America's Cup, Ineos Britannia hits targets in Palma

America's Cup, Ineos Britannia hits targets in Palma

America's Cup, Ineos Britannia hits targets in Palma

Sport

12/04/2023 - 20:06

INEOS Britannia’s upward trajectory continued today with an entertaining light airs session out on the Bay of Palma that saw the team rifling through an intensive test schedule and looking remarkably comfortable all round on ‘T6’ the ‘silver bullet’ LEQ12 prototype. Flight was stable, manoeuvres were slick, windward heel was induced both upwind and down, and the sailors looked the most assured since the team introduced the W-Foil concept on their starboard foil arm on the 21st March.

With so much to get to grips with in such a short space of time, INEOS Britannia the Challenger of Record for AC37 in Barcelona, showed today (Tuesday) why they are many people’s pick to go deep in the competition come September 2024. It may well have been a data gathering day with plenty of board-drops, round-ups and bear-aways being tested but the sailing was top level stuff with an impressive 94% return of foil-to foil or touch & go manoeuvres. With the newly declared J1 jib up, take-offs were smart with easy pop to flight, and the flight control was remarkably stable with a smidge of windward heel upwind and deep angles at cant downwind.

Sail trim was quick and precise as the team played around with leech controls at the clew of the new jib in flight with the trimmer crawling forward to make adjustments whilst the new mainsail, one of two that was declared on the 23rd March, looked highly responsive to trim with the lower third flattening off beautifully once in flight and the trimmers able to drop depth in for more power pre-take-off.  

The Bay of Palma served up light conditions with the anemometer only briefly registering above 12 knots and very flat water – ideal for testing and data gathering – and a balmy 21 degrees in the afternoon. Ben Ainslie and Giles Scott were helming with Bleddyn Mon and Iain Jensen taking control of flight and trim over an intensive session that lasted some four and a half hours.

Iain Jensen in the starboard pod, controlling the W-Foil, was observed looking over the side frequently, gauging the performance profile of the foil and as he confirmed afterwards was using a visual to hit “target ride height.” The recon team also noted multiple board drops of the starboard foil arm in flight to windward with Jensen watching the immersion with interest at different cant angles. It’s abundantly clear that INEOS Britannia feel that they are onto something very interesting with the foil concept, something they trialled in the 2021 America’s Cup, and are looking better and better on it as the data gathering sessions progress.

Speaking about the test session and his role as flight controller, Iain Jensen, one of the world’s top-rated foiling sailors and gold medallist in the 49er class at the 2012 Olympic Games gave an insight into his crucial role onboard, saying: “You spend a lot of time looking at the foil and maybe looking ahead a little bit to see what's coming ahead of you but a lot of times looking at the foil when you're flying… it was a light day so we put up a new J1 and had a look at that sail and still learning about the new foil a little bit so trying some take-offs and other things like that…in these boats flat conditions make it a lot easier but it's not what you'll get in Barcelona.”

Clearly Barcelona is very much on the minds of the British at the moment and these days are vital in evaluating the concept that they are a way down the road with. Controlling the foil-flaps looks to be the big exercise to hit the performance targets and computational profile that the Mercedes Applied Science team back in Brackley have set. As the sailors play through the performance profile, occasionally we see T6 dropping rapidly from flight, but those instances are getting rarer and stable flight is being recorded more often than not.

Ultimate performance remains an unknown and whether the concept makes it to the team’s AC75 is the huge question. Whatever the outcome may be, INEOS Britannia are pushing the design envelope here and the coming weeks will be fascinating as the sailors get increasingly comfortable with the prototype. The Brits are looking confident, and the on-water performances just keep getting better. More to come this week in beautiful Palma.

 

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