Monday, February 26, 2024
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HomeRegattaAmerica's CupOrient Express Racing Team Unveils Enhanced AC40 Configuration for America's Cup Challenge

Orient Express Racing Team Unveils Enhanced AC40 Configuration for America’s Cup Challenge

They’ve been under the recon radar for several months as the Orient Express Racing Team got to grips with the AC40 in strict one-design mode, away from the prying cameras but on Thursday, that all changed. Rolling out their AC40 now moded in LEQ12 configuration with advanced electronics onboard for manual flight control, brings the hyper-exciting French Challenge for the 37th America’s Cup into the full glare of the media and recon programme.

© Job Vermeulen / America’s Cup

With the enigmatic Quentin Delapierre as skipper, France’s involvement in the America’s Cup is in safe hands. Joined by his long-time sailing partner and great friend, Kevin Peponnet, this is a helming duo that can read each other like a book and have formed a potent on-water partnership.

© Job Vermeulen / America’s Cup

On a flat-calm Barcelona afternoon, the call was made for a long session that stretched to sundown as the sailors put in a brilliant performance almost from the get-go with Orient Express looking stable in flight and more than capable of being moded with easy windward heel and some smart manoeuvres. The initial tow-up on the first run was a bit ropey with a buckaroo behind the Chase Boat but from there on, it was dialled in and motoring. Appendages were still the standard one-design AC40 foils and rudder and the sail package again was full one-design – expect all these components to change in the coming weeks as the Flight Controllers Mathieu Vandame and Jason Saunders get comfortable with the manual flight control,.

© Job Vermeulen / America’s Cup

Speaking afterwards in complete darkness dockside, Quentin Delapierre spoke eloquently about the day and the challenge ahead saying: “Really good day for us, I think the team really pushed hard the last two weeks to get the new configuration here on our AC40 and today was our first day sailing. It went really, really, good so yeah really happy with the day we passed on the water…For sure sailing the AC40 without the autopilot is a big challenge for everyone and also for us specially as a new team. All the technicians learned a lot from this period and it’s the sailors turn now to just improve our skills on the water and just try to challenge the boat handling and our skills on the flying mode, but I’m really surprised today went really, really, good, yeah and I can’t wait to see what the next days will be for us.”

Addressing the ‘buckaroo’ that the recon team likened to the Ferrari Prancing Horse, Quentin laughed: “The first two tests were interesting – big blow up and after we just reset some data and some handling and then it went really, really, good after that and yeah I mean sailing four hours on this machine without the autopilot was just a discovering time and I’m really happy with the end of the day.”

© Job Vermeulen / America’s Cup

Looking forward, the team are eyeing the arrival of their AC75, currently in-build up in Vannes with Quentin updating on the schedule and the programme saying: “The AC75, we’ll receive it probably just before summer and it’s a big challenge for a small and new team like us, it’s a new campaign but I can feel the motivation and the energy inside the team, everyone is really focused, we know that our AC75 will be one of the very best in terms of design and just really focused on having our AC75 really reliable.”

© Job Vermeulen / America’s Cup

It’s the dawn of an exciting new era for this most likeable and popular team that is set to win the hearts of many Cup fans as they chart their progress to the start of the Louis Vuitton Cup in September 2024. We’ll be watching closely from now on.

On-Water Recon Report – Orient Express Racing Team: The OE AC40 was lifted with the crane today at @9:50 am and carefully placed in the water between the docks.

Some preparations and checks from the electronics & hydraulics flight systems were needed to be done before going out sailing as today was the first day that the OE Team was going to sail the AC40 in manual mode.

The breeze came late today so the dock-out was not done until @1:00 pm. When we get out there, still no wind but luckily 10 minutes after, a breeze of 3-4 kn from a TWD 200º start blowing so the OE team decided to give it a go with some tow-take-offs.

@1:30 pm: On the first run it looked like something went wrong with the flight controls and the boat reacted with a lot of pitch angle in the bow for some seconds.

@1:39 pm: On the next run all was smooth and they managed to make a long one in starboard side for some minutes. They tried sailing different course directions and also, they performed some successful manoeuvres putting the windward foil in and out for a couple of times without changing the course direction (special mention here that today when this same test was attempted on portside it was not that successful like when done on starboard side). They tried to tack but the boat touched down and they need to tow again to get the boat take off.

@14:02 pm: They went for port side with tow in mode take off. On the second attempt they managed to fly for a long run of around 8-10 min approx. As an observation I will say that the boat seemed to fly higher in starboard than in port tack in this first runs. (@14:16 pm) It seemed that there is a bit more of wind and they tried to take off from starboard side with no success. They went for some tow in take-off more with the chase boat and at certain point they were too far away from the shore and the breeze get lighter.

@14:56 pm: A long tow-in with the chase boat was done to the port area and a nice breeze of about 7-9 knots TWD 220 was found, what it was perfect to sail without the need of the help of the chase boat for the take off. As soon as the boat was released from the towing rope, it started a downwind and performed 5 jibes in a row: 4 were touching down but last one was quite successful.

@15:17 pm: They started an upwind with long runs and 4 tacks were done: the two from starboard to port were ‘touch down’ but the ones from port to starboard side were surprisingly successful (remember is the first day for them in manual mode).

@15:40 pm: They stopped to change jib J1 for jib J2.

@15:55 pm: after changing the jib they went for a little bit of upwind and then after for a long downwind were they started to look confidents with the jibes as they managed to perform 7 decent jibes and 3 touch down ones.

@16:51 pm: Wind went down a little bit, so they decided to stop and perform a change of jib from J2 to J1 again. I’m not sure if in this same stop they also changed the batteries for the hydraulic arm systems.

@17:08 pm: They started sailing again in upwind. Even though there was a pretty light breeze it was surprising how fast they managed to make the take-off this time. In this upwind they performed 7 tacks, this time only one of them was successful and the other 6 were done with touch down and taking off after some seconds.

@ 17:35 pm: they went for the last downwind and performed 8 jibes, from which 4 were fully foiling, 2 touch down and 2 touch and go.

@ 17:46 pm: tow-in back to port with the Chase Boat.

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