No Sunday rest for the team as they took advantage of upper-range conditions delivering the ‘wow’ factor in Sardinia with some of the most compelling and complete demonstrations of boat-handling from both the LEQ12 and AC40 teams that we’ve seen so far in this America’s Cup cycle.
Marco Gradoni and Francesco Bruni were paired on the AC40 whilst Jimmy Spithill and Ruggero Tita took the wheels on the lightning fast LEQ12 that the shore team have done their level best to try and slow down. Where the AC40 gains in terms of manoeuvrability and perhaps levels downwind with the LEQ, it loses big time upwind in a straight line with the prototype, as you might expect from a highly developed concept, able to eke to windward and use its sheer power to extract forward distance. But it was close – and closer than we’ve seen before, especially in the upper range with 16-18 knots making it almost survival weather by the end of the session.
With the speeds high, the pre-start box became miniature and the whole game was around killing time on the lead back in with two boards down and then judging the call correctly to lift the windward board and light the after-burners. Time and again, Spithill and Tita seemed to have the better windward start, with the resultant ability to then go on and control the race but any mistakes were fully capitalised on by the hard-charging Bruni and Gradoni.
Make no mistake, this was America’s Cup sailing of the very highest order. Some of the manoeuvres executed were of such a high level that it will have the other teams sitting up and taking serious notice. The single board bear-aways at the top mark with windward heel and huge crew/helm co-ordination were a thing of beauty and gave both speed and control on the exit of the rounding whilst the downwind sailing was pin-sharp accuracy from the trimmers who dialled the hulls low and fast all day. One thing to note was the sheer inherent stability of the LEQ12 in flight, almost remarkably so, they definitely have their flight playbook absolutely nailed. Impressive all round.
Perhaps the most dramatic, and caught on camera, episode of the day was a yee-hah leeward mark rounding by the AC40 on the final race of the afternoon with the wind up at 18 knots and the yacht screaming in, submarining, before a huge sky-rocket that certainly looked more dramatic than it probably was onboard. No harm done and they quickly recovered but the sensible call was made to head back to shore ahead of another planned session on Monday.
Speaking afterwards, Andrea Tesei, Flight Controller today on the LEQ12 alongside Vittorio Bissaro, spoke to the recon team and summed up the day saying: “It was a really fun day. We started off with 15-16 knots flat water then it built up quite strong, became pretty survival the last two races, and yeah with a full-on day our two-boat programme is really fun, really productive, and today was the first day we had some strong breeze and two-boating, different game, different priorities, so good to get this testing done across the whole range.”
Talking about how the speeds of the boats make the pre-start box feel very small, Andrea added: “It’s pretty intense as the boats are different and they’ve got their strengths and weaknesses so you need to work on your strengths and these strengths change with the wind range so it’s a long learning process and it’s pretty intense and first days both were quite apart now they start to get pretty close…we’re working different strategies, different tactics and how to burn time in the box on the basis obviously the box becomes smaller so you need to invent some new stuff.”
And asked about the speed differential and whether the myriad of cameras on the LEQ12 foil were enough to slow the boat down, Andrea said: “We were a bit quicker upwind, probably, very similar downwind but overall both have strength and weaknesses, the AC40 for sure is a very nice manoeuvrable boat, easy on that front, and also safer, easier to handle but overall they were pretty similar, one won one race, the other won the other so pretty equal.”
Another outstanding day for the Italians – beaten finalists in 2021 – determined to go one better in 2024. The America’s Cup is often described as a design race, but you still need world-class sailors operating at their very best. Today Luna Rossa’s sailors were world class. (Magnus Wheatley)
On-Water Recon Report – Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli: The Italian team rolled out their AC40 (white) at 9:10 and their LEQ12(red) at 9:30, stepped masts and craned in respectively at the 9:30 and 9:45. Dock-out was scheduled at 11:00, sailors swapped between boats compared to previous days and cameras were again fitted on LEQ12s wings to try and slow it down.
The red boat was towed offshore of Petrol Beach where the pressure was firstly measured 13-15kn from 345° with flat water. With stronger air forecasted, M2-1 was paired to the J4-1 on red and the M1 OD was paired to J3 OD on white, which joined a while later. While the red boat started sailing, running through some manoeuvres, the windward and leeward gates were being setup. After approx. 15 minutes foiling, the red yacht stopped for a speculative issue inside the cockpit, perhaps on the racing software suggested by involved personnel.
Another short foiling stint followed for the red boat as, after being towed up on port, it bore away on a fast downwind lap. A user error occurred as the wrong board was lifted crushing the yacht off the foils and almost capsizing. No major as the LEQ12 self-took-off and headed towards the course where the white boat was ripping around for a while.
The boats lined up on the same tacks for upwind and a downwind laps but remained quite even matching each other’s manoeuvres. The red boat seemed to be quicker on both legs, but especially upwind.
The 1st pre-start was observed at 12:30 with white on port, sailing in a circle as soon as in the box and chasing down red afterwards, similar to the day before. Both yachts bore away and while approaching the line, red managed to have a clean start while white came off the foils on the committee mark.
The 2nd pre-start was dominated by red, forcing white to tack right away once started. As the race was live, red led at all crosses and winning this race with a gap of 15 seconds.
At 12:50 the 3rd prestart drill was live with red on port. Both yachts sailed further downwind towards the bottom right, as white trimmed up, red sailed further before gybing and ended up being late of approx. 8 seconds late for the start.
The 4th prestart began with white on port, white sailed in circle, tacked, and began to chase red. The yachts engaged approaching the line and managed to start almost even, with red slightly more to windward. A four lap race followed where red led all crosses before winning with a gap of 12 seconds. As the race ended, the team took a break for lunch.
The breeze was ramping up quickly, measured 16-18kn from 335°.
Red was being towed up at 13:20 to run the 5th prestart drill. White started more to windward than red and the boat began racing upwind and red covered several times on white. The gap on the top mark was small, approx. 2-3 second and decreased even further on the bottom gate as the yachts came together. There, about to trim up, white lost ride height and the yacht broached out of the water.
Racing was abandoned as the pressure was ramping up further. The day was called for the LEQ12 with approx. 92 minutes foiling time and approx. 36 tacks and 25 gybes [Michele Melis AC Recon].