America’s Cup: Barcelona & Cagliari - the leeway battle continues

America’s Cup: Barcelona & Cagliari - the leeway battle continues

America’s Cup: Barcelona & Cagliari - the leeway battle continues


20/07/2023 - 17:19

Talk to the sailors, designers or shore teams in this America’s Cup cycle and the battle for leeway mitigation is real and alive with everyone shifting their attention to foil design, wing variances, bulb size, bulb walls, fences and wing wash. What we’re seeing now in Barcelona and indeed out in Cagliari, is the temperature increasing not only of the land mass of Continental Europe which recorded some sweltering conditions on Wednesday, but in the battle for foil supremacy come the first start of the 37th America’s Cup.

Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli went deep into the foil testing mode today in a red-hot Cagliari, escaping the heat to put in another solid performance that was all muscle, speed and tight turns as they dialled in their anhedral port foil for more testing against the flat-foil ‘Wing 3’ that is their latest iteration on the starboard side. With the boat design largely done in terms of hull form and the builds underway all over the globe at the moment, this concentration on wing dynamics has caught fire.

Horacio Carabelli, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli’s Design Co-Ordinator confirmed the focus saying: “I think we're doing mainly what other teams are doing now, playing a little bit with the foils, and little details here and there and this wing (port anhedral) is also a particular wing that we're looking into. So, it has its good points and strong points so we're coming back into it and you're going to be seeing a little bit of up and down and changing stuff during the following month with everybody now nailing down our last card (Wing 04) and at the end we only have one more card to play but we’re pretty happy with the development and what we are achieving so far.”

Casting his critical eye over the other teams, Horacio sees them all pretty much in the same phase of development as he said: “They're playing a lot with conditions now in Barcelona, it’s quite a tricky venue and we all know it's a lot of waves and you're concentrating a bit on the behaviour of the wings in those conditions which we are looking at as well. Every team is on that and this is the purpose of what we're seeing there on the water, trying to see what's the performance gains of these kinds of foils…And it's not an easy venue, we have been sailing and I think it has been good for us being able to be there, sail a week, and we have these sessions coming back here where we can do mods to our boat and then go back there and sail a bit the AC40 and check a little bit the venue, so in that way I think we're making good progress in our schedule.”

Out on a hazy Bay of Angels, the Luna Rossa LEQ12 prototype looked electric in the 12-14 knot breezes but the team were building muscle-memory with the anhedral port foil with a few early bow digs through the tacks and a notable hobby-horse out of a gybe. It wasn’t all plain sailing but after several long runs, the highly experienced Flight Controllers had their hand-over system or ‘playbook’ nailed and some pre-start practice was well-controlled with good time-on-distance and stalling manoeuvres whilst the trimmers were playing with relatively wide mainsheet traveller angles and again, a very deep camber mainsail at the foot. The Chase Boat photographers were trained on the sails throughout the session looking at the twist to correlate with the helm angles in the debrief session. Interesting session from Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli who are now into the ‘marginal gains’ territory where every detail matters – meanwhile the sailors and their dynamite technique are just sublime to watch.

Back in Barcelona, Alinghi Red Bull Racing were being super intelligent with their two-boat AC40 programme and completed a massive day covering some 96 nautical miles split into six pre-planned stints as the goal was to test the new starboard foil on the LEQ12 moded AC40 against its One-Design sister-ship. The team opted for One-Design sails on both boats to get the most accurate relative data and the full details of each stint are recorded in the recon notes below, but what was abundantly clear was that the new foil was a step-change forward in terms of height and manoeuvrability – especially in close quarters on port tack upwind.

At times tricky to control, as we’ve seen with other teams running new foil designs, the Swiss helms Arnaud Psarofaghis and Lucien Cujean persisted with it and the results were more than positive. Some close calls in the tacking duels between the two boats in Stint 2 sharpened everyone up with Nicolas Charbonnier and Pietro Sibello in the One Design AC40 pushing hard. One of the highlights of the day from a spectator standpoint was on a desperately close upwind with the AC40OD to leeward and ahead, going into a tack to cross on port and the LEQ12 dialling away fast into a sharp nose-dive. No harm done but there’s a sense of the dramatic with these AC40’s when they are driven hard in close quarters and a real taster of what’s to come when all six AC40 yachts line up at the first Preliminary Regatta in Vilanova i La Geltrú in September. Thrilling to watch.

These two-boat sessions are super valuable in terms of boat handling and sharpness and there’s a building expectation that we will see a very decent performance from the Swiss come those first races. All afternoon on this mega session, the boats were handled superbly with both boats dialling in windward heel and executing tacks and gybes with real ease. Very impressive to see the Swiss at full tilt.

Speaking afterwards, Lucien Cujean co-helm on the LEQ12 AC40 today was, quite rightly, giving little away on the new foil but seemed pleased with the day saying: “That was quite a long day for all of us…we tested our second foil on the AC40 and yeah, we had a couple of metrics to execute on the water and pretty happy with what we came up with.”

Asked specifically about the new foil in relation to the recon team’s observations that it certainly countered the leeway and looked to point higher than the AC40 whilst closing the gauge rapidly or able to gap to windward with ease when sailed in a simple high mode, Lucien would only offer (with a smile): “There was some difference yeah.” Great performance from Alinghi Red Bull Racing all round.

America’s Cup: Barcelona & Cagliari - the leeway battle continues
America’s Cup: Barcelona & Cagliari - the leeway battle continues

Emirates Team New Zealand meanwhile went for a late morning dock-out of their AC75 ‘Te Rehutai’ into desperately light conditions that barely registered above 3 knots for a session that, if you took the decals off, you would swear that a couple of International Moth World Champions were leading. As it happens, in the Kiwi numbers are just that in the form of Nathan Outteridge and Pete Burling who were deep into technique sailing, inducing windward heel to keep the power on whilst Blair Tuke and Andy Maloney pumped the traveller for all they were worth to keep ‘Te Rehutai’ flying and fast through the phasing puffs of clocking breeze. Interesting to watch them take-off with the speed build in a low mode but as soon as there’s any grip on the foils, the helms are dialling fast up into the wind to attain that flight and then back on to course. The Kiwis were unafraid to over-sheet the traveller to windward, holding a deep low-down camber on the mainsail whilst over-dropping the mast angle to induce more camber forward. Brilliant technique and some more fantastic detail below on the pumping from the new Recon Team.

Pete Burling came to the interview afterwards and the big take-away is just how much the team are concentrating on developing technique. They’ve done a lot in a variety of conditions in Auckland, but ‘Pistol’ Pete still sees major room for improvement, saying: “We're obviously always trying things and evolving our techniques. You know it's quite hard to do a consistent manoeuvre in that breeze, we’re just trying different things and it's awesome as a group to be able to learn and evolve our techniques to be able to get the boat around the track or up on the foils in light breeze.”

The Emirates Team New Zealand programme has been intensive since the team landed in Barcelona and the learnings from just the first five days will be giving the analysts and designers plenty to think about. Pete was full of positives as he summed up a very light weather session today: “Yeah it was pretty similar to the other day, so we were at the bottom end of the wind strength and we just got enough to foil on the course area which was pretty nice and yeah for us as the team to now have five days sailing in this this little block and see a good range of wind strengths and a bit of what we think we're probably going to end up spending a lot of time in and just trying to get comfortable across the board… I think we would struggle to make it round a racetrack today, it was quite like in and out with the pressure but no it was awesome for us to sail on the racetrack and get a good session in and it's really good data for us.”

America’s Cup: Barcelona & Cagliari - the leeway battle continues
America’s Cup: Barcelona & Cagliari - the leeway battle continues

The next scheduled sailing day for the Kiwis is Tuesday next week. NYYC American Magic didn’t sail today but will be out again this week, so too Alinghi Red Bull Racing. A full-on day in Barcelona that is sweltering in the heatwave at the moment.

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