Ineos Britannia rounded off a milestone week with another sail in ‘Athena
Ineos Britannia rounded off a milestone week with another sail in Athena
INEOS Britannia rounded off a milestone week with yet another superb commissioning sail in ‘Athena,’ the team’s AC40 that was greeted again by flat water and a sub-10 knot breeze out on the Bay of Palma. The team broke out the J2 jib for its first outing and with just enough horsepower to pop to flight in the late afternoon, helmsmen Giles Scott and Dylan Fletcher-Scott, the latter who is officially according to an INEOS Britannia spokesperson: “with us as part of our ongoing sailing team trials as we look to build our squad for AC37,” had the boat on foils for the majority of a session that lasted some three hours.
With Bleddyn Mon and Leigh MacMillan on flight control, it wasn’t long before the auto-pilot was turned off and the ace trimmers started playing with pitch, adopting the bow-up/stern down technique that they were using extensively onboard their LEQ12 prototype T6. Both flight controllers are key interfaces between the sailing team and the analysts back at the Mercedes Applied Science Mission Control centre in Brackley, Northamptonshire and as Bleddyn commented later: “There's kind of all the learning we’re trying to gather from this boat as much as we can for the design team back in Brackley and yeah we will keep chipping away with a few kind of specific tests here and there where we can and then also throw it around a racecourse whenever we can as well.”
It wasn’t all smooth sailing though in this early phase of the boat’s commissioning with the technical team jumping onboard to first sort through a teething, and unspecified, issue early in the session and then what was described as a “small hydraulic leak” curtailed sailing late in the afternoon. Bleddyn Mon though was relaxed saying: “It's a new boat, challenging always to get these boats commissioned, obviously very complex and yeah we had a few teething issues today but we will keep chipping away through them and be out there again soon…we had a small hydraulic leak out there today but the boat’s still floating!”
The early part of sailing saw Athena on relatively long foiling runs with the sailors playing with ride height and pitch, presumably at the behest of the design office who are still looking at critical data points ahead of confirming their design for the team’s AC75 that will be begin building later this year. The end of the session saw the sailors let loose with foiling tacks and gybes where the critical timing appears to be on the foil drops and rises. Most teams are now carrying the old windward board for longer in the water before raising it and the British are very much in this camp. Technique is everything and foiling monohulls are still relatively early in their development cycle – Barcelona will be fascinating in 2024.
When asked about what the team can learn from an Emirates Team New Zealand designed and built boat, Bleddyn gave a good insight into the British team’s strategic thinking saying: “We're kind of looking for anything we can learn from this boat, as you say it’s a Kiwi designed boat so anything we can learn in terms of foil design, sail design, the systems, it's always very interesting and for us as sailors as well it's very interesting to sail a boat that has clearly been designed by the Defenders.”
One thing’s for sure though, the AC40 has proven to be a fabulous plug-and-play boat and is a boat that the sailors are thoroughly enjoying as Mon confirmed saying: “It's been great fun out there sailing it and kind of getting it commissioned here in Palma, it's a nice boat to sail, and looking forward to racing at the end of this year.”
We can’t wait. INEOS Britannia is now on a scheduled maintenance break for the weekend but will be back out in Palma early next week. The programme continues.
On Water Recon Notes: The British team rounded the week off with another short sharp afternoon session sailed in light 7 - 9 knot winds on flat seas in Palma Bay. The same crew for the second day running – helmsmen Giles Scott and Dylan Fletcher with trimmers Leigh McMillan and Bleddyn Mon – opted for the J2 headsail, despite the relatively light winds.
Despite the lack of pressure, the British AC40 didn't need much encouragement to get into flight mode. Just prior to take-off we witnessed a little windward heel which was corrected by a quick jab of 'overtrim' on the main traveller at which point the boat popped out of the water at somewhere around 16 knots. Most of the sailing time was spent on straight line sailing – including some prolonged bow up/stern down intervals, but the final 30 minutes of the day was given over to boat handling manoeuvres such as tacks, gybes, bear aways and round-ups – and a few combinations of all of these.
Some time was lost at the start of the session to fix an unknown technical issue, as well as later in the afternoon when what was retrospectively identified as a small hydraulics leak curtailed the chance of any further sailing at 1600. With a light forecast for the weekend the sailing team now have two days off, with the next possible sailing session scheduled for Monday at the earliest.