©Paul Todd/America’s Cup
American Magic, breeze on in Pensacola
The huge star-spangled banner was fully extended from the crane at the New York Yacht Club American Magic team base offering a fairly decent clue as to the wind strength out on Pensacola Bay. But, keen to get time in all conditions, the sailors stayed inshore for the flat water and were up and rocketing in double-quick time. Impressive to watch, American Magic was hitting speeds in the low 40 knot region downwind but there’s something about the way they sail, the sheer technique, that oozes class and control. You never really see the Americans ragged. They did this in ‘Patriot’ too and it’s the vast well of experience that they are drawing on that makes them such a thrilling force in this America’s Cup cycle.
Tom Slingsby and Paul Goodison looked utterly in control whilst Lucas Calabrese and Michael Menninger had the flight control nailed. Did we see windward heel upwind? – Why yes of course we did, it’s the American Magic trademark and they even sneaked a little bit in downwind. Fabulous sailing and the recon team even got a wave from Paul Goodison as the AC40 thundered past the RIB. Confidence seeps out of every pore in this team, and they are a delight to observe.
The day however came to an end after just one run – albeit a 31-minute run – as a big nosedive was caused by a rudder elevator issue and, if truth be told, it was a disappointment as the sailors were clearly having a ball as the breeze built into the upper bracket of 18-23 knots just after midday. For the record, and it’s worth mentioning here: five tacks and one gybe were completed with a 100% foil-to-foil success rate, underlining the skill on display.
Lucas Calabrese, undoubtedly one of the very best flight controllers and trimmers in world sailing at the moment, offered a brilliant and open interview afterwards, clearly buzzing from the short session saying: “Yeah it was a nice breeze, around 16 to 20 knots from the north-northwest, it was really nice on the Bay and certainly pushing that little bit more closer to the limits, a little short with some issues with the rudder but good to be out there in the breeze.” Speaking specifically about his role and the unique demands on the flight controllers, Lucas said: “Well obviously trying to keep the heel constant is what you're trying to do as a trimmer and obviously being that puffy and shifty doesn't make the job easy but it’s really good training and you know even though it's considered kind of flat water in the Bay, it was still pretty challenging to get boat in the right spot.”
Days like today offer very sharp learnings and Lucas was clear about the value saying: “Plenty honestly it was the first time that we went out with this breeze so a lot of it is part of the crew training, learning the boat and learning how the boat feels in different cant angles and heel angles. We can also learn a little about the sails and how to get those set up the best for this condition so there's plenty to learn.”
Asked about the team’s second AC40, when it will be delivered and what the team will work on as they take one boat into LEQ12 mode, Lucas said: “The latest I know is going to meet us in Barcelona in the early summer…and we want to test a bunch of stuff like wings and probably mainsails and jibs and stuff like that so everything is going to have a little check but those are the ones that will be most noticeable.”
A short but valuable afternoon on Pensacola Bay. The team programme continues this week.