©Paul Todd / America’s Cup
American Magic's offshore Pensacola foil testing
It was a big day of foil evaluation for New York Yacht Club American Magic offshore from Pensacola Bay as the team brought more new technology to the party on the beautifully sculpted starboard foil in the form of a covering plate high up on their foil arm, similar to what we are seeing (and have seen) with Emirates Team New Zealand on their AC75 ‘Te Rehutai.’ With a long-span foil to control on ‘America’ thoughts turn towards what’s called the ’actuator’ system which controls the trim of the foil flap as an explanation for the new covering. It’s certainly hiding something.
The sailors were keen to put ‘America’ on long runs in chop that measured some 2-4 feet over a rolling swell and made for a tricky day on the recon RIB trying to keep pace with the AC40 as it rocketed off upwind with Tom Slingsby and Paul Goodison unleashing the awesome power of these boats.
Flight was held consistently through the auto-pilot but over-rides could be spotted as the team tested through an agenda of ride height, cant and pitch whilst 1988 Olympian in the Tornado Class and part of the design team of the America’s Cup winning trimaran of 2010, Pete Melvin, watched on from the Chase Boat. Pete is part of the American Magic design team and Andrew Campbell, Flight Controller said in interview afterwards: “Pete is one of our great hull designers here…he was pretty curious to come out and see how the sea state affects these platforms and how this boat looks different from ‘Patriot’…he hasn't seen that comparison yet so getting him on the water…getting all the designers on the water, is good value for us.”
It was a perfect day for testing with a solid 10-13 knots all afternoon that saw ‘America’ up on foil for over 103 minutes in total. Tacks and gybes were slick as usual, but it wasn’t a day for the tally count rather a session to extract huge data with a drone in the sky also looking at sail shape. American Magic are far down the sail control technology route evidenced by a lengthy mainsail hoist initially and a lot of time spent down at the clew box area. The new double-skin mainsail is an LEQ12 declaration and the battening, particularly in the lower third is complex, end-plated at the foot with two rods sticking out back towards the mainsheet and traveller control as we’ve seen with INEOS Britannia in their early ‘T6’ mainsail configuration.
Andrew Campbell, one of the best interviewees in the Cup, gave some great, honest insight into the programme which has another month to run before the team trip over to Barcelona and take charge of their second AC40 on arrival. Talking about the foil development, he commented: “We're just doing a lot of experiments with these foils trying to understand what types of modifications we can be looking at moving forward and it's all part of our appendage exploration here trying to get a feel for what shapes are going to be right long term… these boats are a handful to sail when the sea state is such that the T-sync you know where the foil, the bulb in the water and the bottom of the hull and the waves get bigger than that distance - you can find yourself in trouble pretty quick.”
They certainly didn’t look to be having too much trouble with another blistering performance from the sailors but there’s always improvements and learnings as Andrew commented: “The wave state, the sea state complicates these boats. It makes them more difficult to sail and you end up having to look for some more forgiving settings in the sail plan and the foil plan so trying to get a good handle on how much to compromise to make the boat easier to sail and still be able to get to optimum performance, those kinds of compromises are what we're looking at and deciding about.”
Looking forward to the change in the programme as the team moves en-masse to Barcelona, Andrew offered: “We're excited about how we've gone here and I think we're still kind of opening this can of worms that is the AC40, trying to understand its limitations, understand its strong points and we're looking forward to getting to it on the water when we get to Barcelona, I think what will be a really good step for us.”
American Magic, as arguably the most relatable and certainly the most honest team in this America’s Cup cycle are coming to Europe high on performance and technique with an all-star sailing team that are looking mighty on the water. The coming months will be fascinating.
Could this be the challenge that sees the Cup comes ‘home’ to West 44th Street? Hard to bet against. They look good. Very good.