Alinghi RedBull AC40 nosedive in Barcelona
Alinghi RedBull AC40 nosedive in Barcelona
If there’s one thing we are learning this week from recon units all over the world, it’s that AC40’s in big swell require a huge amount of technique and skill to keep upright and flying fast. Today out in Barcelona with wave heights estimated at around 1.5 metres, Alinghi Red Bull Racing had the AC40 rocking and rolling with a new crew formation onboard, especially downwind, where they wrestled with ride height to keep the foils immersed. They did a brilliant job.
However, it was a curious nosedive on relatively flat water inshore, caught on camera by Alex Carabi on the recon RIB, that will no doubt attract attention. Downwind, suddenly the AC40 gained ride height on its starboard foil, quickly got loose at height, broached to leeward and then the bow dug in at a terrifying angle, stalling the boat completely and how a capsize was avoided is down to the sheer skill of the crew to keep the boat straight as its stern splashed back into the water. Hair raising stuff but just goes to show how ‘on-it’ the sailors have to be at all times.
The virtually bullet-proof AC40, now with its beefed-up bow section, was back in action after a quick stop for 15 minutes to check everything was okay and as the breeze and swell built into the afternoon, it was electric to watch as a short course was thrown in and the Chase Boat acted as a second boat in a training technique that Emirates Team New Zealand used so effectively in training for AC36.
Suddenly the pressure was on, and the new helming combination of Nicolas Charbonnier and Maxime Bachelin responded in fine style, throwing the AC40 around like a dinghy but concentrating on windward heel post tack and keeping power on through the manoeuvres. Downwind seemed harder than upwind especially with the swell directly behind and the AC40 effectively wave-jumping through but with half flight, the ride seemed smooth – high height and they were dicing with losing the foils. A balancing act for sure. Arnaud Psarofaghis in the Chase Boat would have plenty of notes from the day watching on.
After sailing, the recon team caught up with double America’s Cup winner Nils Frei who is such a calming influence on the team and brimming with experience. It’s a rare interview and Nils is happy with how Alinghi Red Bull Racing have progressed in eight short months saying: “Time is flying and we're flying better and better as well so that's good. A lot of things going on, obviously first we learned to sail the AC75 and so we had really good months last year in the Autumn and then now since a couple of weeks or a couple of months already sailing with the first AC40, so yes, it's been really interesting. So many things have happened - the crew has evolved a lot too, we had a lot of crew swaps as well, doing a lot of rotations, so I think it's coming together nicely.”
Talking specifically about the AC40, Nils is impressed saying: “Yeah, it's super important to get going on that boat, it's a nice little toy, it's really fun it's quite easy to handle and you know we are very efficient with the boat sailing out there and I think we are achieving quite a lot of stuff. Pretty much we were going into pre-start drills after a couple of days of sailing so I think we're getting close to two-boat racing and it's good to see that… It’s still early days you know but yeah slowly we're getting the chase boat in playing as another boat, sometimes playing as a boundary and we have a couple of scenarios and angles we're working on.”
With regards the dramatic nosedive, Nils saw it as just another day in the office, saying: “I think overall we learned a lot of things and it was going pretty well and things like a nosedive can happen from time to time. I think it was good technique that we learn out there sailing in different conditions - the targets, heights and heel and all these kind of things you try and every day is a little bit different and I think we're learning everyday so today was definitely one of the of the days we learned a lot.”
The momentum continues to build for Alinghi Red Bull Racing and all round they are performing at a very high level. Impressive to watch.