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HomeRegattaAmerica's CupLuna Rossa Prada Pirelli's Christmas Miracle: LEQ12's Stunning Return to the Water

Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli’s Christmas Miracle: LEQ12’s Stunning Return to the Water

Perhaps the best Christmas present of all for fans and the entire Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli family was the re-launch today of their repaired LEQ12 looking almost better than new and ready to complete the deep-testing foil programme that the team were well into before their nosedive crash that caused extensive damage to the bow on the 4th December.

© Ivo Rovira / America’s Cup

It was a surprise to all but the inner coterie of the Italian team but a strong message to send out to the rest of the America’s Cup community that Luna Rossa has real strength in depth and the Italians mean business in this cycle.

Much credit goes to the Shore Team and boatbuilders who pulled incredible shifts to facilitate the repair of the LEQ12 and the sailing team acknowledged their efforts with a Christmas box decal on the big M1-1 mainsail simply saying: ‘Grazie Shore Team.’ Classy touch from the sailmakers but a heartfelt thank you from the whole team who, it was thought, would not be sailing until the New Year at the earliest.

© Ivo Rovira / America’s Cup

Docking-out at 10.30am into 20 degree Sardinian sunshine, blue skies and a beautiful building sea breeze that started at just 9-11 knots, the sailing team of helms Marco Gradoni and Francesco Bruni, and Flight Controllers Umberto Molineris and Vittorio Bissaro were joined by members of the hydraulics and cyclor teams for a brilliant session lasting just over three-and-a-half hours where they pushed the LEQ12 hard, despite stopping to let the technicians come onboard to check that structurally everything was holding up fine. It was. Great effort by the boatbuilding team.

© Ivo Rovira / America’s Cup

Over the course of the session, the intensity ramped up with the Chase Boat team eventually laying down marks and letting the hard-driving sailors get in the laps, eat up the re-commissioning miles and basically get back to business.

A new rudder profile was evident that featured shorter wings and an updated elevator but the same wing configuration as before the crash was evident with the first iteration (Wing01) on starboard and the current thinking (Wing04) on port. These are important days for the programme ahead of big wing decisions being made for the raceboat so getting the team’s LEQ12 back into service is a big milestone for the team.

© Ivo Rovira / America’s Cup

Speaking afterwards, Team Director Max Sirena, was delighted to see the boat back on the water saying: “Well obviously it’s a great day today because we came back in the water after a couple of weeks of big repairs and first of all I would like to thank the shore team because they did a really impressive job to make it happen. I mean the day after, most of the guys they were thinking we were supposed to be back in the water in the New Year and thanks to the big effort of the whole team, today we splashed the boat back in the water and we had a pretty good day and I’m pleased to look at the boat able to go around marks after a couple of weeks like the day before. So, I think it’s a big signal and a big motivation for the team to have one week off during the Christmas period and come back stronger in January.”

Talking specifically about the repair effort, Max said: “It was big because it was a big portion of the boat and so it was quite big and it takes time to fix it because there is a few process you cannot cut during the rebuild or the component of the boat. I think everyone understood since day one there was a big request from the team and from everyone to do a big push and be back in the water and I think again it’s an important signal not just on the outside but mainly for the team itself. We are just ten months away from the Cup, so it’s pretty important to keep the momentum and the pressure up. I think it was a big reaction and is a learn for the future and for the big boat, so is a big lesson. I think obviously it’s never a good day when you have big damage like that but at the same time it’s a big lesson and a big learning process for the big boat, so I think it happened in the right moment of the campaign.”

© Ivo Rovira / America’s Cup

And talking about the analysis of the nosedive that looked to happen in a fairly benign sea state, Max confirmed: “It was a number of factors, it was a pretty big nosedive that was more than 2G force in the nosedive so it was quite big and in reality we never had sent it that big like that, so it was something new but again I think it happened in the right time of the campaign, so I mean is a lesson.”

Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli are scheduled to sail again tomorrow before the team, and particularly the outstanding Shore Team, take a well-earned Christmas break before re-setting again in 2024. (Magnus Wheatley)

On-Water Recon Report – Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli: After two weeks spent in the shed, the Italian team rolled out their repaired LEQ12 prototype at 9:10, stepped mast and spent some time perhaps checking forestay load before craning the yacht in by 9:25.

On the appendage configuration: Wing01 was mounted on starboard, Wing04 on port while some mods were made on the rudder with shorter blades and different elevator. The damaged deck has been repaired or perhaps substituted, challenging to spot any significant difference.

After running the usual FCS, flap, rudder checks, the sailors proceeded with the sail control checks and the M1-1 was placed on board before dock-out, scheduled for 10:30. Six crew members boarded the LEQ12, and the yacht was towed out of the harbour to fully hoist M1-1 revealing a gratitude sticker for the shore crew’s work.

The pressure seemed quite shifty over the day, at first measured from 320 TWA 9-11kn as the team started hoisting the J1.5. However, once fully hoisted, the jib halyard seemed to not lock and the team dropped it back down, hoisting instead the J2-2 as the pressure went  increased to 12-14kn from 320 TWA.

Before the sailing action started several checks were made on the jib tack and below deck.

Finally, at 11:18 the LEQ12 sailed for approx. 5 minutes with a tow-to-fly take off on port tack towards the shore, tacked and bore away heading downwind for a short distance before trimming up again and stopping. Shore crew jumped on board, including structural professionals going below deck with equipment. In the meantime, the pressure had shifted to the right with 345TWA and 12-14kn.

Once the shore crew gave the all-clear, the LEQ12 was towed back up and a similar short sailing routine followed by some upwind and downwind straight line runs. Once Chase2 started laying some marks, the LEQ12 changed protocol and started running through a quick series of upwind tacks followed by gybe series downwind. Overall, the boat seemed occasionally heeled more than usual while different pitch angles seemed to be flown, perhaps also due to the new rudder configuration and getting a grip on it.

The first foiling stint lasted approx. 30 minutes, starting with what seemed to be a start practice without entering the virtual box two minutes in advance followed by some laps. After a quick debrief by sailors, the pressure decreased slightly to 10-12 knots and the second foiling stint began with a self-take-off and sailing around the marks for some laps ending with a splashdown entering the tack manoeuvre.

An additional third short foiling stint was observed with additional two legs around the marks before the LEQ12 came to a stop at 13:00. Pressure was then measured 13-16kn from 340TWA and hence the J2-2 was lowered to hoist the J4-1.

During the last foiling stint, the LEQ12 sailed two laps around the marks and practiced another prestart routine before the gates were removed and some freestyle sailing was observed heading toward base.

As the wind was ramping up above upper range, the LEQ12 dropped the windward board after a last virtual round up, sails were lowered and the day was called with 98 minutes foiling time, 25 tacks and 19 gybes [Michele Melis AC Recon].

37th America’s Cup
Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team
Luna Rossa LEQ12 prototype
© Ivo Rovira / America’s Cup
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