With numerous design decisions already settled, the racing sailors of the 37th America’s Cup are entering a phase of enjoyment as their coaches release them from straight-line testing constraints. The emphasis is shifting towards technique, and what stood out, especially in Jeddah, particularly with the top teams, was the precision with which they navigate the boats. Conversely, any deviation from accuracy is swiftly penalized. The focus is now squarely on maintaining both accuracy and consistency.
The new phase has begun and out on a pitch-perfect Sardinian morning in Cagliari, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli were up and out early to catch the flatter water and a beautiful winter’s breeze of 7-12 knots. The near four-hour session though was punctuated by remarkable accuracy in flight with the trim team of Vittorio Bissaro, Andrea Tesei and Umberto Molineris just so assured, capable seemingly of any mode at any time in their LEQ12 that has been such a superb test platform over the past year.
Excitingly for the Cup world, today we again saw the very bright Italian future with Marco Gradoni and Ruggero Tita rotating in alongside Francesco Bruni in the helm seat for a thoroughly entertaining, hard driving, focussed session on boat-handling.
Rapier fast single board mark roundings, dynamic bear-aways with immediate gybes, the ubiquitous ‘JK’ that requires so much co-ordination and guts at a crowded leeward gate, and long-hold fast tacks where the trimmers leave it to the last minute to drop the new board, were the order of the day – and it was impressive.
The pre-start drills saw the helms shadow-boxing (presumably against a computer/AI generated model on their computer screens) and these again were fast and furious with fades, fakes, rapid accelerations and full-stop stops. Great stuff from the Italians who just went at it relentlessly all morning.
Counting the manoeuvres was nigh on impossible but the excellent on-water recon team came to a number of 73 in total and that’s a lot over micro-courses and repetitive drills. In reality the count could well be far higher.
Speaking afterwards, one of the true superstars of this America’s Cup cycle, Vittorio Bissaro, spoke to the recon team and was delighted to be into this new phase with the team saying: “We are moving into a, let’s say, racing preparation period. So we are focusing on practising pre-start, and all these hard manoeuvres, so JK, tack-bear-away etc what we call hard manoeuvres so connecting different manoeuvre very close together and well it was fun, probably not as interesting for the designers, very little straight-line performance but a lot of manoeuvres that is what the sailors are aiming for.”
The recon team could really note the variances of the trim profiles on the water and quizzed Vito afterwards with his response being: “Well every day we progress, we understand how important is the boat state in general. The first driver of performance is really the trim because it really allows the boat and foil to work at the proper flap angle so it’s crucial but I mean we’re learning and I think it was a very, very, good day for us in the water in terms of trim considering that swell we had from the south.”
Asked to condense and convey how important this new focus on sailing performance is, Vito added: “To be honest a lot. As a sailor racing is the biggest part of our competition clearly and one thing that’s strange in America’s Cup is the fact that we’re very little sailing against other boats while Olympic sailing or any other classes the two boat or even more than two boat testing is part of everyday so it’s going to be a very, very, interesting period and I’m looking forward to it.”
Luna Rossa was in flight for some 157 minutes today – impressive by any measure. The Italians are looking more than good at the moment.
Elsewhere, it was a maintenance day in Barcelona for NYYC American Magic and Alinghi Red Bull Racing – both of whom have early roll-outs scheduled for tomorrow morning. (Magnus Wheatley)
On-Water Recon Report – Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli: The Italians rolled out their LEQ12 prototype at 7:15, stepped the mast and craned the yacht in by 7:25. At dawn the usual checks were executed at the dock before the M1-2 mainsail was craned onto the LEQ12’s deck. The prototype was docked out at 8:30 hosting 4 sailors in the pods, which seemed to rotate with an additional two during the session. The mainsail was hoisted and paired to the J1.5 jib as the pressure was measured at 9-11kn from 330TWA with some off-set longer south swell of 0.4-0.5m 7s from 140°.
After being towed-up on port tack, the team seemed to be conducting 15 minutes of straight line testing beginning with a long downwind run, trimming up and finally executing some tacks. After decelerating the yacht, the sailors gathered to debrief before executing a self-take-off at 17-18kn boat speed and 85-90° TWA.
Once on the foils, the yacht conducted a quick series of tacks and gybes while Chase2 laid out a 225° course as the breeze seemed to be increasing slightly to 11-13kn. The yacht seemed more often to be adjusted in its pitch angle over the day compared to previous days.
Considering the increased breeze, the team opted for lowering the J1.5 and hoisting the J2-2 jib and the yacht was quickly towed up on starboard tack, bearing away and heading to the leeward gate. There, the team practiced a significant number of pre-starts with time-on-distance runs alternating between port and starboard entries without even rounding the windward gate.
After five drills the yacht headed upwind, before executing a tack-bear-away on the right hand mark and practiced a series of gybes on the downwind leg before testing some more timed pre-starts coming to a stop afterwards.
Once again, the sailors debriefed shortly and swapped with the ones on Chase1. Shortly after, the yacht was towed up on starboard tack heading downwind right away towards the starting line where some additional time-on-distance drills and laps were observed.
After a four-leg race, the yacht continued to practice some additional pre-start drills before coming off the foils. In the last foiling stint, the yacht executed some additional manoeuvres in series and engaged for some more laps around the marks before these were physically removed remaining as virtual targets.
For the day, the focus was clearly on pre-start drills and on the clean execution of all racing manoeuvre types on the marks. The day was called at 11:25 with 157 minutes foiling time, approx. 38 tacks and 35 gybes [Michele Melis AC Recon].