America's Cup: RB3 takes flight in Barcelona

America's Cup: RB3 takes flight in Barcelona

America's Cup: RB3 takes flight in Barcelona


03/05/2024 - 07:00

Big day for INEOS Britannia as the sailing team took over the programme after countless hours of detailed, relentless design and technical fit-out, led by Sir Ben Ainslie with a midday dock-out and a superb, if shifting, breeze in the range of 8-13 knots. Perfect for the first shake-down of a boat that looks supremely designed with every inch considered to the nth degree.

It was a long day on the water, a precursor for what is surely to come, as the British work up this fascinating platform to what they are hoping is a world-beater. Technical and tweaky, what’s going on downstairs with INEOS Britannia is what the rest of the teams in the Louis Vuitton 37th America’s Cup are all asking as with Mercedes Applied Science on their side, they are sure to be innovating.

Dock-out understandably was delayed as the technicians pored over the data screens and laptops but finally the call was made, and they towed out some seven miles north to just off Badalona where the Athena Pathway team are located and pretty quickly got into their stride. As a first sail, naturally there was caution so it was a stop-start kind of session with the sailing team certainly feeling their way and the tech teams on stand by to assist.

At just after 2pm, after final tech checks, RB3 was released for some displacement sailing checks before the first flight was attained on starboard tack. Some technical issues onboard precluded the team from taking the boat downwind today, so it was series of upwind foiling runs, but first sight and this is a boat that looks very right. Slightly bow-down to begin with, this was quickly corrected by a tweak on the rudder rake and Ben Ainslie and Giles Scott were sending it, loading up the rig and letting the trimmers do the rest. Flight Control could well be something very different on the British boat and possibly carried-out by the aft cyclors with Ben Cornish and Luke Parkinson sat in those seats – two first class foilers - whilst the powerhouses of Neil Hunter and Matt Gotrel are in the pods just behind the helms. Interesting set-up and something to watch.

Speaking about that first flight, Ben Ainslie amplified the sense of caution that the sailors had saying: “I think you end up inevitably with some anxious moments when, you know, 75 foot boat, 6 tons, sheeting on for the first time and making sure that all of the stresses and strains of the boat are okay but we got through that and got up on the foil and we had some good moments and we had a few issues that meant we didn't want to take the boat downwind but we were able to do some good upwind sessions trying to get a feel for the boat and the control of the boat but yeah overall a positive day...It’s hard to explain to people just how complex these boats are and how much effort goes in on the design, engineering, and then of course the boat builders, the shore teams, to get these boats ready to sail and then to operate these boats so yeah I think for our team and I know for all of the other teams you got to give everyone a huge amount of credit.”

The last time Ben sailed an AC75, other than in a simulator was back in early 2021 so when asked about the differences he felt, it was an interesting insight: “The boat felt a lot different to RB2 that's for sure and already you just get a feel for the different area on the foils, take-off speeds, performance, very different boats and of course the systems as well, across the fleet that that's moved on a huge amount so I think the performance we know will be a lot better with these boats and early days but I think it could be a lot of fun to sail.”

Looking at the competition but relating it back to the INEOS Britannia programme, Ben commented: “From what I’ve seen...some teams are already looking pretty stable out there and doing a good job. For us, it's early days, first day of sailing so we've got a few little tweaks we need to make in terms of the systems, how we're setting the boat up, but we can make those. We’ve got to go away, analyse the performance of the boat and we’ll get the boat in the shed, we need to do some good systems checks and structural checks after a day like today and make some of those changes that will give us a bit more stability and confidence to push the boat a bit harder.”

First day of a whole new and very exciting chapter for not only INEOS Britannia but for British sailing. The learning curve on RB3 will be steep over the coming weeks and months but there’s optimism aplenty that this is a programme very much on the right track and with a design that looks potent.

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