Ugo Fonollá / America's Cup

Ugo Fonollá / America's Cup

Americas Cup: Ineos Britannia called for a mega-early start


28/02/2023 - 15:23

After a weekend off for the sailing team, INEOS Britannia called for a mega-early start on Monday morning to catch a brief weather window before the unusually cold winter closed in again and yet another Mediterranean storm blew in at midday. The shore crew, so often the hardest working people in the America’s Cup, had the team’s AC40 out on the apron just after 7am getting ready for launch. The mercury was struggling above freezing and rain clouds sat resolutely but the AC40 was out of the harbour at 9am for a session that showed just how strong a challenge the British are mounting.

Ben Cornish, the uber reliable test helm who could easily claim a place on the AC75 was installed in the starboard helming pod whilst Giles Scott took his usual port pod position for a session that lasted just over two hours as the team took their AC40 preparations up a level with wind speeds that touched 18 knots at times. Such is the strength in depth of the INEOS Britannia sailing team that even in the heaviest conditions they looked remarkably well-controlled.

Leigh McMillan and Luke Parkinson, two of the very best Flight Controller in the America’s Cup had ‘Athena’ riding low, sensibly, upwind but certainly weren’t afraid to let the helms push through the bear-aways and round-ups, flying high and fast through the manoeuvres. The recon team’s Justin Chisholm recorded that they were ‘revelling in the fresher conditions’ and that was more than accurate. One distinguishing feature of the way that the British sail their AC40 and indeed their test boat T6, is the accuracy of their mainsail trimming and the constant focus on maintaining stability through the gusts. The rig is depowered and powered up highly effectively and, when viewed from astern or off the aft quarter, the relentless fanning of the mainsail via the traveller is quite marked all the way to the head. Impressive control.

Ugo Fonollá / America's Cup

Rob Wilson, the ‘supercoach’ to INEOS Britannia gave a terrific interview after sailing on the dockside saying: “…with the AC40 for us we're still learning it and so it’s kind of taking it up to the next step, taking it up to 20 knots wind speed and just seeing how she behaved so that that was the main plan for today… it's super well-behaved, the guys have got to grips with it pretty quickly and it is being a really useful platform and actually we’re really looking forward to racing it later on this year.”

All the America’s Cup teams are itching to get racing and the recon videos emerging from Auckland of Emirates Team New Zealand conducting thrilling two-boat testing is clearly what the challengers are looking forward to. Speaking about racing in the AC40, Rob Wilson offered: “Yeah, I think it will really depend on the conditions because as we've seen with the guys in New Zealand, when it is windy I wouldn't say they’re that easy to sail, they can be a handful then, and at the bottom end of the scale their performance is pretty impressive in the lighter wind speeds. But yeah, I guess in sort of 10 to 15 knots, the racing’s going to be tight and it's going to be similar to the F50s where you it’s just going to be solid boat handling, being all over the set-up, and just being accurate with your trims.”

On today’s evidence that accuracy is building fast into the INEOS Britannia programme as they finished up with solid foil-to-foil and touch & go combined numbers of 92% on the tacks and 93% on the gybes today. Great numbers over such a short session. The team will be ashore tomorrow waiting for the weather to improve but back at it later in the week.

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