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HomeRegattaAmerica's CupFebruary Recap: Highlights from the Louis Vuitton 37th America’s Cup

February Recap: Highlights from the Louis Vuitton 37th America’s Cup

For fans of the Louis Vuitton 37th America’s Cup, February was a month of tantalisation with the initial announcements in quick succession by Emirates Team New Zealand, Alinghi Red Bull Racing, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli and INEOS Britannia giving notice to the Recon Management Panel, as they are required to do under the Protocol, of their intention to launch their new AC75s within two months.

The exact dates of the launches remain a guarded secret, but the expectation is that the Swiss will be first to reveal with a launch no sooner than April 5th, 2024, and will be the first to get sailing in the new generation boats followed by Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli soon after. The Swiss boat, named ‘BoatOne’ left the build facility in Ecublens, near Lausanne on the morning of the 26th of February headed for Barcelona by truck for final fit-out. Exciting times ahead.

Here’s a summary of each team for February:

Emirates Team New Zealand

Sam Thom / America’s Cup

Returning to Auckland for the summer months, the Defenders of the Louis Vuitton 37th America’s Cup spent February finalising their thinking on foil design, and honing their technique – which is ever-evolving. All eyes are now looking forward to the launch of the team’s new AC75, currently being finished at the North Shore facility, before some crucial weeks of commissioning in Auckland’s late summer. Then the boat will be packed carefully and shipped up to Barcelona, ready to begin an intense training period in the Balearic Sea and getting familiar with the America’s Cup course area just off the La Barceloneta beacjfront where the racing will take place just metres off the shoreline. It’s an intense time for Emirates Team New Zealand with the clock ticking now to when the business end of the campaign becomes very real. For the Kiwi Youth & Women’s teams, their on-water training will begin in earnest very soon in the team’s two AC40’s having spend a good part of February on the simulator and receiving training from the senior team. Busy times for Emirates Team New Zealand.

Behind the Fence… It was announced at the end of February that Emirates Team New Zealand had gifted the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron a brand-new fleet of Elliott 7s for the next generation of elite athletes. Grant Dalton, CEO of Emirates Team New Zealand announced: “We are especially proud and excited about the launch of the new fleet of Elliot 7’s. As an organisation, our core objective is always firmly focused on one thing – winning the America’s Cup for New Zealand. However, it is always vitally important to continue looking beyond that objective – to the future and ensuring the pipeline of top-level Kiwi sailing talent is full. So, investing in the new fleet is an investment in New Zealand’s future sailing talent through the world class RNZYS Youth Training Programme… This is the kind of legacy that we are determined to leave to the people of Auckland, and New Zealand. Having more one-design match racing boats means greater opportunities for everyone.” Read more here: 

Emirates Team New Zealand

INEOS Britannia

A month of highs and crushing lows for the Challenger of Record who began the month very much on a high with the reveal of their second AC40, named ‘Sienna’ and built for the UniCredit Youth & Puig Women’s America’s Cup events, plus a new sponsor with the tech-innovator Cobham-Ultra coming onboard. Immediately the team went into highly intensive two-boat race practice and enjoyed some five days of really productive pre-starts and short-course racing. Unfortunately, on the 16th February a lithium battery fire occurred on the team’s ‘works’ boat ‘Athena’ causing extensive damage and the team had to revert to one-boat one design sailing for the rest of the month on ‘Sienna’. No word yet from the team on whether ‘Athena’ will be re-built, better news came at the Cobham-Ultra press launch and announcement of the Athena Pathway Youth & Women’s Squads with Sir Ben Ainslie further announcing that on the 1st February the new INEOS Britannia AC75 had left the Jason Carrington build facility in Hythe, Southampton that day. 

Behind the Fence…  Pete Cunningham is the Head of Human Performance for INEOS Britannia, an exercise physiologist whose job it is to get the very best physical and mental performance from the sailing team.

“It’s great to be here with this opportunity, I did five Olympic campaigns with Ben and it’s great to be back in a British team. These jobs don’t come up very often. There’s not very many British teams doing the America’s Cup! It’s great. The national pride of it is enormous and there’s hope that we can make a good showing of it…The thing about the America’s Cup is that it’s so hard to win. People put years and years of their lives into it without winning it. I’ve worked with a lot of successful teams, a lot of Olympic medallists. I’ve worked with a team that’s won the Volvo Ocean Race. It would be great to win the America’s Cup and I think it’s the pinnacle of the sport. I think even if you asked the top sailors with their gold medals, if they then won the America’s Cup, they’d probably say that’s the pinnacle of their career. So it means everything to win it.” Read more Here:

Alinghi Red Bull Racing

Another big month for the Swiss who sensibly divided their training between the AC75 in Barcelona and a thrilling two-boat AC40 block out in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The sailing days numbered 16 in total in February, easily the highest number out of all the teams and their performances on the water have got better and better as a result. In Jeddah, the concentration was on racing, race management, pre-starts and sail development with Dean Barker jetting in to give a different match-racing perspective and some new start-box thinking – a masterstroke. Back in Barcelona, it was all about systems development and crew-training with the team alluding to new logic on the Foil Cant System controls, mainsheet development and the beginning of linked systems or pre-sets which is work that will continue right up to and throughout the Louis Vuitton Cup that starts at the end of August. Fabulous month for the hard-driving Swiss who put a statement of intent down in February that they very much mean business.

Behind the Fence… Alinghi Red Bull Racing rolled out their new AC75 from the Decision SA build facility in Ecublens on Monday 26th February 2024. A huge credit to the team, the boat builders rightly were thrust front and centre with Lead Boat Builder Simon Bovay saying: “The last few weeks were really intense with a lot of hours in the boatyard to meet deadlines. But the most important thing is that we maintained a great team spirit throughout.

The vibe remained excellent, we stuck together until the end. Credit goes to everyone. The team was incredible and really did a great job.” David Nilkes, Lead Boat Builder added: “We’re super proud of this boat. She’s radical and it will be beautiful when she’s going fast,” Read more here: 

NYYC American Magic 

A productive split month for NYYC American Magic with the main concentration through the first ten sailing days on sail development. Long runs were observed as the trimmers tweaked and extracted the data that the sail designers, working from a sail loft in Valencia where the new AC75 sails are being built, demanded. After a short break, the team came back for two-boat race training on the teams’ two AC40s, which had been modified with the best thinking on their LEQ12 foil design with both boats running them on their starboard foil with one-design foils on port. 

Ugo Fonollá / America’s Cup

The two-boat race training programme will now proceed through March with the team mixing up their driving line-up and giving more on-water opportunities for their Youth team, led by Harry Melges. Tom Slingsby and Paul Goodison very much look to be the stand-out pairing on the helm however, with a great pool of Flight Controllers in Andrew Campbell, Michael Menninger and Riley Gibbs to choose from. The big team news was the signing of a 10 year lease agreement to create a high-performance sailing centre at the Port of Pensacola, their fabulous home base where the campaign started.

Ugo Fonollá / America’s Cup

Behind the Fence… Terry Hutchinson, Skipper and Head of Sailing operations updated on the team’s clear initial focus for February saying: “The month of February is really focussed on sail development for the AC75. We have the advantage that we’re using two AC40s that Juan, Max and Pietro have been designing sails for and scaling those up to the AC75 but it really is giving us the opportunity to first look at what our competition has been doing you know we see a lot of great intel and thought coming out of the recon reports of what the competitors are doing, and so we’ve spent the last probably ten months evaluating that and applying it to where we think we want to go with our AC75 designs. And so, that evolution and development is really what the month of February is going to be focused on and then we’ll transition into two-boat racing for the months of March and April, but really, we got a couple of big deadlines and sails world coming in early March for us and so we have to we have to use a month of February to sign off on at least the concepts and the flying shapes that we’re after. The two-boat testing process is pretty good because it allows us to really validate the concepts that the sails designers have come up with.” Read more here: 

LunaRossa Prada Pirelli

Going about their business quietly over in Cagliari, Sardinia, the Italian Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team put in some mammoth performances in February beginning with an intense four-day block of two-boat race practice pitting the team’s AC40 (in one design mode) against the rapier-fast LEQ12 development prototype over a series of high intensity pre-starts and short courses.

© Ivo Rovira / America’s Cup

In a variety of conditions, the merits of both boats was tested and the helming team consisting of Jimmy Spithill, Francesco Bruni, Marco Gradoni and Ruggero Tita, pushed themselves to ever greater heights of performance, developing their pre-start and course-management playbooks. Fascinating to watch, the team spent the last part of the month in full-on, big weather training onboard their LEQ12 as they pushed further the pre-sets and introduced new, unseen, componentry. Arguably blessed with the best Flight Control team in this Louis Vuitton 37th America’s Cup, in Vittorio Bissaro, Andrea Tesei and Umberto Molineris, the Italians are looking well advanced in their preparations and Bissaro’s tease that the new AC75 is a ‘weapon’ and ‘radical’ whets Italian appetite to go one better in 2024.

© Ivo Rovira / America’s Cup

Behind the Fence… Following a successful career in the 49er class, in which he reached the top 10 of the world ranking winning a bronze at the European Championship, a silver at the World Cup Final and several national titles, Andrea Tesei is now part of the trimming team of Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, a team with which he also participated in the 2021 America’s Cup in Auckland. Andrea was chosen for his ability to make the boat fly in all conditions, but while in the last campaign he worked with the weather team and the sailmakers, today he is onboard and is in charge of regulating foils and sails. On land, however, he oversees the soft wing and the systems that go into its tuning. Teamwork requires humility and awareness, qualities that Andrea does not lack: “When you are part of a team you also have to be able to step back from your own expectations and do whatever work is asked of you, because there are no A and B tasks. In any competition, motivation is key, because when there is a goal, even if it is far away, you can’t wait to compete to achieve it.” Read more here: 

Orient Express Racing Team

Beginning February with the announcement that Alpine, ‘the sport specialty French car manufacturer owned by Renault Group, had come onboard as official partner it was very much a transitional month for the French team who finally took their one-boat AC40 out of class and introduced a new LEQ12 mainsail and LEQ12 J3 jib over a four-day training block at the beginning of the month. On those sessions, increasingly the team began the process of turning off the auto-pilot to get to grips with manual flight control and it was a productive period for the French who are eyeing a big ramp-up of training in March. Long days on the water, well into the Barcelona evening were the mark of the team’s training in Barcelona in February and as Team Principle Bruno Dubois opined: “On the sailing point of view I think we’re a little bit advanced on what I thought we would be, so we have another couple of months more sailing that way too. I really want the crew to have indigestion of LEQ12 so they will be sick and tired to be on that boat and will be very happy to join a jump on the AC75, so I think yeah, we’re on track at this point.”

© © Job Vermeulen / America’s Cu

Behind the Fence… Like all first times, Thursday 15 February 2024 is a date will be etched in the memories of Manon Audinet and Enzo Balanger, skippers of the Orient Express – L’Oréal Racing Team Women and Youth America’s Cup squads respectively. The two sailors went from virtual to real in seconds following a call from coach Thierry Douillard, “Would you like to do a sailing session on the AC40?” And in less time than it takes to say ‘yes’, the two sailors were dressed and on their way to the sailing area with a mixture of excitement and anxiety!  Manon Audinet summed it up saying: “Superb conditions for a first sail. We managed to settle in and sail cleanly. It was crazy! We’ve finally touched the boat, so we’re no longer just doing simulations. I’m pretty proud of us, we managed to get through some manoeuvres and were quite good. On board, it’s quite disconcerting because you don’t feel much apparent wind tucked away in our positions. The simulator taught us a lot about the new sensations and new references though, so it wasn’t unexpected, but it’s still very different from other boats I’ve sailed. The AC40 is a bomb! We only saw 8 knots of wind and we were sailing at over 25 knots. There’s potential for things to go well and for us to have a lot of fun.” Read more here

In Summary… The race for the Louis Vuitton 37th America’s Cup is well and truly under way. With new boats launching, new breakthroughs in design and advances in sailing technique all around, the chasing pack is getting closer and the Defender, Emirates Team New Zealand, are left under no illusion as to just how hard it will be to complete an historic third win for a single team in a row in Barcelona in October. The new boats bring an added zing to every team with the designers under the spotlight, the build teams working hellish hours to deliver and the shore crews ready to take on their new charges. The pace all round is quickening and the clock is ticking down to what many believe will be the closest event when two boats go head-to-head for the Louis Vuitton 37th America’s Cup.

Stay tuned.

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