The weekend warriors of Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli became weekend gladiators as the sailing team went to battle out on the Bay of Angels on Saturday pitting the super-rapid LEQ12 prototype against the nimble and fast-to-fly AC40 for some pure no-holds barred pre-starts and short course racing.
On a perfect mid-Mistral day with winds around 8-12 knots and an air temperature of 17 degrees, this was winter training out of the top drawer for the Italians as the team coaches ramp up the intensity, delivering tight start boxes and doing their very best to negate the obvious speed advantage that the LEQ12 has in a straight line.
Michele Cannoni, the LEQ12 boat captain summed up it up saying: “Obviously after 115 days you know how capable of speed is there in the LEQ12 so we’re trying to slow it down to be able to race against the AC40 and sometimes we achieve this, sometimes we still have a bit of a notch. I mean it’s not easy to make a fast boat, but it’s not even easy to slow down too much, so we try to achieve what we wanted with the pre-start start drills and some manoeuvres, Philippe (Presti) and Jacopo (Plazzi) are coming out with some drills that we want to achieve on the water day by day, and I think a day like today is a very good and pro-active day for the team.”
The Italian’s docked out just before midday to catch the best of the building afternoon breeze and with the wind veering north throughout the session, it was a beautifully flat dance-floor for some absolutely thrilling racing. Jimmy Spithill and Ruggero Tita joined forces on the LEQ12 whilst Francesco Bruni partnered with the quick Marco Gradoni on the AC40 with the team determined to make the best use of the manoeuvrability of the clearly slower (in a straight-line) boat. Over some eight pre-starts the action was intense with hard luffs made to force the other off the foils and some super-tight circling. Time-on-distance on both boats in the lead back was almost always spot-on and the tactics upwind over the relatively short courses was dynamic with close boat-on-boat crosses and ducks.
Another brilliant session for the hard-driving Italians who have allocated two further days (Sunday and Monday) to keep drilling into the playbook and get the sailing team match-fit. Speaking afterwards Michele Cannoni summed the day up saying: “It was a very nice day…mid-Mistral conditions, so now we are in a phase of the campaign where we want to have both teams practising one against each other so now we are full match-racing oriented so everything that we can squeeze out of a day like today is gold for us.”
Michele gave his views and insight on the upcoming launches of the new AC75 and in particular was asked who he thought would launch their new boat first: “I would say the French maybe…It depends on the team strategy, depends how much you sail in the past, depends how confident you are on the systems you have built on a prototype or not so there are teams that are forced to launch as soon as possible and teams that can stay on the side and watch who launches first – that’s Americas Cup strategy.”
And talking about the new Luna Rossa that is currently in-build, Michele wetted the increasing appetite for the sailing world saying: “Well, our boat, it will be pretty radical I think.”
Echoing recent comments made by representatives of Alinghi Red Bull Racing, Emirates Team New Zealand and INEOS Britannia, these ‘radical’ boats could be something of a sensation. The design race is well and truly on in the 37th America’s Cup. Stand by for the big reveals in the coming months.
On-Water Recon Report – Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli: Luna Rossa rolled out their AC40 (white) at 9:30 and their LEQ12(red) at 9:55, stepped masts and craned in respectively at the 9:50 and 10:10. Dock-out was scheduled at 11:30, sailors swapped between boats compared to previous days.
Out on the bay, the offshore pressure looked quite patchy and shifty, first measured 8-10kn from 320° with flat water. M1-2 was paired to the J1-1 on red and the M1 OD was paired to J1 OD on white. Both boats were towed up and started sailing quite distanced but matching each opponent’s manoeuvre while bottom and top marks were being set. Then the yachts sailed some individual prestart drills. The red yacht stopped for a speculative issue on one of the cockpits screens, which was then replaced. In the meantime, the pressure shifted slightly to the right, from 325° and increased to 11-13kn. Both boats changed jib, J2 OD was hoisted on white and J1.5-2 was hoisted on red. Another short foiling stint followed for both boats before they de-foiled and stopped again.
The J1.5 was then lowered as the team seemed to face an issue below deck on which electrician and hydraulic shore crew worked for approx. 35 minutes. J1-1 was then rehoisted before red was towed up on foils. Some additional individual pre-start drills followed for each boat. The 1st official pre-start was observed at 13:50 with white on port. A routine drill was observed on the majority of the pre-start drills: white entered on port and sailed a full circle ending up to chase red to the right hand side. After bearing away, the yachts approached the line with time to kill, red more to leeward. Both yachts tacked to port and white managed to stay up on foils winning this start. Both yachts sailed half of upwind leg and bore away to resume pre-start practice.
In the 2nd prestart, both boats seemed to start even, with red more windward splitting the course right away. Red protected its side and managed to round the top mark approx. 5 seconds before white and won this race. A short break followed in which the sailors seemed to debrief.
At 14:30 the 3rd pre-start drill was live with red on port and white on starboard. White seemed to be in control and have the upper hand at the line. On the upwind leg some closer match-racing took place and white managed to push red to windward which fell off the foils.
The 4th pre-start began with white on port and red on starboard entry, white sailed in a circle, tacked and began to chase red while it was gybing. Red managed to slow down on two boards and ended up behind white and able to push. The yachts started with a gap, red closer to the committee end of the line and tacked right away splitting the course. Red led in all upwind crosses and rounded up the leeward mark with a 12-second gap. The pressure shifted further north, measured at 10-12 knots from 335°.
On the 5th drill, red had port entry, both yachts sailed towards the upper right bow end and bore away. White trimmed up to tack while red gybed. Red began to chase white, and the start seemed even on timing. Over the day, red seemed to have a clear advantage on starboard tack upwind able to sail higher with less leeway, to be confirmed considering the shifty conditions of the day. On the upwind leg, red protected its side and covered each manoeuvre gaining a gap at the top mark of 12 seconds and 8 seconds at the bottom. Two laps followed and red clearly won this race, the yacht was decelerated at 15:00 for a short break.
The 6th pre-start unfolded with white on port, and chasing red which fell off the foils after a hard trim up.
The 7th and 8th took place shortly after with red on port and white on starboard. A longer upwind race followed with red leading the first three crosses and covering each tack but ducking behind white on the last cross which had gained on a shift.
The day was called for the LEQ12 with approx. 160 minutes foiling time and approx. 52 tacks and 45 gybes [Michele Melis AC Recon].