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HomeRegattaAmerica's CupSummer Transition Brings Perfect Testing Conditions for America's Cup Teams in Barcelona

Summer Transition Brings Perfect Testing Conditions for America’s Cup Teams in Barcelona

The transition to summer in Barcelona was much in evidence on Saturday with a dynamic weather system moving overhead that brought rain cells and a light, right-shifting, south easterly that slowly relented and brought in some better breeze deep into the afternoon. For Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli and INEOS Britannia, it was a marginal day that was just perfect for testing both boat’s new rudders that they revealed at launch.

For INEOS Britannia, who have been running an AC36 legacy rudder at times over the past few weeks, it was a welcome return for ‘R01’ the first iteration of the AC37 race rudder which featured an upgraded strut profile. On the water, Ben Ainslie and Dylan Fletcher-Scott were quickly into straight-line testing with the Flight Control team of Bleddyn Mon and Leigh McMillan delivering, once again, a very stable and balanced looking Britannia that just bristles with power – particularly under the larger MN1-1 mainsail that is used in the lower ranges.

©Paul Todd/AMERICA’S CUP

Having completed testing out the new rudder, the Chase Boat team dropped in some marks and the sailors were let loose on the course. Fighting a dropping wind, they changed up to the biggest jib – the J1 – for a half hour of training including race laps before the sea-breeze finally filtered in bringing some 12 knot pulses and it was back to the J3 for a final lap of the course.

©Paul Todd/AMERICA’S CUP

At times today, there were brief engagements with Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli and these are always the most watched encounters as everyone eyes everyone else and is looking to gain some kind of intel. Ben Ainslie diplomatically summed it up well saying: “We’ve had a few uncoordinated interactions I think you could say with a few ghost boats out there, and I think it’s quite hard to tell because the wind as we know here is moving around quite a lot, I think everyone has looked relatively strong at different moments. I don’t think you can really say there is one stand-out performer or one team that’s necessarily struggling that’s obvious. Inevitably the different teams are going to have their moments across the different wind and sea-states and it’s just about trying to have a package that in your sweet spot you are really competitive and when you’re not in your sweet spot you’re still in with a shout in the race if you if you start well and sail well.”

Ben spoke about the day and the new rudder, saying: “It was a good day out there it started quite light winds and a few rain cells around and then actually died off a little bit more to 6-7 knots before building in with a gentle afternoon sea-breeze so great conditions in Barcelona really nice actually to see the local racing fleet out doing some competition as well, so plenty of action out on the Bay…The new rudder felt good, we obviously made some modifications to that and that was working well, so big improvement in performance and the balance and feel with the boat so we were happy with those trades…I mean it’s obviously a step up from the legacy rudder, as you can see we made a few adjustments to it down the strut in particular and that’s working nicely so yeah we’ll keep pushing with that rudder.”

©Paul Todd/AMERICA’S CUP

Noticeably Ben looks relaxed, with that ‘look’ in his eyes that he had during his stellar Olympic career but he’s under no illusions that the next few months of development are going to be crucial to the team’s success at the Louis Vuitton 37th America’s Cup. Talking about how the computer simulation is lining up against the on-water performance, Ben commented: “I think the thing about prediction simulation is it’s kind of trying to place itself at the optimum and in somewhat of a perfect world and unfortunately none of us really operate in a perfect world do we, so it’s trying to figure out what the balance is there between trying to reach target and the reality of wind whipping around, sea-state, you name it. So, I think it’s really good to have that target, we’re certainly seeing a lot of improvements in the performance of the boat, which we know all of the competitors are looking for that, but I know we keep banging on about it but that really is the secret over the next 2-3 months is keeping those gains in what we’re doing across the whole range of conditions.”

©Paul Todd/AMERICA’S CUP

A solid and very positive four-hours on the water for the British who are looking better and better with every training session. They are right in this Cup.

For Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, at launch they revealed a longer and more detailed rudder arrangement with the elevator coming off the leading edge and a very pointed aft run off (see pictures) and the afternoon training was designated initially as a commissioning day. Similar to INEOS Britannia, they docked-out in the late morning and went immediately into drills to thoroughly test out the rudder, rotating fast, stalling it to the point of ventilation and getting maximum data for the technicians.

Happy that everything was working as it should, the sailors went into race mode with the Chase Boat playing hard and forcing the sailors into decision-making situations. The Italians do this extremely well and clearly see a benefit. Once again Marco Gradoni was given valuable wheel time on the AC75 rotating with Francesco Bruni in the port pod whilst Jimmy Spithil was ever-present in the starboard helming position.

Afterwards Francesco Bruni spoke about what the team were looking to get out of the day saying: “Obviously the rudder was the big focus of the day, but we were very interested in different techniques in lighter winds. In this period in Barcelona, we always had good breeze, so we were happy to have some marginal conditions and try different techniques and manoeuvres so pretty happy with the day, we are very satisfied.”

The recon team on the water spotted some ventilations and stalls with the new rudder as the team pushed hard. Francesco confirmed as such saying: “We were trying obviously to push the rudder as much as we could, so to rotate the boat fast, and when you try to push it’s quite normal that it lets go and when you do it in light wind you know that is not going to be a big problem so it’s the perfect moment for pushing a foil, so we were not surprised because we were really pushing the rotation hard.”

Talking about the interactions with INEOS Britannia, Francesco played it down, saying: “Well we were just sailing on the racecourse and obviously it’s a busy area they were crossing at times on starboard, we were on port so not very easy to draw any conclusions and also the wind was super-marginal so sometimes we were dropping off the foils and other times they were dropping off the foils so I would say that it was just a busy area today, there was a fleet race of big boats around, so just busy, busy, area.”

A super Saturday for the Italians and British who took the opportunity to get some very valuable down-range testing under their belts as the development pathway continues and the boats and sailors get better and better. Impressive sailing from two teams very much at the top of the game. (Magnus Wheatley)

On-Water Recon Report – INEOS Britannia: INEOS Britannia rolled out their AC75 at 09:25 with the ‘R01’ rudder, after modifications on its strut. At 10:20 it was craned to the water and the team docked out at 11:10, after usual routine activities.

The MN1-1 of larger sail area and wider top section was selected for today’s session, combined with the J2-1 to start. Both sails were hoisted just before heading out of the port at 11:45.

Under cloudy skies with scattered rains, a light and unstable south-easterly dominated the beginning on the day, persistently shifting right and oscillating in intensity; until the south-south-westerly sea breeze finally materialized close to the end of the session.

The training started with three long upwind-downwind legs, mostly sailing on a straight line, possibly with the intention to test the boat balance with the modified rudder, among other objectives. It called our attention how loose the leeward caps and lower shrouds remained all day. We could see the leeward-side spreader flapping consistently forward and backwards pivoting on the mast as a consequence of the slack shrouds.

At 12:55 there was a fifteen-minute break in which there was a first cyclors rotation. Then the session continued with an additional short upwind-downwind.

By 13:35 INEOS Britannia was ready to start the first training race of the day, while marks were still being laid by one of the chase boats. After the start, the stint was continued with a two-lap upwind-downwind, executing three tacks and two gybes per leg, respectively, rounding the same leeward left gate on the two opportunities.

At 13:55 there was a first headsail change in which the J3-1 came up to replace the J2-1. In addition, a batteries replacement was identified.

After a short warm up with the J3-1, it became clear that the sea breeze was not materializing yet, dropping in intensity, and forcing a new jib change, with the J1-1 coming into play.

After a new warm up with the biggest jib, at 15:00 the British team was ready for a new sequence. The AC75 entered the starting line on starboard tack and practiced a final approach coming from deep in the box sailing on a closed-hauled course, starting on the middle of the line. The stint was resumed with a two-lap upwind-downwind, struggling to achieve fully foiling tacks in many opportunities in very light wind conditions.

©Paul Todd/AMERICA’S CUP

By 15:35 the sea breeze finally kicked in and forced another headsail change, with the J3-1 coming back up. In more than 12 knots of breeze INEOS Britannia did a last port entry stint, starting in the middle of the line, right on time, continuing with one upwind-downwind and then heading back to the harbour after rounding the gates.

At 16:15 INEOS Britannia ended the session and proceeded to lower both sails just outside the port. The AC75 entered the harbour on the tow and docked at 16:45. Thirty-five minutes later, it got craned out of the water indicating the end of the day. Sebastian Peri Brusa – Recon on INEOS Britannia

On-Water Recon Report – Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli: The Italian team rolled out their B3 boat at 9:15 with removed camera cases on both wings and with a new rudder mounted, deeper than the legacy one and with different elevator geometry.

The team docked out at 10:50, the breeze was measured 5-7 knots from 65° as the team hoisted mainsail M1-7 + jib J1.5-4. The sea-state was almost flat with light swell combined to chop later in the afternoon. After self-taking-off at 16-17 knots and 85° TWA on port tack, the yacht tacked and suddenly decelerated for a speculative issue, perhaps of electronic nature according to involved personnel.

As it began to rain, the breeze had shifted to 100° with 6.5-8kn and a second self-take-off was observed. From then on, the team focussed on manoeuvring technique beginning with a series of 20 tacks, changing entry/exit angles, board rise speeds, turning rates etc. During the transitions, the traveller seemed to move often within newly added orange stripes marking the main traveller car positions. 

After a bear-away, the focus was switched on the gybing technique before trimming up to decelerate. The breeze had again decreased to 5-7 knots and after an unsuccessful take-off, the J1.5 was lowered to hoist the J1.1-7. Back on foils, the yacht executed some tacks before bearing away to practice some gybes and dropping sequentially the windward board on port tack sailing downwind. 

As the yacht decelerated crew rotations took place: port helm, starboard trimmer, and aft pods cyclors. As usual, batteries were also seen to be exchanged during this break. By then, the breeze had picked up to 8-10kn from 205°, hence the J2-7 was hoisted instead of J1-7. In the meantime, a leeward and windward gate were being set up. The yacht then sailed 2 legs on the course before focussing on starting drills close by the pin on port tack having gained speed in a straight-line, also practiced in the last sailing day.

Once these were executed, a pre-start match was recorded between B3 and the chase boat, with the latter pushing B3 and changing heading to port tack on the gunshot. On the upwind leg, B3 splashed down exiting a tack and the race was abandoned. Unable to take off while the breeze had dropped again to 6.5-8kn, the J2-7 was lowered to rehoist the J1.5-4 for the last part of the day.

Occasionally crossing the British challenger, the team sailed some laps on the course and seemed to focus on the new rudder, finding the ventilation limit on extreme turning angles, recorded by the mounted GoPro camera. On the last extended upwind leg, the team found higher breeze and sailed some fast straight-lines before decelerating at 15:45. The team docked in at 16:15 with approximately 165 minutes foilborne, 48 tacks and 35 gybes were counted. Michele Melis AC Recon.

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