America's Cup, ETNZ Te Rehutai's 2nd day sailing
America's Cup, ETNZ Te Rehutai's 2nd day sailing
It was day two on the water in ‘Te Rehutai’ for Emirates Team New Zealand and the elation of yesterday’s re-commissioning was quickly replaced by an air of down-to-business all around the squad. This is no vanity trip or romantic relaunch of an America’s Cup classic, it’s a cold, hard, data-gathering and systems checking exercise platform with much expected from the sailing team and the platform in the coming weeks and months as the Defenders seek to fine-tune their thinking and design ahead of the final sign-off of their new-build AC75 for Barcelona 2024.
These are critical days and immediately on a typical Auckland summer day with light south-westerly breezes being replaced by a north-easterly, the team were into the checklist, going through the cant angles and testing the new unseen mainsail controls within the double-skin that have seemingly translated so well from their LEQ12 prototype sail plan. Mainsail trim was crisp all the way up the leech with the head of the sail co-ordinating well with the top two thirds and correlating to the minute traveller adjustments and trim of the lower third. The mainsail looked as one. Powerful when required, consistent on the dumps. Emirates Team New Zealand are certainly on to something here.
Boat trim upwind was the glorious windward heel so favoured by foiling dinghies but graceful when executed on an AC75 and the Flight Controllers were finding powerful low flight as ‘Te Rehutai’ thundered up the work. The Kiwis exuded power and precision through the 22 tacks and gybes and as an indication of how significant the changes to the design and all up weight of ‘Te Rehutai’ are having on the handling of the boat, she was able to self-take-off in just 8 knots of breeze with a J3 jib on late in the afternoon. Whether that could have been achievable ahead of AC36 in 2021 is debateable and probably unachievable. The America’s Cup design rule has taken a massive step forward and when we start to see the new boats in 2024, we may well look back at the first generation with different eyes.
Blair Tuke, the Flight Controller par excellence and with vast experience across the foiling classes was pleased with how the second day of commissioning panned out saying: “Yeah good day I think we must have had a couple of hours on the water, got through a couple of different jibs and all in all, good day, big steps forward in just two days for us, so real good.”
Asked about the rapid take-offs in the light conditions, Blair played it cool saying: “I think we were a bit rusty sailing it than when we were back over two years ago, but it certainly felt like it was going pretty good. It will be good to get back and have a look at the numbers and how it was going through the manoeuvres and take-off. I thought all in all, obviously lot of new people on board, still people jumping on today that never been on any big foiling boat like that, the cyclors did well, Nathan's going real nice, so yeah pretty happy with where we’re at.”
As an ‘old hand’ now in the foiling America’s Cup world, Blair as a two-time winner is still enthused by the raw power of the boats saying: “Yeah it’s really impressive even for us that have done it before, just how efficient these boats are when you get up ripping, especially upwind they go real fast so it’s been awesome to get back into there and feel the power of the boat but obviously a lot of the testing list we’re trying to tick through so yeah pretty important time for us in the next wee while.”
Fine margins tend to win the America’s Cup in aggregation and the Kiwi design programme is a holistic affair looking at every aspect of the boat’s performance. Interesting comment from Blair on this as he said: “I think in general in this campaign there will be smaller differences between all the teams, so a lot of changes probably will be harder to see. I think that's a bit of a trend being harder to see, but we’re going well so very happy with day two.”
One confusing thing for the recon programme following Emirates Team New Zealand is trying to distinguish the crews, not helped by the sharing of named lifejackets and as Blair broke a wide smile and chuckled: “you probably don’t know who’s who, I think there’s three Tukes, maybe a couple of Burlings…” and that’s a thought enough to scare any hopeful America’s Cup team!
The Te Rehutai programme could well continue into the weekend with a decent forecast for Auckland over the coming days and the team are keen now to maximise the time they have to work through the systems and fine-tune the techniques that will define the 37th America’s Cup Match in October 2024. Watch this space.
Recon Unit Notes: Te Ruhutai had a late start today due to light breeze, rolling out of the shed at 13.02 and being rigged and in the pen at 13.45. At 14.20 she was towed from her berth and out to just off the old tank farm in the middle of the harbour.
As the main was still being hoisted, the #2 jib was plugged in and hoisted as soon as the team were happy with the main. She was now towed up onto her foils and brought down just past mechanics bay where she dropped the tow and sailed out towards north head tacking underneath it and dropping off her foils. In the light airs she managed to get back up foiling just before Devonport Wharf where she gybed and came off her foils again, due mainly to very light air.
She now built speed and climbed back onto her foils unassisted along the Okahu Bay waterfront, hardened up and headed out to the Rangitoto channel. She stopped here at 15.13 with some technical people seen on deck opening access hatches and spending about 8 minutes down below.
At 15.39 she was off the chase boat and building speed again. We had one downwind on the #2 with 3 gybes and then Te Ruhutai stopped to change her head sail from #2 to #3, a far more involved process than the AC40 with two winches being passed across to facilitate the change. At 16.27 the chase boat was dropped, and the yacht headed on another short windward leg before turning for home around a buoy before stopping to drop sails off Rangitoto’s Salt Works coast. She was back alongside the dock at 17.35.
The boat looked far more stable and smooth than yesterday with far more progressive sail control compared to yesterday.