Monday, May 13, 2024
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Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Engages in Friendly Battle on the Bay of Angel

In the original Deed of Gift of 1857 there’s wording at the end, and I paraphrase, that states that the America’s Cup should always be a ‘friendly competition’ – well today on the Bay of Angels, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli brought their weapons-grade LEQ12 prototype out to do battle against their bantam-weight one-design flyer, the AC40, for a thoroughly entertaining morning of battle where the gloves were clearly left in the corner.

Marco Gradoni paired with Jimmy Spithill on the LEQ12 whilst Francesco Bruni joined Ruggero Tita on the AC40. The Flight Control trio of Bissaro/Tesei/Molineris welcomed youth sailor Rocco Falcone to the hot seat of the AC40, a sailor who holds dual nationality between Italy and Antigua and has been coming through the foiling ranks fast.

© Ivo Rovira / America’s Cup

It was a morning that promised little in terms of sea-state or wind but ended up delivering spectacularly with both boats able to play to their merits and strengths in the sub 10 knot breeze that permeated a flat bay. In many respects, ideal conditions for developing the all-important pre-start playbook whilst also confirming the get-ahead-stay-ahead tactics that dominate foiling racing. Over a series of nine pre-start and short course drills, the recon team scored it 4-2 to the AC40 with two dead even starts and then a remarkable, and highly photogenic sequence unfolded before their eyes.

© Ivo Rovira / America’s Cup

Coming into the final approaches to the line, the AC40 got high on its foils on a luff and came across the LEQ12’s bow but, desperate to kill speed, bore away at a scarily high height to match the LEQ12s angle and hold the windward position. As the starboard helmsman dialled away, the rudder was getting dangerously close to the surface and with little flow, suddenly released and sent the AC40 barrelling into a nose-dive that saw more than two-thirds of the yacht immersed.

© Ivo Rovira / America’s Cup

Fortunately, no contact was made with the LEQ12 sitting just beneath and no injuries onboard – all part of the fabulous game of AC40 sailing. Time was sensibly called with the team recording some 125 minutes of foiling time from a day that promised little initially – good effort again from the dynamic Italians.

© Ivo Rovira / America’s Cup

Talking afterwards, an enthusiastic Jimmy Spithill was surprised with how the day unfolded saying: “It was actually a really good day, I mean all the forecast models said that it would be very unlikely, we’ve had this low pressure sitting over the bottom of Sardinia, but it actually was a very nice sort of mistral direction, bottom end but we were able to get some very, very, tight racing.”

© Ivo Rovira / America’s Cup

Talking about the training programme in two very different machines, Jimmy opined: “It’s interesting you know like initially I thought having two different boats there could be a downside to that in racing but it’s actually been really good having boats with different strengths and weaknesses whether it be manoeuvring or sometimes one boat has a performance edge because I think that’ll be reality probably in the Cup, very unlikely all the boats will be the same speed so I think training wise it’s been good for us just to learn how to race a boat in a different configuration.”

© Ivo Rovira / America’s Cup

Asked how protests are managed on the water and who calls them, the answer was statesmanlike and very much in the mould of the original Deed of Gift with Jimmy saying: “We’re just very gentlemanly-like on the water…” We’re sure that will change when the action starts for real in the Louis Vuitton 37th America’s Cup in August, but George L. Schuyler will be smiling down tonight on Jimmy. 

On-Water Recon Report – Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli: The Italian Challenger rolled out their AC40 (white) at 6:20 and their LEQ12 (red) at 7:25, stepped masts and craned in respectively at 7:15 and 7:40. Dock-out was postponed several times awaiting for any breeze to fill the Bay. White was ready earlier and up on foils by 9:30 with M1 mainsail and J1 OD jib, whilst the red yacht was being towed out of the harbour.

On the flat water, the light air was measured 6-7 knots from 305° and hence the first iteration of mainsail M1-1 was paired to the J1-1 on red. As the red yacht joined, the bottom gate was already set at 300° and both boats sailed quite distanced but always on matching tacks.

At 10:05 the 1st pre-start drill was run with red on port which managed to chase white towards the line, both yachts seemed to start evenly with red tacking to port right away. On the two upwind crosses, white was ahead and won the race after the first downwind leg with a large gap of 30+ seconds. Red came off the foils and the sailors debriefed before the second pre-start unfolded shortly after. On the latter, white had port entry and chased red coming up to the line ending up slightly ahead with red tacking to port right away.

On the 3rd drill, the red yacht prevailed and started ahead of white squeezing it with higher mode forcing it to tack to port ending up off the foils. The breeze shifted further to the right measuring 6-8 knots from 340° and kept shifting during the day.

On the 4th pre-start drill red seemed to have the upper-hand and dominated white on a tacking duel covering each side. On the 5th drill, red had port entry followed by white, which trimmed up and tacked, red bore away and gybed. When approaching the line, it seemed pretty even as both yachts came down from windward of the committee boat and started close by the pin trimming up. As the race was live, the yachts split apart working with the shifty light air and white ended up leading again.

The 6th prestart was won by white with better time on distance as red came off the foils and had to retake-off. Then the team took a short break and a guest was hosted in the port pod. Towed up on foils at 11:50 the 7th prestart was observed with, once again, red on port entry, looking to hook white towards the line, white bore away but both yachts seemed almost late and tacked to port close by the pin to start.

Similar procedure was seen during the 8th drill, with only red tacking to port and having to build speed along the line while white managed to start by the pin. On the 9th prestart another aggressive battle was observed with red looking for a hook on white which got caught with an extreme ride height losing the rudder and nose diving.

Sails were lowered with approximately 125 minutes foiling time and approx. 40 tacks and 25 gybes [Michele Melis AC Recon].

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