Marrying sailing performance to technology advances is the name of the game in the America’s Cup and today out in Barcelona no less than three teams, all with slightly different programmes and objectives were making the most of a very autumnal afternoon and a tapering breeze.
Alinghi Red Bull Racing and NYYC American Magic were into high-intensity AC75 sailing at almost race-pace whilst INEOS Britannia was sending-it in their new AC40 as they commission it up to speed ahead of presumably two-boat testing in the near future when their raceboat from Jeddah ‘Athena’ gets back from the Red Sea.
For NYYC American Magic, it still very much felt like a shake-down sail with much emphasis and analysis going on around the new mainsheet system. Today they looked well on the way back to 100% although the sailors and sailmaking team will be longing for the day when they can affix new sails. The American Magic legacy AC36 sails are showing the signs of re-cut after re-cut and on one upwind leg we saw rapid lower leech flutter whilst on one break in sailing, one of the team affixed a patch to what presumably was a slight tear near the tack. Credit to the sailmakers for keeping this well-used wardrobe going.
In terms of sailing though, this is a team really getting to grips with the optimum pitch, cant and ride-height, and it’s particularly noticeable through the bear-aways and the exits from the round-ups where they concentrated effort today. Riley Gibbs, Andrew Campbell and Michael Menninger have got the experience and the knowledge to really power the boat well through the manoeuvres whilst Tom Slingsby and Paul Goodison push ever harder as the programme winds up to full-on race-pace in the coming days ahead.
The apex of the day for all the teams training in Barcelona was centred around midday and into the early afternoon with a solid 15-18 knots and relatively flat water giving the opportunity for easy flight and a chance to put the power down on the foils. ‘Patriot’ appears to love a bit of windward heel although with the demand to keep the hull low and bustle-skimming, it was a black art on a day where a slightly higher ride-height would have felt more comfortable all round.
Solid day for American Magic with almost four-and-a-half hours on the water and the team looking really together both on and off the water. One of the new recruits into the America’s Cup world is cycling legend Ashton Lambie who spoke to the recon team afterwards and gave an insight into the cross-over world from track cycling to Cup cyclor saying: “In track cycling there is what I would call a specific metric. It’s like every day you’re going out and you’re trying to optimise lap splits, like how fast you can go around the track – sounds simple but like if you’re not working on that every day, you’re kind of missing the point. And so, for us it’s like the specific metric is a little bit ambiguous for the whole boat, of like winning the Cup like what does that look like for everyone, but for us it’s like we’re just smashing watts and so looking at that as your specific metric you’re trying to produce as many watts as possible and that’s really refreshing and really satisfying.”
Whilst the Americans trained out to the east, slightly further inshore was Alinghi Red Bull Racing who rode the optimum breeze through the afternoon and really put the hammer-down on their manoeuvres on what looked like a heavily coached day that will be thoroughly debriefed afterwards. Same as yesterday, the Swiss were really focussed on mark-roundings having returned from the Preliminary Regatta in Jeddah, determined to build on their experiences. Layline angles into both the leeward and windward marks were thoroughly explored whilst the big determinant of speed exiting the round-ups and bear-aways was pushed to the limit and beyond.
For Alinghi Red Bull Racing, repetition and time in the boat is paying big dividends and credit to the sailors who put in another monster shift today and will have taken a lot away for analysis and digestion. Getting the co-ordination and the timing right, as well as knowing when to back off and call for a double-board down round-up or bear-away is where this team are striving and with the Swiss now exploring multiple pre-sets in the set-up of everything through the crucial manoeuvres, this is a vitally important testing session before they mothball ‘BoatZero’ and welcome ‘BoatOne’ into the fold.
Speaking afterwards, Bryan Mettraux, one of the coolest but hardest driving of the afterguard team, gave an insight into the current programme saying: “It’s a big part of the learning that we had in Jeddah and sure we want to improve on those parts those roundings with the AC75 so we’ve focussed on that the last few days…it’s too to keep the boat flat, the foil in the water and there is a lot of things to do with the cant and also with the sail trim, so we are learning.”
Talking specifically about the linked controls, Bryan added: “We are working with that every day. I will say that we just started using the link and everything we can do with that so it’s learning every day…I think we can push it really far so it’s an interesting thing…We have to find it and I think we will know it with ‘BoatOne’ but the goal is to have a bit of automation on the manoeuvres, on the trim and exit of the manoeuvre so it’s why we are using it…we have a lot of different options.”
There’ll be some tired cyclor legs and frazzled Driving Group brains this evening at Alinghi Red Bull Racing but a brilliant and productive day on the water again for the Swiss. The grind for perfection goes on. (Magnus Wheatley)
On-Water Recon Report – NYYC American Magic: American Magic’s first sailing session this week in Barcelona aboard their legacy AC75 was conducted in shifty and patchy westerly offshore winds ranging from 7 to 18 knots. The offshore breeze meant a relatively flat sea state close to the coast but further (5 miles) offshore there was a light chop with the occasional larger set of waves thrown up.
After rolling out at 0850, launching at 1020 and docking out at 1057 the American AC75 exited the harbour on foils at 1105 for a five-mile easterly tow to a rigging point where the MN9 mainsail and J3-6 headsail were hoisted by 1155. As the sails were being hoisted the breeze was in the 7-10 knot range but this quickly ramped up to a 15-18 knot westerly by the time the boat was released from its side tow and began sailing at 1201.
An initial 25 minute windward / leeward flight – that included a touch and go tack and foiling tack and three foiling gybes – ended with a splashdown on port shortly after turning upwind. After a five minute stop the boat was soon airborne again for a 15-minute flight that included three foiling tacks and one foiling gybe.
A 30-minute stop that ended at 1315 saw a patch applied to the starboard mainsail skin close to the lower red logo near the mast. Another 30-minute flight included one touchdown tack, five foiling tacks and four foiling gybes, before a stop at 1345 for a battery change, cyclor rotation, and – with the breeze dropping away to 8-10 knots – a change to the J1.5 headsail. The final hour-long sailing session sailing session saw the breeze taper off slowly to 7 knots by 1500 when time was called ahead of a dock in at 1520.
On-Water Recon Report – Alinghi Red Bull Racing: Alinghi Red Bull Racing rolled out their AC75 at 09:30. The yacht underwent standard systems checks, with hydraulic technicians focusing on the cabling of the mainsheet system. The crew gathered on the boat for routine checks. Among individual checks, the mast was observed rotating with its leading edge turning to port, while at the same time, the starboard mainsail skin clew actuator moved forward to the mid-point. As the mast continued to rotate to port, the actuator then moved back aft. As previous days, once most of the crew left the boat, the port forward cyclor pod was used to calibrate the mast.
The team docked out at 11:30, towing the yacht 2NM off Port Olímpic. The M2-2R mainsail and J2-2L jib were prepared on deck, with the J2-2L exchanged for the J4-1R jib due to 14kn gusts before hoisting.
Stint 1 (12:15 – 12:25, 11-14kn 280° @ 11:50): The team took off and immediately turned downwind, executing 4 fully foiling gybes before rounding up and stopping. Electronics and hydraulics techs jumped on board, looking at the main traveller and the port trimmer/port forward cyclor pod.
Stint 2 (12:35 – 12:50, 12-16kn 275° @ 12:25): The team sailed upwind, performing 7 tacks, one of which was marginally touch and go. They sailed up to the course start line and stopped for a minute ahead of laps around the course.
Stint 3 (12:50 – 13:05): This stint focused on a 0.7NM course set to 270°, with a leeward gate and single upwind mark. Three laps were sailed with a definitive focus on mark rounding. All roundings were mostly clean except for the last leeward rounding where the yacht entered at high speed with two boards down, lifting out high, then slamming down.
Stint 4 (13:10 – 13:25, 10-15kn 275° @ 13:00): The team continued mark rounding practice with three laps around the course. The first leeward and last windward roundings were touch and go, while the rest were clean. One tack/gybe was performed on each leg.
Stint 5 (13:35 – 13:55, 4-7kn 275° @ 13:45, 9-13kn 275° @ 14:10): Further mark rounding practice was conducted, including tacks and gybes before and after roundings. Manoeuvres became marginal with a touch down “tack and bear away” and a touchdown “bear away and gybe” around the windward mark, and a touch-and-go JK manoeuvre at leeward. This was due to a lull in the wind at the windward mark. This prompted the team to use the chase boat as a windward mark further to the right of the course, where the wind under the Forum, coming from the valley, was stronger. The team concluded sailing at 14:00 and dropped the sails.
The team docked in at 14:30, spending a total of three hours on the water, of which 75 minutes were spent sailing. A total of 39 manoeuvres were observed, with an 87% fully foiling rate.