Luna Rossa's young gun Gradoni: the simulator guys made a really good job

Luna Rossa's young gun Gradoni: the simulator guys made a really good job

Luna Rossa's young gun Gradoni: the simulator guys made a really good job


26/02/2023 - 16:27

An LEQ12 in displacement, in waves, with such a low-freeboard is perhaps one of the most uncomfortable seats in the America’s Cup. Once flying, it’s a different story and you almost wished you had less freeboard and certainly less foresail. These prototypes in marginal flying conditions are tough and wet on the crews, and today out in a sunny Bay of Angels with an almost summer-feel to it (18 degrees), the Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team were pulling all the tricks to get flying in a steadily building breeze that eventually came in at 10-12 knots.

As we’ve seen before, the ‘ballast-man’ move of placing a crewmember to windward pre-flight to get stability before the foils start to bite, was much in evidence today. A trial exercise of having both leeward crewmembers up on the windward side almost induced enough heel for a capsize to windward. Full marks for effort though for the young Italian team who have been handed the keys to the LEQ12 and are certainly not afraid to try new tricks.

To see Marco Gradoni in interview afterwards, is to see the future of Italian sailing at the America’s Cup encapsulated in politeness, honesty, integrity and youthful ambition. The new generation are coming through at such a pace and learning with wide-eyed enthusiasm that it’s infectious to listen to. Talking about the day, Marco was buzzing, saying: “Yeah, today was a really good day because we had a lot of waves, big swell and at the beginning there was a lot of wind and it dropped down a bit, so it was a really, really, good training day for all the team.”

And with the Italians unafraid to innovate and try new things – remember at AC36 they were the team that came up with the dual-helm arrangement that is now ubiquitous in the fleet – Marco said it all when he offered: “Yeah we are trying always different techniques we have a lot of controls, we all can do everything, but we are still trying new things because we are in a development phase where we have to see what is the best thing to do but we will still try to do something different.”

But Marco Gradoni is very much a team player, and when asked to comment on what it was like to take over the LEQ12 when he swapped in for Francesco Bruni in the afternoon with Ruggero Tita on alternate helm, he diplomatically commented: “We had two really good days because it was warm and there was me and Ruggi, there was no Cecco (Francesco Bruni) or Jimmy (Spithill) so we had the LEQ12. But for us we are a team and also when people are missing, we have to do our best and we pushed a lot. We did really good laps, really good manoeuvres so we are happy, but we are a team, and we all want to do our best every day.”

And as an indication of how these young sailors are coming into the apex of foiling with such dynamite skills so quickly, Marco commented on the simulator work that the helms have been putting in, saying: “We’ve spent a lot of hours on the simulator but I can say that five months ago we were like pro-gamers for how many hours we spent on the simulator! But it's normal because these boats are difficult, and we needed to do a lot of simulator as you cannot sail too many hours but you can stay in a room and do a lot of simulator because it's easier. So, it's important - it's an important part of the game.” And to get a feel of what that game looks and feels like, Marco added: “I can say that it's really similar (to sailing), the simulator guys made a really good job, and they provided us with a really good simulator that is the same - you don't have the wind and the water in the face - but it's good yeah.”

From a recon perspective, the starboard wing was photographed today in detail and clearly can be seen an outboard trim flap on the leading edge (forward) of the outer wing. Also pictured in detail were the flaps on alternate sides on the trailing edges of the starboard wing around a centre run-off from the bulb. Today the team had cameras mounted on the foil as the recon unit reported: ‘a GoPro case was mounted onto the inboard starboard wing pointing towards the tip with some red markings on the pressure side for better flow monitoring.” Of further note was a recon shot of the mainsail in the sunlight that revealed very clearly the battening arrangement for the LEQ12 and the flexi ‘boards’ that are evident all the way up their M2 mainsail inside the skins – one for the other teams’ sail analysts to thoroughly digest.

A great session to round off another highly profitable week for Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli. They’ve looked razor sharp on the water and the new kids on the block are giving the established order a run for their money. No sailing now until the 1st March (next Wednesday).

On Water Recon Unit Notes: The LRPP team rolled out their LEQ12 at 8:00am, stepped the mast and craned in 20 minutes later. Considering the latest forecast update, the breeze delayed and dock-out was postponed to 11:00. The shore crew run the usual FCS checks and ‘calibration’ tests employing an aluminium bar near the mast base and below deck, usual sailor checks followed.

Regarding the boat configuration, a GoPro case was mounted onto the inboard starboard wing pointing towards the tip with some red markings on the pressure side for better flow monitoring. Right before docking out, expecting higher pressure during the day, the previously declared mainsail M2-1 was locked in the mast.

Leaving the harbour, the team headed just outside of the Cagliari harbour to fully hoist the main awaiting for the first steady breeze sights to fill in the Bay. Wind conditions looked quite shifty at first with a SE swell of 0.5m 4-5 s period. When finally, the SSW pressure arrived, the jib J1.5-1 was hoisted, and the 4 man crew self-took-off their LEQ12 and sailed for approx. 15 minutes executing some manoeuvres and several warm up bear-aways and heading ups.

While coming up, the prototype heeled strongly to leeward and almost broached out of the water falling onto hull-borne state. A quick break followed, the SSW breeze had increased to 11-13 knots and the team changed to the J2 foresail. In the meantime, the RIB had placed some marks to be rounded and the LEQ12 completed 2 upwind and 2 downwind legs struggling slightly on fully foiling manoeuvres and sailing touch & go through the sea state.

Considering the latter, the Recon Unit RIB struggled to follow the prototype entirely during the sailing session. Around 2pm the breeze shifted to the SE and the towed-up prototype sailed further offshore in the Bay before heading back at the race course completing the sailing session at the leeward mark with a recorded foiling time of approx. 69 minutes, a total of 21 manoeuvres out of which 12 tacks and 9 gybes in addition to some mark rounding manoeuvres. [Michele Melis AC-Recon]

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