Alex Carabi / America's Cup
Alinghi, dancing between flight and splash down
Pietro Sibello, Sailing Team Adviser to Alinghi Red Bull Racing, spoke yesterday about how the team could perhaps get a jump on the competition in sheer sailing terms as they acclimatise to the swell in Barcelona. It’s going to be a huge factor in the 37th America’s Cup and today BoatZero was again battling that Barca swell as it reverberated relentlessly off the port walls with the crew dancing on the fine line between flight and splash down.
With a first generation AC75, it’s a tough ask but the learnings from the day were captured by long-time sail designer for the North Sails loft in France, Gautier Sergent, who was onboard today, as he said: “Any sailing day is intense otherwise you don't learn, so the good thing today was that we learned stuff we can't simulate on the computer, its dynamic, what we call ‘off-design-case’ which is great learning for us.”
Taking that learning from a wet, cold, and as Sergent says, “intense” day, and back to the bespoke Alinghi Red Bull Racing North Sails design suite, the same suite that all the teams are using in this America’s Cup cycle, is key. Sergent expanded further saying: “Today was completely ‘off-design-case’ so we'll get the data from today and try and replicate the moments that we saw, so maybe some high loads or something like that, and make sure that we capture that in the software as well and eventually go back in the simulator, so it's a full loop so that design software, design suite, is a key part of what we're doing because anything that happens on the water we have to understand.”
All of the America’s Cup teams are watching Alinghi Red Bull Racing’s training with a close eye. Today gave those teams a real taste of what they can expect. All very well practising on flat water with windward heel in steady breezes but the real learning for everyone is well outside of that comfort zone and hence why we’re seeing teams like American Magic and INEOS Britannia filing miles offshore in recent days to find representative swells and start playing with crucial cant angles, foil and rudder depths and sail shape.
Once again today, it was a super-early start for the hard-working shore team as they rolled BoatZero out of the shed at 7.15am before splashing soon after and then getting to the set-up as the sailors were keen to make the most of the morning breeze that hovered around the 10 knot mark. With the temperature at just four degrees, it certainly wasn’t glamorous but once sailing the Swiss began to find some decent balance with the most comfortable flight appearing to be quite stern down at times to keep the bow clear of the swells as any nose-dip caused a dramatic stalling and a ton of water rolling down into the cockpit.
Noticeable in video was the very real struggle that the flight controllers, thought to be Lucien Cujean and Yves Detrey, were having to stop the boat pitching with such fine margins to play with between perfection and all-off. Multiple runs up and down the coastline covering some 45 nautical miles and all withing a few miles of the shore were tough, but the Swiss stuck at it for a session lasting over five hours – vital time on the water in the easterly flowing confused swell – before calling it a day just before sundown. Long day. Valuable day.
And one interesting final aside from Sergent as he ended the interview being asked whether we would see radical developments this cycle in the sail department. Last cycle we saw the Batwing mainsail on American Magic and Emirates Team New Zealand were an ace ahead of everyone with their concentration on lowering the deck, adding sail area and going boomless, but will there be equally radical innovations at AC37 in Barcelona? Sergent set the tone, saying: “There will be radical things, but I don't know if you’ll see them…”