For both Alinghi Red Bull Racing and NYYC American Magic, their focus on systems development through relentless on-water training is admirable. Another day, another session and having two AC75 in close proximity out in Barcelona on a chilly December day, points to how close we are now to the 37th America’s Cup exploding into action with 2024 just around the corner.
It was a perfect day for training on Thursday with flat water and a building 9-16 knots of breeze through the afternoon which the Swiss and American teams took full advantage of. For Alinghi Red Bull Racing, their AC75 ‘BoatZero’ looked utterly sublime in the flat-water conditions with Arnaud Psarofaghis and Maxime Bachelin able to throw her around with no fear of nosediving whilst Yves Detrey and Bryan Mettraux were filing through a variety of ride heights alternating between super high upwind (interesting) to desperately low riding both upwind and downwind. Jib trim looks on point with their 3D system with its double attachments at the clew and sheet running forward to the bow – very ‘a la mode’ whilst the recon team noted a lot of interest being paid to the mast rotation system.
On the water it’s devilishly difficult to see the effect of mast rotation in middle conditions, save to say that when the trimmers want depth in the sail downwind, it is greatly aided by dropping the rotation to leeward whilst upwind the most obvious sign of its relentless use is the rotation to windward to flatten through gusts. Getting the pre-sets right for every condition is a laborious but worthwhile exercise that the Swiss are well into. The mainsheet system itself is something that seems to be getting settled on ‘BoatZero’ as Elliot Pilcher, the team’s Hydraulics Engineer, commented afterwards saying: “It’s working really well actually. We were swapping between the two systems during the commissioning phase of that but now we’re really happy with how it’s working as you can see you know it stayed on the boat for the last little while now and yes, it’s working well everything is always under development, under scrutiny, but we’re really happy with how it’s performing.”
And Elliot summed up the day saying: “It was a fantastic day of winter sailing in Barcelona, flat water I think little bit over 15 knots was the max we saw and yeah perfect. We went out there got everything done we wanted to do, good to be back on the AC75 with the boys after their time in Jeddah, and yeah checked through all of our to-do list to recommission the boat after the time in the shed and it was a great day… when the boys were in Jeddah obviously it gave us a really good window of time to knuckle into the boat and service things, do the maintenance and that kind of upkeep of the boat make sure everything is running in top condition and then also continue on with our systems development and controls development that’s one of the key things in this AC37 Cup cycle, so the main focus for our team is getting the systems working as well as possible and it’s nonstop that development.”
Equally for American Magic, systems development is the main priority, with the team running an almost full spec that will appear on their new boat come Spring 2024 and the launch of ‘Boat3.’ It hasn’t been the easiest re-commissioning for the Americans though with persistent problems on the mainsheet system again creeping into training today – albeit far swifter resolved than yesterday but still requiring technician’s assistance. Once up and flying, Patriot looked back to her best – particularly upwind where the scalpel shaped hull with its bow-down profile looking angular and stable, especially with a bit of windward heel. Round-ups over a laid course were fast and accurate with the sailing team beginning to build confidence with the much-loved warhorse from AC36. Downwind though she looked on edge, especially pre-gybe with a tendency for leeward heel.
Terry Hutchinson, Skipper, and President of Sailing Operations was on the Chase Boat today and gave his view saying: “Today I just kind of watched and listened and observed and when we get done here, we’ll have a 30 minute catch up with what we highlighted about the day and see how we did there. Today I specifically stayed away from the sailboat and just tried to watch and listen to the technicians as much as anything to see how the boat’s evolving and developing. We have great people and so really any interaction is in an effort to support that, not to get in the way of it…I think for us today you know it was just another day in continuing to evolve the systems inside Patriot for Boat3.”
Terry also gave a good update on how the team are feeling saying: “I think for us the mood is probably pretty good…the whole month of November was spent sailing Patriot, we didn’t have a great event in Jeddah – actually we had one bad day in Jeddah and then the guys battled back after that, but it was a pretty substantial hole that we dug ourselves. So, I think we’re chipping along, nice having the week away so the mechatronic side of the team could work away on the boat, do a lot of the work that they’re navigating through right now…It’s been a long year we’ve done a lot this year and we’ve moved from our home in Pensacola to Barcelona and the move has been really, really, good, it’s probably one of the best transitions that I think I’ve experienced in one of these America’s Cups and so in that regard it’s all been good but you know I’m sure everybody’s going to look towards a couple of weeks off as well as a nice reprieve.”
Talking about the future and the focus of the American Magic Team, Terry added: “I think what we learned over the summer was there’s a definite pressure gradient from inshore to offshore and depending on how close we are inshore there’s a tidal factor but the thing that’s really challenging with the boundary racing you know there’s a lot of emphasis to win that first cross, and so I think as we evolve and get more into the business end of this thing, we will have to really highlight consistent starting and winning that first cross so that you can control the race.”
Looking into 2024, terry updated on the programme, confirming that the sole focus through to the end of the year will be on Patriot before some race practice saying: “We will get back here in early 2024, and will continue on with Patriot, and then we’ll get into some AC40 sailing. We have to balance our racing development and make sure that we’re close enough to the launch of ‘Boat3’ to make it meaningful that we take good hard lessons learned out of it, and then we get into ‘Boat3.’ There’s a lot coming at us, and I think as we contemplate that, our strategy of just kind of being steady and as consistent as we possibly can be is really going to be the mantra for the first seven months of 2024.”
“Steady and consistent” – those are common themes for all the teams heading into the most important period of the 37th America’s Cup. American Magic will be back out on the water on Monday. (Magnus Wheatley)
On-Water Recon Report – Alinghi Red Bull Racing: The Swiss rolled out their AC75 at 10:00. Following the roll-out, systems checks were conducted in the water, initially with the crew and techs all standing at the starboard cockpit. The crew then got in positions and tested sail control systems, with particular attention to the mainsheet system. When most crew were off, further mast rotation testing was carried out, with just one cyclor pedalling in the port forward pod. No new modifications above deck were noted.
The team docked out at 12:00 and towed the yacht straight to the Forum area. A GoPro was set up on the leading edge of the mast, about 2 meters above the deck, indicating a focus on mast rotation. The M2-2R mainsail and J3-1R jib were hoisted, and a further 30 minutes were spent working on control systems.
Stint 1 (13:00 – 13:35, 9-12kn 215° @ 13:00)
Sailing began with an upwind leg, including a touch-and-go tack, followed by 10 minutes in displacement mode before taking off again. The team completed two short upwind and downwind alternate legs.
The session ended with a jib exchange from J3 to J5-1R, in response to increasing wind.
Stint 2 (13:50 – 14:15, 11-14kn 220° @ 13:40)
This stint involved two laps on the course, with 4 tacks and 4 gybes on the first lap, 3 tacks and 3 gybes on the second lap. The 2NM course was set at 220°.
Stint 3 (14:25 – 14:50, 12-15kn 220° @ 14:25 leeward gate, 13-16kn 230° @ 15:00 windward gate)
The session started with a pre-start starboard entry, leaving the start line at the pin end. A touch-and-go double tack was performed at the windward gate. A clean bear away and gybe were executed at the following windward gate, before turning back upwind to conclude the day, with sails dropped at 15:00.
Hydraulic fluid change was carried out immediately once the yacht arrived at the base. Further checks were carried out once the yacht was on the hard, with both foil arms lifted.
The team spent three and a half hours on the water, of which 85 minutes were spent sailing. A total of 48 manoeuvres were observed, with a 90% fully foiling rate.
On-Water Recon Report – NYYC American Magic: American Magic closed off the week in Barcelona with a second productive sailing session in winds that built as forecast from 7 knots around midday to a peak of 14 knots by mid-afternoon.
After rolling out at 1018 and docking-out just before 1130, the American AC75 was towed out of the harbour on foils at 1050 and had sails (MN8 mainsail and J1.5 headsail) hoisted by 1210. After a short period of displacement sailing in 7 knots of south westerly breeze the team opted for a couple of tow-ups that produced brief 1-to-2-minute flights.
By 1245 the breeze had built to around 10 knots enabling a self-take-off that produced a two-minute flight that ended in a gybe and spin out that appeared to be caused by a recurrence of the mainsheet issue the team has been experiencing over recent weeks. The issue was quickly resolved this time however, and the next 10-minute flight saw some fast downwind sailing back towards the harbour for a stop to change the J1.5 to the J3-6 headsail. The breeze at this point was around 14-15 knots from 230 degrees.
A series of short and longer foiling sessions followed with the boat at times looking stable and fast and at other times appearing difficult to keep on the foils – resulting in several seemingly unforced upwind and downwind splashdowns – as the crew put the yacht through its paces around a windward / leeward practice course that featured plenty of foiling tacks and gybes, as well as some slick-looking mark roundings (see highlights video).
A 10-minute stop at 1410 to rotate the cyclor squad was followed by a 20-minute session of windward / leeward laps before a stop at 1445. Another 10-minute session turned out to be the last of the day after a 25-minute stop to resolve an unidentified issue and ended with sails being dropped at 1540 ahead of a long tow-back to the harbour for a dock-in at 1650.