It was quite a session for Alinghi Red Bull Red Bull Racing today in sunny Barcelona as the Swiss team aero tested in a massively shifting Mistral that banged around the compass from the north-west to the north-east, bringing with it an angry looking deep-blue chop with white crests for a thoroughly productive afternoon to bank the pre-sets and build more confidence-inducing boat-handling.
Also seen out on the Barcelona racecourse was INEOS Britannia sailing their now social media confirmed second AC40 that’s been given the working name of ‘AC40-B’ by the team. With no recon available as they are sailing in strict one-design mode, it was another day of commissioning ahead of New Year’s scheduled two-boat testing when their raceboat AC40 ‘Athena’ returns from the Red Sea. Spotted onboard today was Hannah Mills OBE, the Chief Executive Officer of the Athena Pathway programme – the source for the British Youth & Women’s America’s Cup teams.
For the Swiss it was a day of long straight lines and fine tuning – almost invisible to the naked eye – as they worked through a series of system analysis and linked settings. At certain points upwind in the puffy breeze, the mast could be seen in rotation acting as an accelerator and de-power mechanism for the mainsail that afforded less traveller movement and only small dumps and trims on the actual mainsheet ram.
It looked highly effective, and the resultant trim of ‘BoatZero’ overall appeared flat and stable. Downwind, the team would go for flat, single-board bear-aways on a low ride with the main and jib almost working as one right at the crucial apex of the turn – again a powerful pre-set to have in the armoury.
Alinghi Red Bull Racing had two sessions earlier this week where they pushed the Power and Driving teams to the limit on rapid bear-aways followed by fast round-ups on almost dizzyingly short course. Today it was more a trimmers day with long runs and plenty of data coming off the AC75 for further analysis. Bryan Mettraux, the team’s ace Flight Controller, confirmed in interview on Tuesday that they were at the beginning of their work on the pre-sets and linked controls but that the opportunities were endless. Today they put in a decent session to build on the work to date.
It didn’t all go quite to plan though with an inauspicious start as the Chase Team kept the boat at the mouth of the Barcelona harbour whilst technicians swapped out the starboard steering wheel after some malfunctions were spotted just as the team were about to launch sails. An hour went by before dock-out and then they were into a building breeze from the west that was followed by the arrival of the Mistral.
Speaking afterwards, Arnaud Psarofaghis, the cohesive team force and impressive skipper of Alinghi Red Bull Racing wouldn’t give too much away, saying: “On the way out we had to do a wheel swap because of some function on the wheel but the guys did a good job changing the wheel and then we were all ready to go for the sail testing today…The conditions were nice and sunny with a good breeze from the west and then we get the Mistral that came in at one stage and it was then a bit in the transition between two winds so we tried coming back but there was not enough breeze, really puffy, so we decided to tow back to a better breeze just to finish the sailing and end up doing the things that we wanted to do to tick off today.”
Another day of testing in the books for the Swiss – impressive considering it was their team Christmas party the night before – and the team are next scheduled to sail on Monday, their final sail before the festive break.
On-Water Recon Report – Alinghi Red Bull Racing: Alinghi Red Bull Racing rolled out their AC75 at 09:30, followed by routine control systems checks at the dock. The M2-2R mainsail and J3-1R jib were prepared on deck ahead of a 13:00 dock-out. Notably, the steering wheel was changed as confirmed by Arnaud. A battery was also carried onboard into the port cockpit.
The yacht was towed out under Port Olímpic, with sails hoisted by 14:15. The day’s sailing included three stints, characterized by converging wind conditions and sea state from different directions. Joseph Ozanne (Simulator and AI Lead) was notably in the starboard guest seat, between the helm and trimmer.
Stint 1 (14:20 – 14:30, 8-12kn 290° @ 14:15): The team commenced with a short downwind, performing two gybes, followed by an upwind leg with one tack before stopping for a five-minute pause. The conditions grew increasingly patchier and shiftier.
Stint 2 (14:35 – 14:50, 10-15kn 10-50° @ 14:40): The yacht sailed upwind towards Badalona, encountering a significant shift to the right. The yacht was sailed with two boards down, navigating the boundary of converging winds, with only one proper tack performed due to these conditions.
Stint 3 (15:00 – 15:45, 10-15kn 50° @ 15:00 *measured before towing South): This stint started with the yacht sailing away from the shore but falling off the foils after entering a lull. After a tow south, where the wind blew from the West, the yacht resumed sailing with a long downwind on starboard, a quick round-up, and an upwind of 2.5 NM with a couple of tacks at the end. This was followed by another downwind leg at a lower angle, before turning back upwind and sailing at a slightly higher angle than the previous upwind. By the end of the stint, the wind started to die and shift to the right, at which point an end to the day was called and sails were dropped.
The team spent just under three and a half hours on the water, with 55 minutes of sailing time. Nine manoeuvres were performed throughout the day. The focus was on aero, sail testing and setup.