Alex Carabi / America's Cup

Alex Carabi / America's Cup

Alinghi RedBull, developing and trying different solutions


29/04/2023 - 16:23

It was a long day on the water for the Alinghi Red Bull Racing Team sailors on Tuesday as the easterly ‘Levant’ wind waited until late in the day to fill along the Barcelona shoreline. When it did, the session was electric with BoatZero, the Swiss team’s AC75, flying up and down the waterfront with the Flight Controllers wrestling the boat through manoeuvres desperate to keep the bow from digging in post tack and gybe.

On balance, and in the conditions, they did a terrific job with the manoeuvres getting slicker as the evening neared and the very noticeable low flight, particularly upwind, is perhaps a nod to what we are seeing both down in Auckland with Emirates Team New Zealand in their AC75 and in the LEQ12s of Great Britain and Italy. All the teams are electing to fly lower and lower to create the ‘end-plating’ effect that no doubt looks a no-brainer in the simulation packages but is tremendously difficult to replicate in the real world. Alinghi Red Bull Racing looked ‘on it’ from the start with Maxime Bachelin and Nicholas Charbonnier taking the helm supported by Yves Detrey and Bryan Mettraux (later Lucien Cujean) on Flight Control.

Looking aloft, it was a day for maximum power in the sails. The big J1-2R jib was flying for most of the session and the depth that the trimmers were dropping into the sail shape was notable whilst the mainsail was kept full, with minimum cunningham applied, and only small tweaks on the traveller through the manoeuvres. Once in flight, the trim was stable to keep the power on but on the few occasions that the team dumped the mainsail towards the end of the day with the wind nudging 11 knots, the leech was breaking perfectly all the way to the head. The only trim annoyance was a persistently flapping foot on the jib – something we don’t see often in the AC75 – but with the trimmers putting so much depth in, it’s understandable.

Alex Carabi / America's Cup
Alex Carabi / America's Cup

One thing we know for sure is that the Swiss know how to sail in lighter airs – their record on the Swiss Lakes in the TF35 and GC32 catamaran classes proves as such – and on a day when Barcelona wasn’t playing boisterous with swell, the team had to be patient to get a good training session in. A haze of cloud hung over the city and the easterly airflow ushered in billiard-table flat water that the team used to test through cant sweeps. Windward heel was desired but more often than not, BoatZero was flat upwind to keep the depth in the sails whilst downwind occasional high flight post manoeuvre seemed the best trim option to keep the bow clear and the boat flying.

The cyclors were still at the max in the benign conditions and the arrangement of having them housed just off the centreline looks to be highly efficient. For sure every team in this America’s Cup cycle will have pored over the deck arrangements of BoatZero, Te Rehutai and American Magic’s ‘Patriot’, all AC75s adapted from the 2021 Cup to the new rules.

Alex Carabi / America's Cup
Alex Carabi / America's Cup

The Swiss interpretation looks logical and, on the water, the cyclors are largely anonymous, tucked away in extremely aero positions and far enough forward to create decent communication between helm, flight control, trim and cyclor. It’s a great system that Théry Schir, one of the new breed of powertrain athletes in this America’s Cup and himself a double Olympian in cycling thinks will be improved upon as he said: “Well for sure everyone is involved in designing and developing the boat…it's really cool actually, it's pretty impressive but at the same time once you are on the boat you just focus on what we are doing and you get used to it so it's a pretty different environment that I was used to, but it’s really cool… we are still developing and trying different solutions but for sure we will come up with a very fine tuned system for the race boat.”

BoatZero looked majestic on the water today once in flight in tricky conditions and it was a valuable, long day all round for the Swiss in the light airs. Plenty to work on around full flight through the tacks and gybes but the team will no doubt be looking forward to the arrival of their new second-generation AC75 next year with a full package designed for the conditions.

More to come this week from the Swiss.


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