It was another outstanding day for the high-performing Alinghi Red Bull Racing Team in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The team continued its impressive streak with a fourth consecutive day on the pristine waters of the Red Sea. The sailors focused on intensive starting practice during the breezy afternoon, showcasing their determination and skill in the challenging conditions.
Building the accuracy into their sailing that was at times missing at key moments in the Preliminary Regattas is clearly high on the agenda and we’re beginning to see the kind of trimming and steering that the likes of Emirates Team New Zealand, NYYC American Magic and Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli displayed so brilliantly in those opening regattas coming to the fore with the Swiss.
Today, it was a more usual driver line-up with Maxime Bachelin re-joining with Arnaud Psarofaghis on the ‘Red’ demarked AC40 whilst Nico Charbonnier jumped in to assist Phil Robertson on the ‘Black’ boat. After some initially tame starting, the intensity ramped right up with the boats desperately close in the snake-dance back to the line, killing speed, feinting the other boat, attempting the leeward hook. It was all on display and the starts got so competitive that occasional OCS’s were scored, so desperate were the sailors to get and keep an edge off the line.
This was truly top-class race preparation in world-class sailing conditions with a solid 12-18 knots of breeze and a challenging chop that again called for high accuracy, dynamic trimming and high communication demands between the sailing teams. Hard to pick a winner between the two boats but Arnaud & Maxime have developed a very strong on-water relationship with almost a second sense between them and it showed at the key moments today. Is this the America’s Cup pairing for the AC75? Too early to tell with Nico Charbonnier also driving hard with his eyes on the helming gig.
Speaking afterwards, Rodney Ardern, the legendary America’s Cup campaigner and now Alinghi Red Bull Racing’s Recon Manager and Sailing Team Manager, gave his usual terrific interview saying: “I think the point of being here is to get good conditions where we can train and we took the opportunity to come back since the boats were already here and it worked out well before Christmas, so we’ll keep doing this as long as the conditions are worthwhile.”
With the America’s Cup schedule now announced, Rodney gave his thoughts on whether the Swiss team are where they want to be in their overall programme saying: “Yeah I think so, I mean you always want to try and do more in the time available but you know you have to pick and choose what you can do but I think we’re on a pretty good path you know like you said we’re focusing on some match-racing right now taking advantage of having the two boats and that’s going to be an important part of racing come Cup time…I think we’re definitely putting in plenty of time, you know we started off behind everyone of course without experience in these boats so we’ve got to be realistic, we’ve a long way to go, I wouldn’t say we’re there yet but you know we need to try and catch up for missing the last Cup and the gains that people are making this go round.”
More sailing planned for Sunday before a scheduled ‘maintenance day’ on Monday. The fruitful Arabian adventure continues for Alinghi Red Bull Racing. Impressive to watch. (Magnus Wheatley)
On-Water Recon Report – Alinghi Red Bull Racing: Alinghi Red Bull Racing rolled out their AC40-7 (Black) and AC40-4 (Red) at 08:45 and 09:05 respectively. The yachts were craned in by 09:30 and routine systems checks were conducted. A hydraulics tech was observed working on the Black boat, focusing on HMI systems. Shortly after a rigger worked on the shrouds, at the chainplate, in the starboard cockpit of the same boat. Divers were also seen in the water with a measuring tape checking the water depth, possibly indicating that the foils are contacting the seabed.
One Design mainsails were prepared on both yachts, and the J2-3 LE on the Red boat. The J2-2 LE was carried onto the Black boat right before 12:30 dock-out. Crew combinations changed, with Arnaud Psarofaghis and Maxime Bachelin helming the Red boat, Phil Robertson and Nico Charbonnier helming the Black boat.
Stint 1 (13:05 – 13:30)
Sailing started at 13:05 from the mouth of the Obhur Creek. Two long warm-up laps of split tacks and gybes were performed. The Red boat executed 32 manoeuvres, with one gybe being touch and go. The Black boat had a hard touch down during a gybe but recovered quickly. The team took a five-minute pause, during which jib clew settings were adjusted.
Stint 2 (13:35 – 14:05, 12-15kn 305° @ 13:35, 15-19kn 295° @ 14:00)
The wind sea state started increasing progressively. Start 1 saw the Black boat entered on port and the Red boat on starboard, with Red abandoning after entering too early. Start 2 saw the Red boat start alone, while Black did not participate. Start 3 had both boats entering cleanly, with Red recovering from a big touch and go gybe with a minute to go. Both started on time, Black to leeward, Red to windward, crossing over Black on the first tack. Start 4 was closely fought; both boats looked early on approach, with Red sailing high and Black low to correct their timing. Black starts to leeward, red to windward.
Following this stint, both boats drop J2 jibs, with Red hoisting the J3-2 LE and Black hoisting J3-3 OD.
Stint 3 (14:20 – 14:40, 15-19.5kn 295° @ 14:20)
Course is set to 300°. The teams continued with a short free warm-up using the J3 jibs. During Start 6, the Red boat entered on port with a gybe touchdown before the entry. Black looked to start a second early while the Red boat started on time. The Red boat stopped immediately after the start to change GoPros and the bowsprit Windex.
Stint 4 (14:45 – 15:15, 14-17kn 305° @ 15:10)
Works on the Red boat continued while the Black boat began upwind/downwind free practice at 14:45. The Red boat joined sailing at 14:50. Start 7 had Red entering on port and Black on starboard; Red started to leeward 1 second late, as Black touched down briefly on the line, with Red on top after the first tack. Start 8 saw Red enter on port and Black entering on starboard 2-3 seconds late.
Both started neck and neck, perhaps a touch over, as Black tacked off immediately and Red following shortly after. Start 9 saw Red enter on port and Black on starboard, both on time. A good fight followed, with Red luffing Black hard, both then peeling away as Black fell off foil allowing a clear start for Red, 3-4s late. A 15-minute pause allowed for both boats to change batteries and debrief with their respective chase boats.
Stint 5 (15:30 – 15:00, 15-19.5kn 310° @ 15:30)
Start 9 led to a two lap race. Red entered on port, Black on starboard. The Red boat had touched down before attempting a manoeuvre, allowing the Black boat to start alone on time. Black dominated the first lap, rounding the leeward gate with two boards down. Red attempted to close some distance by rounding with one board down, though not the cleanest rounding. Red split again at the top gate but could not close the gap.
The race ended with Black crossing the finish line first and Red touching down on the last gybe to the finish. The team then sailed back to base and ended the sailing day.
Sails were dropped by 16:00, same as the previous day. Racing today was not as consistently competitive as the previous day. The boats docked in at 16:10 after spending three and a half hours on the water with 135 minutes of sailing time. A total of 111 manoeuvres were observed, with a 95% fully foiling rate.