Thursday, July 18, 2024
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InicioRegattaAmerica's CupInnovations and Predictions for the 37th America's Cup

Innovations and Predictions for the 37th America’s Cup

With the shared recon programme coming to an end on Saturday 22nd June, we now enter a ‘dark’ period of reconnaissance for the Louis Vuitton 37th America’s Cup where the teams will look to bring on the innovations, the technology and the break-throughs that will ultimately determine their campaign’s fate. Only one team can win, there really is no second in the America’s Cup but there are clear pointers as to who should perform well and what we can expect when racing starts at the third Preliminary Regatta at the end of August ahead of the Louis Vuitton Cup starting in earnest in September.

Ivo Rovira / America’s Cup

Here we review each team’s campaign progress and look at the positives and negatives of their assault on the world’s premier sailing trophy:

Emirates Team New Zealand:

Stats:

  • B2 – 54 days
  • B3 – 14 days.
  • AC40 – 90+ *includes all days where any AC40 was in LEQ12 mode or sailing as a pair. 


Speak to any of the team bosses up and down the Port Vell, and indeed any of the sailors, and pretty much all of them will say that Emirates Team New Zealand have set the standards both on and off the water to date in this Cup cycle. As a team they stayed busy from the outset with a successful Land Speed record set by Glenn Ashby in Australia and then the launch of the world’s first AC40 at the end of September 2022. Seeing what was happening elsewhere, particularly in the American and Swiss camps, the team took the decision to re-purpose and re-model their Cup winning boat from AC36 to start testing componentry at scale in Auckland in early 2023 and this was a key decision. Taking the AC75 to Barcelona for the European summer gave everyone focus and shoreside, the team have been the model of efficiency.

© Hamish Hooper / Emirates Team Ne

Hiring Nathan Outteridge to partner with Peter Burling on helming duties has been a huge positive for the team and the trim team of Blair Tuke and Andy Maloney have been consistent through both of the Preliminary Regattas in the AC40 where they won in Jeddah and finished runner up in Vilanova i La Geltrú by one point. The closeness of those regattas has shown that this Cup cycle is by far a foregone conclusion with notably the Italians and Americans snapping at their heels.

© Ivo Rovira / America’s Cup

The launch of the team’s new AC75 in May 2024, however, was breathtaking, with the team launching, tow-testing and sailing for the first time all in the space of a few hours. That shows the depth in the team and the innovative under-deck mainsheet system connected to the mast rotation and handling the double-skinned mainsails independently indicates that the Kiwis are right on this, design-wise.

Emirates Team New Zealand

The big unknown is the foil package on ‘Taihoro’ and for sure, now that the boat is in Barcelona, that will be the number one most photographed item by the team’s reconnaissance personnel. The Kiwis expected to be sailing on or before the 1st July after a three-week journey up from Auckland, and managed to get out on the 29th of June for a shakedown between storm systems. It will be hard to bet against the team that has experience all over and a detailed plan for their defence of the Louis Vuitton 37th America’s Cup.

Job Vermeulen / Emirates Team New Zealand

INEOS Britannia – Challenger of Record

Stats:

  • B3 – 30 days
  • LEQ12 – 84 days
  • AC40 – 40+ *includes all days where any AC40 was in LEQ12 mode or sailing as a pair. 


The British are putting up a mighty challenge for the Louis Vuitton 37th America’s Cup, executing a vision of the combined INEOS Sports Group in its purest form and drawing in complementary talent from the many sports that Sir Jim Ratcliffe, Founder of INEOS, supports. Perhaps most notable is the involvement of the Mercedes Applied Science division of the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team who have brought deep-technology and method to the whole design process. Martin Fischer, formerly of Luna Rossa, came onboard early and Sir Ben Ainslie selected trusted and experienced talent for the sailing team. Giles Scott, double Olympic Gold Medallist, will co-pilot with Ben whilst the pool of Trim and Flight Control talent is world class. The campaign though, hasn’t been without its teething troubles.

©Paul Todd/AMERICA’S CUP

The team built a highly technical bespoke LEQ12, launched in October 2022, and had an original intention to install a tow-mast for early testing that was ruled illegal and then the team suffered a near-sinking and battery fire onboard that almost ended the testing schedule. Further issues included a dramatic rudder failure in summer 2023 and another battery fire onboard the team’s AC40 that caused extensive damage. However, the positives far outweighed the negatives and the team’s ‘fail fast and move on swiftly’ approach has been rewarded with a truly outstanding design of their AC75 that was revealed in May 2023.

©Paul Todd/AMERICA’S CUP

Looking remarkably different to all of the other AC75’s ‘Britannia’ launched with a very different skeg profile, an angular hull form bristling with aero features and plenty of innovation aloft with fixed rod halyards for even loading. In bursts we’ve seen devastating and eye-opening performance from the platform and the great unknown is just how far they can develop with the team still running pitot tubes off their foils and large cameras. The suspicion is an element of ‘sand-bagging’ and we really won’t know the answers until everything is set in stone and the first line-up happens in the Louis Vuitton Cup. British fans have every right to be excited about this challenge.

©Paul Todd/AMERICA’S CUP

Alinghi Red Bull Racing 

Stats:

  • BoatZero – 124 days – Started July 2022
  • BoatOne – 34 days
  • AC40 – 100+ *includes all days where any AC40 was in LEQ12 mode or sailing as a pair. 

The very first team to start sailing in this Louis Vuitton 37th America’s Cup cycle, the Swiss have been undoubtedly the most exciting and engaging to watch as Ernesto Bertarelli, the team’s founder, invested heavily in Swiss youth in an attempt to win his third America’s Cup. Buying Emirates Team New Zealand’s first generation AC75 ‘Te Aihe’ allowed valuable on-water time as the team attempted to bridge the skill gap to the established teams having not competed in AC36 in Auckland.

Alex Carabi / America’s Cup

It was a baptism of fire, and the learning curve trajectory has been almost vertical for all the team. Bertarelli appointed Marcelino Botin, formerly of NYYC American Magic, as lead designer and the deep-involvement of the entire Red Bull sporting franchise, including crucially the involvement of the Red Bull Formula 1 team gave the Swiss plenty of firepower in terms of design and also marketing and branding. After an early set-back when the AC75 was caught in an Autumnal mistral, the team have shown remarkable unity steadily upgrading BoatZero with a self-tacking jib before introducing in-board cyclor pods and changing the deck layout considerably. Long days on the water and a relentless drive for improvement saw Alinghi Red Bull Racing easily clock up the most sailing time and the team seem very settled with Arnaud Psarofaghis being the starboard helm and combining well with Maxime Bachelin. Bryan Mettraux and Yves Detrey have been the stalwart Trim/Flight Control team whilst Nicolas Charbonnier and Nicolas Rolaz are pushing hard for a place on the final team.

© Ricardo Pinto / America’s Cup

Early showings at the Preliminary Regattas in the AC40s were positive with plenty of technique take-aways. After the second Preliminary Regatta in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the team elected to keep a base in the Obhur Creek and conducted some thrilling two-boat winter race practice with the hugely experienced Dean Barker and Phil Robertson coming in to put maximum pressure on Psarofaghis and Bachelin who passed the test well. The Swiss were the first to reveal their AC75 in April 2023 and what emerged was an eye-catching design featuring cut-away pods aft and an innovative keel line up forward with what look like ‘Venturi’ bumps on the bow to promote air-flow into the jib and down the aero deck.

On the water, the team have pushed ‘BoatOne’ hard and again easily top the on-water sailing time, however a catastrophic mast failure in June 2023 and subsequent superficial damage to the deck was undoubtedly a set-back. The team were quick to bounce-back however and re-set the old mast to continue training and the one highly notable factor on the water, is the manoeuvrability of BoatOne. In pre-start action against the far nimbler AC40, time and again we saw very tight circles and quick acceleration and this could be a key match-race winner when racing for the Louis Vuitton Cup starts. One to watch for sure.

Ivo Rovira / America’s Cup

NYYC American Magic   

Stats:

  • Patriot 1 – 113 Days
  • Patriot 2 – 25 days
  • AC40 – 200+ *includes all days where any AC40 was in LEQ12 mode or sailing as a pair. 

Rolling on from AC36 where the team suffered a catastrophic capsize that effectively ended their campaign, NYYC American Magic have left no stone unturned in their quest to win back the America’s Cup for the New York Yacht Club who held it, famously, for 132 years. This is an impressive challenge and the signing of Tom Slingsby in November 2022 to partner with Paul Goodison on co-pilot duties was an early marker of intent. 

©Paul Todd/AMERICA’S CUP

Pensacola, Florida was the chosen team base, and the sailors immediately launched their warhorse of AC36 ‘Patriot’ to begin testing at full pace in October 2022.The schedule was relentless over 113 days, and Patriot proved to be a brilliant test-bed for a whole series of innovations and the tie-up with cycling equipment manufacturer SRAM gave the team a real focus on power delivery. Hugely impressive performances, particularly in the strong winds and swell that the coaching team sought whenever they could, got everyone quickly up to race pace before the team’s first AC40 arrived in March 2023 and the pace of testing went up again before shipping Patriot and the AC40 over to Barcelona and settling into their new base ahead of their second AC40 being delivered.

Ugo Fonollá / America’s Cup

Super intensive two-boat race practice through the winter ensued as work was completed on the team’s new AC75 in Portsmouth, Rhode Island with Terry Hutchinson, Skipper and President of Sailing Operations, racking up the air miles to oversee the new build. The first Patriot continued to sail in Barcelona with a real focus on system development which could be transferred straight over to the new Patriot, and this was a valuable time for the team. When the Antonov Cargo plane delivered the new Patriot, immediately we saw a radical scow-bow approach, radically reducing the frontal drag of the yacht and then recumbent cyclors seated slightly in-board plus side-by-side helm and trimmer pods.

Ugo Fonollá / America’s Cup

Straight off the bat, Patriot looked fast, and the team worked through the commissioning phase quickly, eager to hook up, unofficially of course, with anyone else out on the Barcelona waterfront. Take-aways have been hugely positive and the team are settled and happy, particularly after scoring the first Preliminary Regatta win at Vilanova i La Geltrú in September 2023. Michael Menninger and Andrew Campbell have emerged as the stand-out Trim and Flight Control team but this is a team with real depth to call on with Lucas Calabrese and Riley Gibbs able to step-on immediately. Foil evaluation has been extensive and all round NYYC American Magic have few weaknesses and are expected to go deep in the competition.      

Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli

Stats:

  • AC40 – 10+ *includes all days where any AC40 was in LEQ12 mode or sailing as a pair. 
  • LEQ12 – 128 days
  • B3 – 32 days

The beaten finalists from AC36 have come back even stronger for the Louis Vuitton 37th America’s Cup and amongst the Challenger syndicates are very much viewed as the team to beat. Their training programme in Cagliari was exemplary, with the team building a prototype LEQ12 and working it hard through multiple foil and control system iterations over some 128 days of on-water sailing.

© Ivo Rovira / America’s Cup

By the end of the training in early 2024, the LEQ12 was showing extraordinary speeds but the big take-away was in the boat-handling with the team seemingly able to push it hard in any conditions. The interesting part of the Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli campaign has been in personnel and the team have recruited well. Jimmy Spithill and Francesco Bruni return as co-helms but are being pushed hard by the outstandingly talented Marco Gradoni and Nacra 17 Olympic Gold Medallist Ruggero Tita, who are almost certainly the long-term partnership for Italian participation in the America’s Cup. A three-man trim/flight control team of Umberto Molineris, Vittorio Bissaro and Andrea Tesei have pushed each other to incredible levels and Max Sirena, the Team Director, has managed the rotations well and kept a happy team totally focussed on going one better.

© Ivo Rovira / America’s Cup

The LEQ12 dominated the build-up but ahead of the Jeddah Preliminary Regatta in AC40s, Gradoni and Tita were installed as helms and pushed Emirates Team New Zealand all the way to the final and looked the faster boat at times. In May 2023, Luna Rossa unveiled their new AC75 in Cagliari with its eye-catching all-silver livery and detail aplenty with a very aero deck, standard cyclor pods and trimmers forward of the helmsmen sat behind neat windshields.

© Job Vermeulen © America’s Cup

Luna Rossa’s sail plan was unveiled with a naked carbon lay-up giving a silver effect and looks to be a very effective package with minimum speed wrinkles. On the water, the team worked quickly through the commissioning period in Cagliari and Barcelona, putting in long hours on the water and proving to be a very quick package particularly out of manoeuvres where they accelerate to speed remarkably quickly.

Ivo Rovira / America’s Cup

The foil package looks like a step-on from what we saw the team trial on their LEQ12 with forward surface breakers and fences on the foil arm and the now relatively standard skinny, pointed bulbs with foil arms hanging off the back of the bulbs. Plenty of attention is being paid to the rudder profile and the coming months will see this refined further. All in all, Luna Rossa looks the complete package both on and off the water with massive talent and experience all around. Can they do it this time? The bookies favourite amongst the Challengers for sure.

Orient Express Racing Team

Stats:

  • AC40 – 10+ *includes all days where any AC40 was in LEQ12 mode or sailing as a pair. 
  • B1 – 9 days

The final syndicate to challenge, Orient Express Racing Team are in full catch-up mode with the more established teams but have several factors in their favour meaning they could easily spring a surprise come race time.

© Ian Roman / America’s Cup

Indeed, the French caused quite a stir when they won the very first race at the Vilanova i La Geltrú Preliminary Regatta back in September 2023 in the AC40s. Since then, the team have worked hard on both their simulator training and getting valuable time in the AC40, as well as international racing for the team. Quentin Delapierre spearheads the team on the water and brought in long-time sailing colleague Kevin Peponnet as co-helm whilst the trim/flight control positions have remained constant with Jason Saunders and Mathieu Vandame brought in.

The focus for the team has very much been delivering a reliable AC75 and in order to keep costs low and design time short, they opted to buy a design package from Emirates Team New Zealand which looks to the naked eye an exact copy of the Defender’s ‘Taihoro’ with many of the same features in terms of mainsheet control and jib track profile. Built at the famous Multiplast facility in Vannes, the yacht was fitted-out at the team base in Barcelona ahead of launch at the end of May 2024 and the subsequent commissioning period which, at the time of writing, is still ongoing. Early signs though are promising and every day on the water, the team are able to push a little harder and build confidence in the platform despite running an asymmetric foil profile from launch with an Emirates Team New Zealand legacy foil on the port side. The new foil will be delivered shortly and it is expected that the team’s overall performance profile in the unique Barcelona swells will improve dramatically.

Alex Carabi / America’s Cup

Teething issues such as hydraulic valves spilling oil and control issues in the steering will be easily ironed out and the French are expected to be up to speed with a competitive package by the time racing starts at the third Preliminary Regatta at the end of August. With time being the enemy for all teams in the Louis Vuitton 37th America’s Cup, the French know they have a mountain to climb if they are to be successful but with the likes of Franck Cammas in the team and the vision of Bruno Dubois and Stephan Kandler at the helm of the syndicate plus support from the highest echelons of French society, this is a team that could well surprise and could well be the story of the regatta winning hearts and minds along the way as well as inspiring a sailing-mad French nation.    

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