American Magic offshore in search of swells ©Paul Todd/AMERICA’S CUP
American Magic offshore in search of swells
Any lingering dustiness from the holiday season was well and truly blown away today as American Magic switched its programme to offshore in search of the kind of swells that can be expected in Barcelona. For all the terrific straight line and manoeuvre data gathering that has been collected whilst sailing inshore, giving the Magic design team a marvellous baseline of performance data to work from, the sailors know that flying in off-axis waves is going to be the key determinant to success come the Challenger series in September 2024 just yards off the beachfront in Barcelona.
So offshore it was today and as Andrew Campbell, the highly experienced Flight Controller and stalwart of the American Magic Team commented: “I think that every time we go out there were learning something so it's a big priority for us to go offshore. You know we see Alinghi in the venue doing that and that's a good motivation for us to go out and hack into it, we see Luna Rossa going out and in bigger sea states and we know that we need to be kind of prepared for that and ready for when we get to the Mediterranean.”
With a breeze nudging toward the upper wind range with gusts filtering in offshore at a peak of 16 knots, Patriot was alive and flying today. Long runs combined with short, sharp bursts with the team concentrating on take-off protocols and technique proved to be a productive session that elicited a 100% tack ratio foil-to-foil and a healthy 75% gybing ratio foil-to-foil – notable in the sea state with wave peaks at 3 feet. The recon unit RIB struggled to keep pace upwind with Patriot especially on one long 5 nautical mile leg that briefly saw the boat cross state lines into Alabama waters.
These are valuable days for the Americans and the sense of being on the right path is evident all around the base and translating into on-water performance. Andrew Campbell seemed pleased with the progress: “We've been putting a priority on making sure we sail in conditions that look like Barcelona and I think outside of Pensacola is about as good as we can get so we had a really nice day of sailing finally. For these first sessions of the New Year, the priority is to get outside where the conditions outside today are similar to what we see in Barcelona…it's certainly closer to it outside than it is inside here in Pensacola, but you know we make the most of it regardless of where we're going to sail. Outside here it gives a little more bump and gives that kind of random see state that we think will probably see in Barcelona.”
The demands on Flight Control are intense and for a snapshot into this ever-changing dark art, Campbell gave a great insight saying: “Inside the Bay here, like in Auckland, is kind of a millpond. It's flat generally, pretty easy place to go sailing from a flight control perspective but when the sea state gets added on top of that you're dealing with a whole other animal and when the sea state is like today where it was kind of off centre, off axis it's pretty challenging for anybody doing it - even some of us that have had a couple years of experience doing it - so we're learning it all over again every time we go out.”
A small issue with the port foil briefly halted sailing and we’re seeing constant attention being paid to these crucial controls by all the teams. Campbell explained the situation saying: “These boats get pushed pretty hard and they are performance oriented. They have to be reliable enough to get us around the racetrack in a race but they have to be put to the edge enough that we’re pushing the performance envelope so you know nothing beyond where we would normally see. Basically, the one-design foil arms are a piece that we need to deal with. With fairings on the front half in the back half of the foils and so where those intersect and how those all work together, where the one design piece and where our piece work, that's a constant state of consternation for us and we're always looking for ways to figure that out, finding those intersections, looking at those intersections, making sure everything looks right and looks like we expect them to, that's a high priority for us so no epiphanies on how we're going to make that work yet - we're always looking for good solutions.”
Good solutions and peak performance sailing – American Magic’s relentless sailing and systems development continues. There’s good things happening out in Pensacola.