America’s Cup: Barcelona’s AC75 Racetrack gets busy

America’s Cup: Barcelona’s AC75 Racetrack gets busy

America’s Cup: Barcelona’s AC75 Racetrack gets busy


22/05/2024 - 13:00

Bagging a place on the Louis Vuitton 37th America’s Cup racecourse off La Barceloneta beachfront is becoming quite a game for the teams all eager to train on a very specific area of water. A bit like those sunbathers that grab a deckchair with a towel early in the morning, it’s becoming a race from dock-out to get your marks in early, lay a course and get flying. Today with just two teams training in Alinghi Red Bull Racing and NYYC American Magic, it very much felt a crowded place. Imagine then what it will be like when all six teams are training in the very near future. Sharp elbows required.

But what a spectacle, the sight of two achingly relevant and cool AC75s flying around in close proximity in relatively flat water with a building afternoon breeze is a portent of the fireworks about to explode in around 90 days’ time. For now, and for all the teams, it’s a case of working the boats up, bedding in the technology and building the technique – plenty of yards of boatspeed left in all of these quirky designs. Long days ahead.

For Alinghi Red Bull Racing it was a day of high efficiency and consistency after they docked-out half an hour after NYYC American Magic and at times, shared the course. The Swiss know they have a superb platform to develop and certainly put the hours in. Today was no exception on another four-and-a-half hour session and in the southerly thermal breeze and relatively flat wave-state running at 0.4-0.6m they looked rock steady in a straight-line. However with a smaller M2-1 mainsail set, paired with the J3 which looked right on the cross-over to the J2, BoatOne looked underpowered through the tacks initially in the early part of the session.

Once the team got into pre-start practice, the goals for the day became evident as the sailors were clearly concentrating on manoeuvres and putting the AC75 into uncomfortable areas to see if they could dig it out. 360’s in the pre-start were an example and the low-range tacks of the earlier session became relevant – how fast can they get the boat back to flight in cross-over conditions when under-canvassed? Pretty good was the answer. One notable, but almost impossible, tight gybe rounding at a leeward gate was caught on camera and perfectly summed up the day. Difficult manoeuvres being demanded by the coaches and the team did well despite the bow-down tendency creeping in, on manoeuvre exits, at times.

Speaking afterwards, Simone Busonero, an Electronics and Control Systems Engineer for Alinghi Red Bull Racing gave his view on the development pathway for the Swiss saying: “We've been working on BoatZero for a long time, it has been our test bench, it has been a really good boat for us because it gave us a lot of days out on the water because of course coming with no previous experience from the last campaign and yes most of the things go to this boat (BoatOne) of course there's some adjustment given the difference in weight for example.”

“I think the big challenge, given that everything has to be pushed to the limit, is that we don't want to compromise any system, any control, but of course we don't want to put everything on the boat, so we need to come up in a short period of time with a lot of compromises and it's not easy to find a good one and to say 'no' to something sometimes...A lot of things going on in the control system in general but I think now the time is getting close to the point where we have to say ‘no’ to some of them, we will say ‘yes’ to other stuff to try to keep on continuing and not to lose focus on the things that we certainly believe are going to be giving us some good advantages on the water.”

Talking about the Starlink communications pad that the recon team spotted on the aft deck a few days ago, Simone commented: “We always try to bring the best of the technologies on the market as much as we can, and that was one of the technologies that we didn't want to miss as it gave us a good reliability on communications so yes we want that, of course, for making the boat connected as much as possible...It (Starling) gives us a good reliability on the connection with the boat all the time.”

Solid and efficient session from Alinghi Red Bull Racing as they continue their time-on-the-water approach and build in the muscle memory on their new platform while building up banks of highly valuable data. Plenty more to come with the team blocking out the next ten days on the recon calendar as potential sailing days.

For NYYC American Magic it was another intense afternoon of sailing, this time with a pure focus on pushing Patriot into pre-start action and then executing single or double laps. Certainly, on the water you can feel the team beginning to turn the screw on this boat and after yesterday’s jib-head failure on the J4, it was the J3 all the way in the 8-12 knot thermal southerly breeze – the workhorse jib of this Cup cycle.

A total of six pre-starts were executed with Patriot coming in from either end of the line and some neat lead-back work done by Tom Slingsby in the starboard pod to kill or gain speed. The comms between Slingsby and his co-helm Paul Goodison feel very attuned with rapid, smooth, hand-overs through the manoeuvres and plenty of trialling of different ride heights with this new, Snoopy decaled, rudder which appears to give the team quite a range of flight heights, and certainly a big increase downwind. Upwind they’re still hunkered into that low, gorgeous squat flight that makes the best use of the aero deck and as usual, the trim was bang on point from Andrew Campbell and Mike Menninger.

A slightly earlier end to the day than was expected as technicians jumped onboard at just after 4pm looking at below-deck systems and the mainsail before calling it and towing back to base. The gremlins continue as the American Magic team push this boat to its limit.

Speaking afterwards, Andrew Campbell, the always affable trim and flight controller summed up how busy Barcelona is getting saying: “We wanted to try and get out there and put our marks down on the race track early and you kind of have to right now, you saw the Swiss are out there kind of alongside at times the racetracks are right on top of each other, so we're all trying to get as much time as we can and on that race track we're going to be seeing in a couple months’ time.”

And commenting on the variety of tech issues that the team are running through at the moment, Andrew answered: “Honestly, we're still putting this boat through its paces, trying to understand her capabilities and understand how the guys onboard are powering it, how the tools are coming to the trimmers, how hard the helmsmen can push. We've got new appendages and all kinds of interesting things going on that we are really just at the early stages of learning about...We push these boats to what we think is the limit every day and just as often we go just beyond it, so it's important to know what the limits are and see them, you know the reality is that these boats are made to go around the track for that 25 or 30 minute race and so when we start to push it over hours and hours and hours of the day yeah we start to see some of those limitations creep in.”

With the Patriot sail programme clearly in constant development, Andrew mused on the goals saying: “Anytime you try to lay a quiver of jibs out you're trying to cover a range of conditions and that's all we're trying to do, we're trying to see how the edges of those ranges go and we want to see whether some jibs can go better above what their expected ranges are if we trim a little tighter and you see the limits of some of those things like yesterday and yeah in every given part of the boat we're trying to push the limit, so you're going to see breakdowns.”

The grind goes on for NYYC American Magic and with another eight potential days of sailing declared on the recon programme, the team will push on. Great to see also on the water today was the Athena Pathway AC40 Women’s & Youth British team who continue their intensive training programme from their new base in Badalona. (Magnus Wheatley)

On-Water Recon Report – NYYC American Magic: American Magic rolled out Patriot at 10:20 and craned in at 10:55. The cameras on the port wing were removed since the previous day, with no other changes to appendages noted. Following standard system checks, the team docked out at 12:30 and hoisted the MN2-1 mainsail and J3-1 jib under the breakwater before setting sail at 13:00.

The team started with a two-lap warmup on the course area without the set marks, ahead of a day of racecourse practice in 8-12kn southerly thermal wind and relatively flat sea state. A 2NM course was set at 180 deg. Six starts were practiced, two port entries and four starboard entries. The first start was a time and distance run (13s late assuming start on :00 GPS time), and the subsequent five starts continued into a mix of one and two laps around the course. A battery change and cyclor team rotation occurred at 15:00, after 90 minutes of active sailing.

The J3 was dropped at 16:20, while technicians on board inspected the main and systems below deck to ascertain whether to continue sailing. The decision was made to end the day and the mainsail was dropped at 16:45 at the leeward end of the racecourse, with Patriot then towed back to base. The team spent just under 5 hours on the water, of which 138 minutes were spent sailing. 92 manoeuvres were observed (highest number on Patriot so far) at an 82% fully foiling rate. Justin Busuttil - AC Recon

On-Water Recon Report – Alinghi Red Bull Racing: The Swiss rolled out their AC75 at 11:00. The boat was craned to the water at 11:25 and the team docked out at 13:00, as planned, after usual routine activities. The M2-1 was selected for the session, combined with the J3-3L. Both sails were hoisted just before heading out of the port at 13:20.

Unstable southerly winds prevailed averaging 10 knots, moving up and down in intensity, but remaining pretty stable in direction. It seemed like the intention of the day was to test the boat’s performance specially while manoeuvring, under the selected sails configuration of smaller sail area than the M1-1 + J3-1 combination, in bottom-range or even out-of-range J3 conditions.

The training started just out of the harbour at 13:30. However, before the first take-off the day, the AC75 was forced to head into the wind and stop, indicating that something was out of order. Immediately after, the technicians got onboard for fifteen minutes. Then the session was resumed.

Some zigzag “S” manoeuvres followed on both tacks, before performing a downwind-upwind warm up. During most of this time, it seemed hard for BoatOne to stay on the foils when tacking, not having “anything extra” on the lulls with the standing sails configuration. At 14:18 there was a second fifteen-minute break in which the hydraulics and electronics engineers got onboard, together with the rigger and boat captain.

The training continued with a downwind-upwind-downwind, focused on the tacks and gybes. Almost a 100% foiling effectiveness was achieved on the downwind change of course manoeuvres, however the story was different on the tacks. It seemed like BoatOne needed some extra power not to end up landing in many of them, and it was not an easy task to be able to re-take-off after landing.

At 15:00 there was a new fifteen-minute break in which a full set of fresh cyclors came onboard to replace the starting four.

At 15:15 the training was resumed. After a short upwind-downwind, BoatOne headed to the racecourse area, where marks had been laid and the pre-starts training got underway. A total of six sequences were accomplished, altering port and starboard tack entries and different movements inside be box. At times going deeper into towards the imaginary virtual boundaries, in some other opportunities staying higher to windward of the windward end of the starting line, and at times practicing complete 360s to burn time when being close to the line.

Performance improved during the day, noticing a better coordination in between change of course, flight controlling and sail trimming, achieving neater boat movements inside the box. Also, the time-distance estimations for the start became more accurate as the day went on.

Out of all the six sequences, only the last one was not abandoned immediately after the start, which continued with a one lap upwind-downwind executing six tacks and four gybes. After rounding the leeward gates, BoatOne continued to sail upwind towards the port.

Sails got lowered at 17:00 just outside the harbour, and the AC75 reached the base on the tow, docking at 17:32. Half an hour later it was craned out of the water indicating the end of the day. Sebastian Peri Brusa – Recon on Alinghi Red Bull Racing.

New entries boost strong fleet at Superyacht Cup Palma 2024 with a month to go
West Coast Ramp Up, Melges 24s head to Nationals, PCCs and Worlds