And with that…the 2023 Emirates Team New Zealand sailing season comes to a close. It was a billiard-table flat Hauraki Gulf today that greeted the Defenders of the 37th America’s Cup for a final training session ahead of a well-earned Christmas break and with a light northerly that only built slightly into the late afternoon, it was a day of high precision with a concentration on downwind technique.
Along with smooth entries and rapid, high-angle gybe exits, the Kiwis were well into light airs take-offs and what they very much see as a significant part of the overall programme.
Using every trick in the foiling book, the mast was rotated to leeward to induce big camber in the mainsail to build speed with the jib tack noticeably loose and then as target flow started to be attained there was a rapid set of pre-sets brought-on and the boat hunkered down into a low-flight with only the most minute adjustments on the mainsheet and traveller trim to maintain a smooth ride. Wonderful to watch the Kiwis in action, nailing the technique with such emphasis on precision and accuracy.
Downwind it was all about gybing today, the antithesis to yesterday’s ‘tack’ concentration and it was a tight-rope for the trim team of Andy Maloney and Blair Tuke to walk with their respective helms being forced into wide gybes with both boards down on the exit and the Flight Controllers fighting the ‘nodding dog’ phenomenon that seems to happen almost as soon as the new board is dropped.
Small adjustments make big differences with both boards down and the sailors were finding the optimum whilst trying to keep it smooth and fast – all watched over by the analysts and team coach, Ray Davies, in the Chase Boat behind.
Speaking afterwards, Peter Burling, one of the great driving forces of the campaign with an engineer’s mindset gave a good analysis of the day saying: “Definitely a lot lighter than we thought it was going to be, but a nice northerly in the harbour, but we were pushing out into lighter air to start with. It was a really productive session, we kind of got that lighter stuff and then a little more breeze back in the harbour – a really fun way to wrap off the year.”
Talking about the light air technique that the Kiwis are so good at, Pete said: “The AC40’s quite a bit different through the take-off than the big boat but it’s just seeing what you can get the sails to do and trying a few different techniques. It’s always easy to just tow-up up every time but you know you’ve got to be good at taking-off so it’s worth spending a little bit of time on it every now and then….Obviously the sails are working very hard in that light stuff and we’re using everything – mast rotation, clew, and it can be quite dynamic on the sheets as well – so it makes for a really tricky day, it’s a lot less mechanical than it is in a bit more breeze but it makes for quite good fun. And those lighter manoeuvres are definitely the harder ones to really nail but you get some huge gains and losses if you have a good one versus not, pushing those down the wind strength is part of the programme.”
Taking an overall look at the programme, Pete added: “I think everyone’s really happy with how the programme’s been over the last little bit, we’ve obviously got a really good focus on just continuing that development both on the foils and the control system and sails, so it’s been great to be able to get through some iterations of equipment and just push things forward. Yeah, really exciting year coming ahead in the campaign, but it’s been amazing to wrap off this year both with a good result in Jeddah and then some really productive testing back here, so it feels like everyone’s going to really enjoy the summer down south…Happy Christmas everyone!”
Emirates Team New Zealand completed some 43 manoeuvres today across 20 tacks and 23 gybes with an 88% foil-to-foil rate – not a bad way to end the sailing programme for the year. (Magnus Wheatley)
On-Water Recon Report – Emirates Team New Zealand: With a 12pm dock out and the normal crew of Pete, Nathan, Blair and Andy, ETNZ hoisted the M2-3 mainsail set and J2-2 Jib which would be used for the entire session today.
After hoisting off the Viaduct Harbour, ETNZ warmed up by sailing a few different reaching and downwind angles down the harbour before turning around North Head and heading upwind toward Tiritiri Matangi. Again, like yesterday, the breeze was from the NNE however, with a few more clouds in the sky today, we saw a much later breeze build and subsequently much lighter sailing session.
After passing Rangitoto Lighthouse, it was obvious the breeze was getting lighter and eventually the team were not able to achieve a full foiling tack and touched down. They hooked up the tow and upwind foil tow started to continue training. Now they sailed around in a small patch of water to utilise the small amount of pressure in this area just off Takapuna. A few different angles were briefly tested but mostly they were just trying to stay foiling. Again, they eventually came off the foils through a tack and struggled again to take off. At 13:13 they decided to take a little break and in the meantime the breeze started to fill to around 9-10 knots through the Rangitoto Channel below the Rangitoto Light House. The team hooked up the tow after a short break at 13:37. They tow foiled downwind towards the building pressure in this zone before releasing just north of Rangitoto Lighthouse. Here is where the session really started.
Unlike yesterday, where a lot of emphasis was being put on tacking, today we saw many gybes. Again nothing too extreme was being tested, just smooth locked in modes and fairly standard ride heights and heels. It seemed the team were working a lot on smooth foil entries into the gybes, timing through manoeuvres, and speed and acceleration out of each manoeuvre. The team sailed multiple upwinds and downwinds between North Head and Rangitoto Light House nailing some very light air manoeuvres.
Finally, at 14:23 the team turned for home, rounding North Head and reaching back up the harbour towards the base for the last session of the year. All in all, it was a good bottom range session to end the year, and the team looked happy with everything they have accomplished up to this point. We are however, looking forward to next year and believe we may see a few new mods and/or gear being launched on the LEQ12.