tune are Blair and Andy to the trim of the boat in heavy airs that they are doing it manually but time and again in the gusts we saw the jib release in sync with the main although at a lesser amount, obviously. Also with the jib clew attachment being on the highest radius setting, leech tension was in play big time aligned with jib cunningham – the loads of which we can only imagine.
The smaller M2 one design mainsail was wisely selected for the session, paired with the J3 throughout – the smallest sail in the AC40 armoury and what we saw time and again was the signature Emirates Team New Zealand tacks and gybes with full commitment over varying styles and although the recon team saw some splash down ‘touch & go’s’ and a couple of rudder ventilation-induced wipe-outs, by and large the day was incredibly successful with low ride and bow down, punching nonchalantly through any wave-forms at the lower level. The recon team also noted: “we observed some different turn rates in the windier, choppy conditions. Some delayed but fast turns through tacks and slower turns through the gybes.”
As the waves increased, the day was called and the LEQ12 headed back to the harbour channel with dock-in at 3.40pm concluding a very worthy week of training on the Hauraki Gulf for the Kiwis. Speaking afterwards, Elise Beavis, the team’s outstanding Performance Engineer who links so well between the sailors and the Design Office, summed up the day saying: “I guess what predominantly sent us up off the Bays first was avoiding the maximum wind so as you can probably see in the rain, it’s not a very nice day here in Auckland so there’s a bunch of squalls coming through and sort of hitting down towards that Back Paddock area so instead we headed north to avoid the worst of it and then but then hitting up there there’s a bit more sea-state, nothing like some of what we saw in Barcelona, but a bit more of that and then yeah as the different squalls went through we moved around a bit towards the Back Paddock for a bit at the end for some flatter water and then got back in before this last squall.”
Asked about the various modes that were evident today in training, Elise added: “I guess depending on wave orientation or when, there might be some quite different modes port to starboard. We saw it a lot in Barcelona with really skew waves where you have very different performance because one direction might be straight into the waves or might even be down the waves sailing upwind or some pretty funking stuff so yeah with the sea-state you do get a bit more variability and in those top-end conditions, some of it is more just making sure we protect the boat, protect their asset, rather than you know going for max performance.”
Impressive performance from the sailors today and in a session that lasted just over two-and-a-half hours they recorded 21 tacks and 15 gybes with foil-to-foil ratios respectively at: 85% and 93%. Training continues on Monday. (Magnus Wheatley)
On-Water Recon Report – Emirates Team New Zealand: It was a little different out on the Hauraki Gulf today compared with the last few sessions for Emirates Team New Zealand on day 44 of testing in the LEQ12. With a good 15 knot average across the Gulf before launching and gusts above 25 knots during the session, the team were really pushing the upper limits of the LEQ12 today. Dock-out occurred at 1300 hours and the team towed down past Bean Rock and hoisted sails between Kohimarama and Rangitoto at 1317. They elected to go with the M2 mainsail and J3 Jib for the entirety of today’s session.
By 13:32 the team were sailing and opted to head up toward the bays off the North Shore. It seemed as though here the breeze was most stable and least affected by the passing rain cells. The Norwest wind against the outgoing tide really roughed up the area, with some short sharp waves up around 1 meter in the channel, and even sizable chop towards the shore. Whilst it made it difficult for the recon team, the guys on the LEQ12 made light work of it. Sailing slightly different modes to combat the sea state, they easily foiled above the waves with very few splash downs and only a couple of touch and go manoeuvres. They could be seen sailing a little flatter today rather than with their typical windward heel – not quite as bow down as we have seen in the past either. In some of the gusts they would really load and lean on the main foils, but everything held well. The only wipe-out we saw was through a tack where the rudder let go. Unfortunately, we were not in range to see the exact cause of the wipe-out. The team stopped briefly for a check before continuing sailing like nothing happened.
After a few laps spanning from Rangitoto Island and all the way back upwind towards Browns Bay, at 14:17 the team bore away and sailed a long, mostly starboard, downwind, including a few round-ups and bear-aways towards North Head. Off North Head they gybed and headed down passed Browns Bay and set up in much calmer water off Eastern Beach for some more testing. Here they sailed a couple of upwind and downwind legs which incorporated some invisible mark rounding practice, round-ups and bear-aways. They also carried out a couple of pre-start style manoeuvres which involved having both foils down whilst tacking and gybing.
At 15:05 it seemed the team were wrapping up their session down off Eastern Beach and started sailing back upwind until they were clear to lay past Browns Island. Here we probably saw the most breeze of the session with the Browns Island wind station just to leeward registering averages around 22-23 knots. The yacht showed some impressive upwind speed with the recon RIB barely able to keep up. They were sailing in a very aggressive piercing mode which looked to be fairly locked in and very quick. They sailed for a while longer in this mode until the sea state built, then went back to a high-flight, and tacked their way back up the harbour before eventually dropping sails just off North Head at 15:18.
It was yet another successful sailing day for the team here in New Zealand on the Hauraki Gulf before going into the weekend. And with no days scheduled again until Monday, the team can enjoy a couple of well-deserved days off. We were lucky enough to speak with Performance Engineer Elise Beavis after sailing today and get a bit of an inside as to how she thought the day went.
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