Wednesday, April 24, 2024
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Barcelona’s Splendor and Perfect Sailing Conditions

Oh, Barcelona you absolute beauty. Another day, another champagne sailing session of sun and wind for NYYC American Magic and Orient Express Racing Team who simply had it all – a flat sea to start, and a building breeze giving the perfect arena for some superb training.

The big story of the day though was back in Barcelona with NYYC American Magic. Earlier in the week, the team swapped over rigs and sails between the two AC40s with Magic receiving the upgraded mast that ‘America’ had been running previously as well as the new MC4 mainsail which features the bigger clew board and presumably a host of mainsheet and lower third controls that are significantly improved. ‘Magic’ with Lucas Calabrese and Harry Melges steering has been sensational all week and again it proved today.

© Job Vermeulen/ America’s Cup

On long speed-test runs early in the session, Magic was electric, particularly downwind with the crew able to sail deeper angles and keep maximum pace on. Then when it came to racing, and especially in the opening race, again Magic was sensational with speed to burn. All was looking set for a second race but then a highly curious and uncharacteristic capsize from Tom Slingsby and Paul Goodison on ‘America’ brought what was looking like a brilliant session to a dramatic end. America’s cockpits flooded and the chase boat team towed her home slowly after almost 30 minutes capsized.

© Job Vermeulen/ America’s Cup

Head-scratching all-round, but proving once again that capsizing is all part of the AC40 game – even for the very best sailors in the world. Expect the NYYC American Magic bounce back to be strong.


For Orient Express Racing, the French Challenger for the Louis Vuitton 37th America’s Cup it was a smart move by the meteorology team to call for a pre-noon dock-out as they made the absolute best of the afternoon – even heading offshore to dice in the bigger seas that were rapidly building into the afternoon. Big strides being taken by the French and their talent is certainly not in question, they are fast learners.


The big concentration today was on manoeuvre execution within tight boundaries and over lengthy upwind and downwind legs, presumably racing against a simulated opponent on their onboard electronics, they were nailing it. Thierry Douillard, Team Coach, was impressed saying: “At this stage where we’re trying to push as much as we can on our boat handling and when you are on the racecourse you have boundaries or you have to tack in a certain area so it gives you more timing so you don’t delay too much your manoeuvres, so was good for us and today, we tried also to increase bigger legs with more manoeuvres at the top of the range, was good training.”


Asked what advice he is imparting, Thierry, who has been at the forefront of the foiling revolution for years now, said: “It was pretty good in the average, we are fine tuning and we were able to do a lot of tacks and gybes, we went a bit off shore with more sea-state and after we came back to be more flat and to start to turn a bit on the racecourse so was a  good day… we are speaking most of the time with them by the comms just giving feedback like how is the stability of the platform in average, or some different points on the twist of the sails or whatever, and we try to communicate with a good idea what’s going on.”


A nosedive after a downwind, high-speed gybe full-stopped the day for the French with Thierry saying: “We were not sure about one or two functions on the boat so the boat captain decided to ask us to come back to the harbour, nothing major but we don’t want to take a risk when you’re on the top of range and you have some things that aren’t working properly, it could be an issue…nothing too major but when you start to have gremlins you say ‘okay’ and we already had a good day.” Great to witness the trajectory the French are on at the moment.

On-Water Recon Report – Orient Express Racing Team: OE Racing Team craned their AC40 to the water at 09:20, after performing some minor maintenance works on the starboard side arm. Once on the water, besides the usual routine activities, non-skid tape was added on the deck in between the jib track and the front hatch. The camera on the top of the mast looking down to the front face of the mast, the jib and possibly also to the foils was set in the same position as the previous days. The team docked out at 10.40, ten minutes later than planned.

The LEQ12-J3 and the LEQ12-MN-A mainsail were hoisted while heading out of the harbour at 10:53 and 11:00, respectively, and were the only sails used during the day.

A strong south-westerly prevailed during today’s session, combined with a short-wave pattern, providing great conditions for sailing and lots of difficulties for the recon unit to be able to keep up with the AC40.  

Orient Express Racing Team warmed up for the first forty-five minutes, executing two long upwind-downwind legs, performing a few tacks and gybes, and practicing bear-aways a couple of times. After a five-minute break, the AC40 did two very long upwind-downwind legs, with the focus on boat handling and manoeuvres, doing lots of tacks and gybes. A large percentage counted as fully foiling.

At 13:05 there was a fifteen-minute break in which there were battery substitutions.

Then the team resumed the session switching into racing mode, performing a two-lap upwind-downwind race with a virtual starting line, marks, and boundaries, executing two to three tacks and gybes per leg. On the second downwind, the team nosedived after a gybe and the boat was forced to stop, heading into the wind. At that point, OERT faced some technical difficulties, and decided to end the training to avoid assuming further risks. The source of the problem could not be identified; however, the team was able to head back to the harbour sailing, foiling, with no assistance.

Once close to the breakwater, the AC40 got on the tow to help the boat to stay heading into the wind, while both sails were lowered. OE entered the port on the tow with no sails at 14.15 and docked at 14:20. The boat was craned out twenty minutes later, indicating the end of the day. Sebastian Peri Brusa – Recon on OE Racing Team

On-Water Recon Report – NYYC American Magic: The American Magic Team docked-out at 13.00. At 13.30 America had MC-3 mainsail already hoisted and paired to a one design J3 jib. Magic had the MC-4 mainsail hoisted and paired to a one design J3 jib. The wind was around 12 to 20 knots TWD 220º.  At 13.35 h they both start sailing upwind for short and then bore-away into a fast downwind. They sailed in parallel (10 minutes) to each other even when gybing (4 gybes) until they arrived at the start line for a windward / leeward racecourse that was set by the team before the AC40’s went out sailing.

They stopped for some minutes to make some checks and we could see America tightening the bottom battens of the main sail. From here the sailing session was conducted as follows:

Stint 1 (13:45 to 14:05): Speed test with a long upwind port tack and a long upwind starboard tack. Same test was done on the downwind course for both gybes. From the recon boat we had the feeling that Magic with the MC-4 mainsail was performing better, especially downwind.

Stint 2 (14:05 to 14:35): Training race 1. America cross the line first and gets into the box on starboard tack. Magic comes behind on port tack. They sail downwind, 300 m leeward to the start line and from there they reach to the area from starboard side of the line. After a small fight, it was Magic who managed to take the leeward position and started closest to the pin. After the start America tacks and from here started an upwind with several crosses (3) in between each other. America managed to be first in the top gate rounding but after the first downwind cross Magic regained the lead and held on until the middle of the second upwind, when America had to stop. Magic went back to the start line and waited for America to come back and start the next training race.

Stint 3 (14:35 to 16:20): Training race 2. As in the previous prestart America crossed the line first on starboard tack and Magic came in on port. Just after crossing the line, America gybed and it seemed (we had the focus on Magic at that moment) that she lost the rudder at some point, lost control and came off the foils and then started luffing upwind in slow motion with quite a lot of heel until they capsized. It took almost half an hour to the team to get the boat upright and when they did it was found that the boat was quite full of water and probably some systems were not working properly. They dropped the sails and worked on taking water out of the boat. Unfortunately, this meant the end of the sailing session for today.

Magic sailed back to port together with its chase boat and performed around 4 tacks in her way back. America came back to port towed by the chase boat at very slow speed.

Dock-in was completed at 15:25 for Magic and 16:35 for America.

In Summary: America today foiled for 45 minutes, performed around 27 manoeuvres: 85 % fully foiling and Magic foiled around 60 minutes, performed around 31 manoeuvres: 85 % fully foiling. Both did one speed test upwind / downwind, one prestart and one upwind / downwind course against each other. Jose Piñana AC Recon


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