Perfect summer weather in Auckland gave the sailors of Emirates Team New Zealand, the optimum training conditions on a coach and sailor day where all the SIM tricks, ideas and propositions could be practised in real-life. Those endless debriefs yield a day like today where the finest foilers in the world could actually play with settings, try new things and work super-effectively together as a team to eke ever more out of the AC40 platform.
It was impressive sailing right from the off with the team docking-out at midday and into a perfect 9-11 knots of nor-nor-east that beautifully built over a three-and-a-half-hour session of remarkable intensity. A whopping 54 tacks and 24 gybes were executed in that time, all bar one fully foil-to-foil and the sailors digging into the nuances of the asymmetric foil set-up, evaluating each whilst honing high technique and improved transition speeds.
Some worked. Some didn’t. That’s the nature of testing but what we saw out on the Hauraki Gulf was everything from double-board down turns to fast foil-to-foil tacks with rapid board raises, slow drops, long holds, fast raises, short holds, it was a masterclass in training and with Ray Davies, the team coach, watching everything from close astern it was a real ‘team’ day co-ordinating between the helms, Flight Controllers and Chase Boat analysts. Flight and pitch were changed on a whim with the predominance for ultra-low flight, windward heel and bow-down but offwind all bets were off with some interesting selections of ride heights before the gybe – sometimes high for a rapid exit and quickly back to low-riding, other times low and a high exit with a range of sail trims being tried to extract that all important transition speed out of the manoeuvre.
Nathan Outteridge spoke to the recon team after sailing and gave a brilliant insight into what the team are working on – a long answer but well worth digesting: “Statistically you spend more of the race accelerating than you do at your VMG speed, so half of what we’re doing is obviously practising manoeuvres but it’s all about how quickly you can get the boat back to its optimal performance, so when you look at the size of the race courses and how fast these boats go and obviously you could sail boundary to boundary no worries but you know it’s a match-race so you’re going to be tacking and gybing more often than you would if you’re on your own so I feel like that’s a big part of the game and a lot of that’s how well your equipment handles those accelerations but also how you do the manual input controls, how you drive, how you trim the sails, how you fly the boat, makes a huge difference as well. So as a sailing team we’re just trying to do the best we can to prepare ourselves to find the right technique we want to use moving forward and soon as we can kind of lock that in then we can get some consistency to do really good equipment testing. You see it across all the teams everyone’s kind of striving to do the same thing and honestly it probably does get a bit boring if you just sail straight lines for ages on your own, straight-line performance is nice to kind of get locked in but it’s probably more beneficial when there’s a second boat out there with you.”
And speaking about the day, Nathan added: “It was just ideal testing today, we’ve been sort of waiting for these nice stable breeze days we had like a nice nor’easter and ended up sailing well out and beyond it was 10-12 knots, like ‘min’t conditions and we were just trying to work on a bit of consistency, a bit of technique stuff, lots of tacks and just trying to understand subtle differences between the foils and how we sort of handle the boat. So, it was nice to get an hour-and-a-half of same wind speed, same sea state and just kept going upwind for ages…I think as soon as you get these nice stable conditions you can really start to validate what is the preference on the tacking. Often when you’re sailing in the harbour it’s so gusty and shifty that you’re just looking to get the board in and turning and get going. As soon as it gets to those more stable conditions you can really try and find the differences between early boards, fast turn rates, slow turn rates, and what you do with the sail trim so as we kept going we just kept thinking of ideas on things to test and try and find the feedback from the Chase Boat on how we can do things better.”
One more sailing session to come this week for the Kiwis before they close out the 2023 sailing season, one where they have continued to set the bar high for all the contenders for the 37th America’s Cup. Impressive all round. (Magnus Wheatley)
On-Water Recon Report – Emirates Team New Zealand: Absolute champagne conditions out on the Gulf today for Emirates Team New Zealand’s 51st practice day in the LEQ12. Dock out was scheduled for 12:00 and sails were hoisted only minutes later out in front of the Viaduct Harbour. Sail choice today, for the majority of the session, was the M2-3 mainsail and J2-2 Jib. For the final 35 minutes of the session, a J3 Jib was hoisted which we believe to be a new one.
It was a fairly straight forward session, route wise, today for the Team. After a few manoeuvres down the harbour and out around North Head, the team sailed a long upwind leg all the way passed Tiritiri Matangi to the east.
The focus of today seemed to be around refining tacking with over 50 tacks recorded, by far the most we have seen. With the consistent NNE 11 building to 15 knot breeze, and mild sea state, it was the perfect day to test. The tacks were looking mighty smooth, with many timed near perfect. It was impressive to see how little height was being lost on the exits of the tacks, and leeway seemed at a minimum today. On many tacks, you could see a very early mast rotation and sail set happening, and others seemed to need more traveller up and a later pop through with the skins. Nathan Outteridge afterwards put this down to turn rate and timing.
The boards were being fired down a little later than other days and you could see the team really working on smooth foil entries into the water and transitions onto the new foils. Towards the top of the upwind near Tiri, breeze was getting up around 15 knots which we believe to be very top end for the J2. It was impressive to see how much jib sheet tension they were able to achieve and how much they were able to flatten off the jib.
Toward the end of the upwind, we saw the team do multiple low angle upwind runs. Speeds easily exceeded 31-32 knots. It was very difficult however, to tell the VMG compared to the higher angles they typically sail.
Finally, once to the east of Tiritiri Matangi, the team bore off and sailed back toward the city whilst practicing a few gybes on the way. The downwind did not seem to be the focus for today with nothing too special being tried or tested.
Halfway home however, the team decided to turn up and stop abruptly. The chase boat we believe requested a Jib Change and so the J2 came down, and what we believe to be a new J3 went up. The team then set off downwind again before arriving off Narrow Neck beach. Here they turned up, sailed a few reaches on both port and starboard including some impressive high-speed gybes and tacks, then swiftly continued downwind again and basically sailed straight back to the Viaduct Harbour where they dropped sails at 15:15.