Monday, July 15, 2024
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Barcelona Chop Challenges America’s Cup Contenders with Two-Metre Swells

The famous Barcelona chop roared back onto the racecourse of the Louis Vuitton 37th America’s Cup on Friday with a punchy swell that topped out with waves heights at times up to two metres. These are the conditions that the sailors love, and for the performance coaches it’s a rich vein of advice and technique improvements that they can tap into. Orient Express Racing Team were back out today alongside Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli and the first sighting of the Artemis Swedish Challenge sailing their beautiful AC40 and looking every inch like serious contenders.

Alex Carabi / America’s Cup

For Luna Rossa it was a short day by their standards at just over a couple of hours, called off by the chase boat team as the wave heights became almost too extreme and with weekend sailing planned, it was sensible decision. In these conditions, the Italians do look very comfortable however, with great co-ordination between the rotating helms and flight controllers.

Marco Gradoni was, once again, back on the wheel learning everything he can from Jimmy Spithill and giving Max Sirena the biggest selection headache in this America’s Cup cycle. Gradoni is fast. Super-fast. And every passing session he looks like the coming man. Could he get the nod for the raceboat in the white-hot heat of battle in the Louis Vuitton Cup? That the question on everyone’s lips in the Port Vell.

Alex Carabi / America’s Cup

It was fast and furious today with a big focus on mark roundings and the initial bear-aways with several different iterations of cant angle of the windward board being noted at the windward marks. The sensible option is to partially immerse the windward board to ensure grip but the super-fast option is a straight bear-away with the windward board completely raised – expect this latter option come race time but today was about pushing the boat and finding the limits.

Alex Carabi / America’s Cup

Leeward mark roundings were at best, iffy. The recon team noted a lot of touch & go’s with the boat stalling and then building speed again. The performance analysts and coaches will be all over this tonight in the debriefing session. Marco Gradoni summed up the session, saying: “It went well fortunately we had some waves like one metre it was nice because we were able to be around the course even if it was really short so we’re good…today we were basically trying to go fast in the waves and trying to do different manoeuvres in the waves…we did a couple of not really good (roundings) of course we don’t try to do touch and go and always try to fly but it’s part of the process…basically the waves were starting getting bigger and so we decided to go in and be ready for tomorrow.”

Alex Carabi / America’s Cup

As the only person in history to win three Optimist World Championships in a row, Gradoni has not only transitioned well to the AC75 but is rapidly becoming arguably the hottest property in the America’s Cup world. His philosophy on the AC75 is both intriguing and refreshing:  “Sailing is sailing so all the concepts are pretty similar, but basically the loads and side force and the speeds are completely different so it’s like the extreme of sailing.” And sailing alongside the legends that are Jimmy Spithill and Francesco Bruni he’s clearly learning fast:“I think they’re really focusing all their energies in this so it’s nice and I always have a lot of fun with them and I hope we go fast…I will not say the secrets but they’re really good especially at match-racing.”

Alex Carabi / America’s Cup

Solid session for the Italians, short but sweet with plenty of take-aways. The debrief will be interesting tonight.

Alex Carabi / America’s Cup

Orient Express Racing Team put yesterday’s flight control travails behind them and headed offshore with a clear focus of getting plenty of flight time in a straight-line. Hugely valuable day for the team and a real confidence booster that allowed the Flight Controllers to really start playing with ride height and pitch, changing the orientation with ease and really extracting good data and learnings for the team.

© ©Job Vermeulen/ America’s Cup

Once dialled-in, the decision was taken to head back in closer to the shoreline where the winds were ramping up considerably alongside a vicious swell that just kept on building through the session. The French will take a lot of heart from how they handled the conditions today and understandably with the boat still in a commissioning phase, they are still in a cautious mode, stopping for quite long periods through the day to check everything over. A minor issue in the control boxes was noted with water ingress the likely culprit, but this was all solved on the water.

© ©Job Vermeulen/ America’s Cup

Speaking afterwards, a clearly delighted Kevin Peponnet spoke to the recon team saying: “Really good day, the first swelly day, we had a bit less than one metre wavelength and that was good, the boat reacted pretty well, the foils too, upwind and downwind we are managing to handle pretty well the boat, we pushed also with the attitude of the boat in the waves to see how it reacts, how the front reacts and the rudder and on that part it went pretty well.”

© ©Job Vermeulen/ America’s Cup

Talking about the stops, Kevin re-iterated the cautious approach saying: “So yeah we stopped many, many, times, in the commissioning days we want to check every 30 minutes or every one hour how the boat is reacting and also we had some issues with the controls, we need to clarify this maybe water inside, but we managed to solve the problem and we got back sailing.”

© ©Job Vermeulen/ America’s Cup

Kevin’s background as an engineer as well as one of the world’s top sailors is clearly helping the commissioning process but he was keen to praise the full team saying: “I’m not the only engineer in the sailors…all the sailors are involved in the data, in the engineering part, the performance part, to analyse the data to see how we can improve the boat and all the system so yeah it helps having this background and it helps a lot to analyse it and to sort out some issues…the more we can understand the boat and tooling the sailor feedback, the feeling on the boat, the numbers and the data is really helpful for the data scientists and the performance department.”

© ©Job Vermeulen/ America’s Cup

Good day for Orient Express Racing Team who will be back on the water on Monday whilst Luna Rossa are scheduled to sail on Saturday and may well be joined over the weekend by INEOS Britannia who have blocked out the next few days in the recon schedule. (Magnus Wheatley)

© ©Job Vermeulen/ America’s Cup

On-Water Recon Report – Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli: Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli rolled out their AC75, B3, at 09:20, and craned the yacht in 25 minutes later. Works were carried out at the mast base, before FCS testing began, followed by aero system hydraulics tests with cyclors pedalling. The team docked out at 10:35, with work observed on the mainsheet track, before the Mn0-2 and J4-3 were hoisted. Additional hardware was noted in the main track after dock in.

Sailing commenced just after 11:00 under a building breeze, initially 10-15kn, and growing swell of average 1m, 4s period. The team began free sailing upwind/downwind, while a short 1.5NM course was set. Once the course was set, free laps of the course were sailed, with a focus on mark roundings. Leeward roundings were inconsistent, with a touch down and touch and go roundings noted.

A pre-start was practiced, with the yacht entering on starboard, leading into three laps of the course. Work on the jib track was carried out, before the team continued free laps of the course, practicing tack-and-bear-aways round the windward mark, and gybing around the leeward. A few more of the leeward mark roundings continued to be a bit of a struggle. Different windward foil cant angles were noted in the bear aways, with the foil partially submerged for added grip.

The team sailed a final five-minute upwind stint, before coming to a stop to drop the sails and end the day. The reason for the early ending is unknown, however in the post-sailing interview, Marco Gradoni alluded to the increasing wave height as to the reason for stopping.

The team docked in at 13:15 after just under two hours on the water and 73 minutes of active sailing. 45 manoeuvres were observed, of which two gybes were touch and go. Justin Busuttil – AC Recon

On-Water Recon Report – Orient Express Racing Team: Orient Express Racing Team craned in their AC75 at 08:40 am this morning. Several checks from the onshore team on the aero and flight systems and controls were completed before the dock out at 11:00. A new antenna was seen installed over the housing of the rudder stock.

OERT paired their M2-1 mainsail with a J4 jib at 11.25 inside the harbour and started sailing. A wind of about 11 to 14 knots TWD 210 was blowing at that moment and we could see some nice swell from the south-west of about 1 metre that increased to almost 2 metres as soon as the AC75 started sailing offshore. This was the first time we have seen the AC75 sailing with such waves and with some period in between the peaks.

With easterly winds the wave frequency is smaller, and the boat navigates the waves relatively easy as its length is longer than the distance in between the wave peaks, but with today’s period the boat was really getting in between the waves and skippers and trimmers had to work hard to keep the boat foiling safe and clean.

Today was a very interesting day  for the AC75 commissioning improvement as OERT completed long line ups far out from the shore with this big swell and by the end of the session they came close to the shore where the sea state was much flat (but windier 13-17 knots TWD 210 @14:05) so they could test the boat in really different ranges of wave height and properly test the aero and flight controls with which they have been struggling on the past days.

It was very interesting to watch them today particularly when they were more offshore as we could see them testing the boat with confidence in different heights and searching where the limits are. The boat was looking quite locked-in both on roll and pitch angles (especially on starboard side).

Almost no manoeuvres were done today,  and all the focus was on the straight lines.

They did some regular stops and four of them were quite long. The first one was about 45 minutes, 25 minutes the second one, 15 minutes the third and 75 minutes the forth one in which batteries were swapped and the two front cyclors were also replaced.

Kevin Peponnet (portside helm) was interviewed after the sailing session and when asking about the stops he told us that from one side they were having some issues in the controls (from the portside pod)s and they think that the issue is related to water that came in to the HMIs, and from the other side, as they still in commissioning period, they are trying to stop approximately every 30 minutes for checks.

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