Another dynamic day of training wrapped up for both NYYC American Magic and INEOS Britannia in Barcelona, while significant changes took place in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, for Alinghi Red Bull Racing. One thing is certain: the America’s Cup is a realm of constant motion and evolution.
Docking out before sunrise into a chilly winter’s morning in Barcelona, both American Magic and INEOS Britannia snatched a weather window of a dying northerly to continue their training. Magic towed their AC75 ‘Patriot’ some ten miles south of the harbour entrance to find breeze whilst the British took their chances in the flatter water out by the airport to the west of Barcelona with their two very equally matched AC40s. Generously the highest recorded breeze in the early morning was occasional gusts of 10 knots but the median looked around the 7-knot mark wherever they ventured.
For American Magic it was an assured day of systems testing in very much lower-end conditions. In the flat water, Patriot had stability and with Paul Goodison, back onboard after his wrist sprain yesterday, and Tom Slingsby driving hard it was a day of long upwind/downwind sailing as the team bedded in the systems that they are determined to refine in this training block ahead of transference across to the boat they have nicknamed ‘Boat3’ currently in build over in Portsmouth, Rhode Island.
On the edge of splashdown for pretty much the whole session, the Flight Control/Trim team had their work cut out to keep the power on and maintain ride height through the tacks and gybes but it would be a tough debrief if they weren’t singled out for praise this evening. An 87% foil-to-foil ratio over a massive 60 tacks and gybes over a four hour session was a terrific return on the day.
Speaking afterwards Riley Gibbs, one of the young stars of American Magic and one of the impressive Flight/Trim team has his eyes firmly on the future now with Patriot going out of commission: “Just really excited for what’s coming for this team and pretty broad horizons and obviously we’ve got quite a bit to make up on so looking forward.”
And Riley gave a great summary of what the team’s outlook is at the moment, saying: “It’s a constant refinement I mean yeah we’ll take some things from Patriot onto ‘Boat 3’ which we’ve learned quite a bit about, but it’s more about refinement, I’m sure everyone is going to be improving up until the last day of racing…I think uniquely what this team offers up is the ability to get different perspectives in different roles and just feeding off of each other because we’ve all got such great backgrounds from where we come from in the past and so if we if we see something and we’re exposed to something and maybe we might perceive it a little different than someone who’s done it that way previous or the day earlier.”
NYYC Magic now have a scheduled six-day break and whether we will see Patriot again is a moot point. The sailors however will be keen to really dig into race practice in their AC40s in the coming weeks.
At times sharing the same stretch of water today when American Magic came inshore, INEOS Britannia were having what coach Rob Wilson described as a “freestyle” day with a course set and some interesting drills that captured the recon team’s eye. Off the start line, and repeated frequently the two AC40’s: “entered the pre-start box with a much larger time gap than they would in a normal start sequence, then sailed past the ends of the starting line towards its extensions and to leeward; and then sailed back towards the middle or the opposite end of the line.”
When racing got underway, it was a much more nip and tuck session than yesterday with Ben Ainslie and Giles Scott lining up against Dylan Fletcher-Scott and Ben Cornish. Largely dictated by staying on the foils, the pre-start practice was clearly the focus for what became a marginal sailing session.
Looking forward, Rob Wilson was asked how the training on the AC40 relates to the AC75 saying: “With the AC40 the manoeuvring is more like a Go-Kart, you can throw them around a lot more compared to the AC75. I think we will see the AC75 getting thrown around a lot more in the pre-start, it’s going to be a lot tighter that’s for sure…I think where you really gain with the AC40s compared to the AC75 – there’s so many similarities – I think where it’s good for the AC40 training, it’s good for the AC75 and I guess the biggest issue is probably on the pre-starts and just how much you can throw it around. I think a lot of the tactical scenarios you get up the track are going to be pretty similar.”
For Alinghi Red Bull Racing over at their Obhur Creek winter training camp in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, it was a very different day to what we’ve seen in recent sessions. Yesterday was a maintenance day but the shore team clearly burnt the midnight oil again as the Arnaud Psarofaghis and Maxime Bachelin helmed boat came out with a manual Foil Cant System that the Flight Controllers Bryan Mettraux and Yves Detrey grappled with throughout the afternoon. Technicians were onboard throughout the stop/start session as the replication of the AC75 system with twist-grip controls looked almost too sensitive to movement and needed to be dialled back. In flight, the AC40 was precarious with numerous nosedives and splashdowns following any attempt at a tack or gybe. Teething issues that will no doubt be ironed out overnight.
Meanwhile Jason Waterhouse paired with Nicolas Charbonnier on the other AC40 in full auto-pilot mode and put in a solid sail testing session going through the flat-cut, beautifully detailed M1-3LE mainsail and rifling through the J2-3LE and J1-4LE jibs. With Nicolas Rolaz and Lucien Cujean trimming, the ‘black’ denominated AC40 largely sailed on its own throughout the three-hour afternoon session. Conditions are looking variable for the Swiss in Jeddah over the coming days.
Speaking afterwards Bryan Mettraux, Flight Controller and one of those charged with de-bugging the new twist-grip system gave a good analysis of the day saying: “It went well, we improved quite a lot so yeah it may have been a while since we fly the boat manually last time, so we were really happy about how the boat behaved and all we progressed during the day. It was a bit too short to start nailing manoeuvres…we had an issue with the boat, with the system, also with the connection to the Wi-Fi so we tried to fix it on the water but it wasn’t possible…The goal is try to match the same system (as the AC75) to be able to compare the sensation and the feeling…the AC40 is a much lighter boat so we have much less inertia so for me it’s the biggest difference.”
Much more to come from Alinghi Red Bull Racing out in Jeddah. For Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, Orient Express Racing Team and Emirates Team New Zealand, it was a shoreside day today. Plenty of action planned for later in the week though. (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 09:15 and 09:40 respectively, with both boats in the water by 10:00. It was immediately noted that the manual FCS system was put in place, with a twist grip flight controller spotted in the port cockpit of the Red boat. According to Bryan Mettraux in the post sailing interview, there is another of the same controller in the starboard cockpit, but the recon unit was not able to photograph it.
A good amount of time was spent by the hydraulics and electronics techs, working on FCS aboard the Red boat prior to dock out. This marked the team’s first time sailing the AC40 with a manual FCS, after it was first seen implemented and tow tested on September 23rd, 2023, prior to the AC40s being shipped to Jeddah.
The M1-2 OD mainsail and J2-2 LE jib were prepared on the Red boat, as the crew on this boar remains unchanged, with Arnaud Psarofaghis and Maxime Bachelin helming. The M1-3 LE mainsail and J2-3 LE jib were prepared on the Black boat, with Nico Charbonnier switching to the starboard helm and Nico Rolaz trimming behind him. Jason Waterhouse helmed for the first time, on the port side, with Lucien Cujean trimming behind him. Both boats docked out at 12:30, with a flat sea state on the Red Sea, perfect for testing the manual FCS.
Stint 1 (13:00 – 13:40, 6-8kn 285° @ 13:00, 6-7.5kn 290° @ 13:45) Both boats embarked on separate programs for the day, with Red beginning manual flight control training. The team spent 40 minutes sailing, with no successful fully foiling manoeuvres completed,
though gradually improved throughout the stint. Sailing came to a halt, as the J2 jib was replaced with the J1-3 LE and techs jumped on board, seemingly attending to teething issues with the FCS. The Black boat, on the other hand, focused on sail testing and manoeuvre practice, sailing long legs upwind and downwind with a new crew setup.
Stint 2 (14:45 – 14:55) Both boats remained stationary for some time, and with no apparent success resolving the issues on the Red boat, the Black boat sailed off closer to land, where they exchanged the J2 with the J1-4 LE jib. A decision was made to follow the Black boat as Red carried on repairs. The brief stint saw the Black boat focus on manoeuvres, specifically on round ups and bear aways, making their way back up to the Red boat, pausing very briefly before setting off again on Stint 3.
Stint 3 (14:55 – 15:20, 8-11kn 280° @ 15:00) Black proceeded with more focus on manoeuvres, sailing long upwind/downwind legs with split tacks and gybes versus the chase boat. Red, however, was towed back in displacement mode after dropping sails, signalling unresolved issues with the FCS.
The day concluded with both boats docking in by 15:40 and craning out by 16:10. The session spanned three hours on the water, with a total observed sailing time of 75 minutes. A total of 40 manoeuvres were observed of the Black boat, achieving an 88% fully foiling rate with auto flight control. Eight manoeuvres were observed by the Red boat in manual flight control, all of which were touch down manoeuvres.
On-Water Recon Report – INEOS Britannia: Team INEOS Britannia craned to the water their two AC40s, Sienna(b) and Athena(a), at 06.30am and 06.45am, respectively, in complete one-design configuration. Both boats had been left out of the shed overnight, with their masts up. The team docked out at 07:45, as planned, in an effort to take advantage of the early morning breeze. At 08:00 both boats exited the harbour on the tow, with no sails, heading towards the airport area. Once there at 08.25, one-design mainsails and J2s were hoisted.
From 08:30 till 08:55 Ac40(a) Athena did three upwind-downwind warm-up laps, around the marks that were set by Chase Boat #1, while AC40(b) stayed heading into the wind, apparently fixing or adjusting something with one of the other Chase Boats next to it.
For today’s training session, the main focus were the pre-starts and starts.
From 08:55 till 09:30 both boats did some kind of pre-starting exercise in which they entered the pre-start box with a much larger time gap than they would in a normal start sequence, then sailed past the ends of the starting line towards its extensions and to leeward; and then sailed back towards the middle or the opposite end of the line.
Both boats executed at the same time on opposite ends of the line, almost with no interaction and training independently one to the other. This exercise was repeated multiple times during the day, with both boats switching ends. It seemed like some kind of time-distance exercise for the pre-starts.
At 09:30 the first ‘normal’ starting sequence got underway. It ended up being an even start. AC40(a) was ahead on the first cross and covered AC40(b), defending the right side of the racecourse. AC40(a) rounded the top mark in the lead and arrived at the gates ahead, where the race was stopped after rounding.
At 09:50 a new normal sequence took place. AC40(b) had a much better start, with AC40(a) crossing the starting line a few seconds late. Immediately after starting, the race was abandoned, and both boats got ready for the following start.
At 10:15 a third race got underway, with a pretty even start. A to leeward and ahead, B to windward and slightly behind. Half-way up the first upwind, B fell-off from the foils on a tack and then both boats stopped and aborted the race. From 10:25 till 10:45 there was a twenty-minute break and afterwards the J2s were replaced for J1s on both boats.
At 10:50 a fourth sequence got underway, in a dying breeze. Boat AC40(a) fell-off from the foils during the pre-start. Boat B started, and then the race was abandoned immediately after.
At 11:00, the wind continued to drop in intensity at a faster peace and the team decided to call the day. Sails were lowered on both boats and then the tow back started towards the base. Both AC40s entered the harbour at 11:45, docked at 12:00, and AC40(b) Sienna was the first of the two to be craned out of the water at 12:20. Sebastian Peri Brusa – Recon on INEOS Britannia
On-Water Recon Report – NYYC American Magic: NYYC American Magic made another early start today to take advantage of a favourable wind forecast that called for 7-10 knot breezes from 1000 until 1300. The team’s second generation AC75 Patriot was rolled out in the dark at 0720 and the diligent shore crew had the boat rigged and launched by 0748 ahead of a dock out time of 0927.
Patriot was towed out of the harbour on foils at 0935 for a six-mile southerly tow down to a rigging point just beyond the Sierra navigation buoy. The MN8 mainsail and J1.5-2 headsail were hoisted by 1000 before the boat was towed up to foiling speed at the start of a four-minute flight that ended with a displacement tack.
The boat was quickly back in foiling mode after a self-take-off for a flight that lasted 20 minutes and saw the crew complete two windward / leeward laps with multiple foiling manoeuvres despite the breeze only reaching the 7-9 knot range. That set the pattern for the rest of the session with multiple flights featuring windward / leeward laps – including one 30-minute session that saw the crew sail downwind to a point more than 10 miles south of the harbour entrance. Helped to some degree by the flat sea / long swell sea state, the boat looked steady in flight and the manoeuvres were in the main smooth and confident.
With the breeze starting to edge down after 1230 as forecast, time was called at 1300 and the boat was back on the dock by 1330. The American team now has a six-day break from sailing with the next scheduled sailing day being Tuesday January 30.