America’s Cup: immaculate but different test conditions in sunny Barcelona

America’s Cup: immaculate but different test conditions in sunny Barcelona

America’s Cup: immaculate but different test conditions in sunny Barcelona


31/05/2024 - 07:15

Tonight in Barcelona the technicians and analysts of INEOS Britannia, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli and Alinghi Red Bull Racing will be having a field day running through perhaps one of the most valuable days for data - the liquid gold of the Louis Vuitton 37th America’s Cup. A Garbi breeze of around 10-14 knots greeted the teams through the late morning and into the early afternoon but it was a false promise and steadily, ever so gradually, lessened and weakened as the afternoon wore on.

So this was always going to be a day for technique and cross-overs and if any doubt lingered as to the inherent skill levels of all the teams on the water, they were thoroughly dispelled with some superb displays of boat-handling, accentuated as the breeze drooped off. For the first part of the afternoon however, it was all-on with line-ups and crosses aplenty – everyone eyeing everyone.

First out on the water at 10.30am was Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli who put on a truly remarkable display of power and just looked sublime with the wind gusting 14 knots and the team looking so comfortable on the now symmetrical foils. It was almost like they were sailing their LEQ12 back in Cagliari, such was the comfort and ease with which they were executing manoeuvres and pre-starts. Marco Gradoni swapped in for some valuable helming time on the AC75 – something they are admirably keen to encourage at Luna Rossa – replacing Francesco Bruni in the port pod and still, the consistency remained.

Marco was staying tight-lipped about his future in interview afterwards, with many thinking that this young sensation could well secure a place on the raceboat come the Louis Vuitton Cup: “To be fair, we don't know yet. So, we will chat with the with the boss and we will see...” That ‘boss’ is Max Sirena and he has some big calls to make in the coming weeks.

A five-hour session of intense action on the water for the Italians who happened to enjoy a brief line-up and a couple of interesting crosses when INEOS Britannia strayed onto their course with Marco diplomatically saying: “Yeah, they were not like organised line-ups, but we engaged a bit and we're feeling good...I think they were good. But we focused on ourselves.” Marco went on to sum up the day saying: “Today and the other past days are really nice. Like this sea breeze is something that we were not used to seeing last year...Let's hope we will have this window during the important days.”

In the later afternoon conditions, one team really stands-out and that’s the ‘relentless’ Swiss team of Alinghi Red Bull Racing. No stranger to light winds on the lakes in Switzerland, the patience and care that the sailors exude is something other-worldly. BoatOne looked light and nimble, dipping her bow onto the flat calm surface and using that exaggerated chine on the keel line to great effect – it almost looks like the preferred mode is bow down to encourage surface breeze to cascade over the sculptured, smooth bow rails and into the jib.

Worth noting their mode today apart from being quite ‘bow-down’ throughout session, they were really standing solid on low canted foils both upwind and downwind and with their foil profile could hold flight through complex manoeuvres. Impressive to watch and at times on the gybes downwind you could see the Flight Controllers just giving the bow a little raise three quarters of the way through to keep the nose out and deliver a high exit speed.

Yves Detrey, one of the key Flight Controllers onboard ‘BoatOne’ summed up the day saying: “Another good day here in Barcelona, it was nice, a little bit of changing condition. We went out there and it was quite breezy and it dropped basically to nothing so it was a good training day.”

Speaking overall about where Alinghi Red Bull Racing are, Yves – always the most honest and astute of America’s Cup sailors, said: “I think we’re doing all right, we have quite a lot of sailing days, you know we’re quite happy technically, we don't have a lot of breakdowns and stops, we can keep sailing and keep learning, so I think you know as a team we are happy with the learning we do so far.”

Another team that is impressing both in terms of technique and outright speed is the rapid INEOS Britannia whose design team have delivered an absolute weapon of a boat that would have the likes of the late, great yacht designer Olin Stephens saying “If she looks right, she is right.” Interestingly where INEOS Britannia has gone in terms of jib head design, the others appear to be following with the pointed triangle replacing the gaff at the head on more than one other team.

The full summary of INEOS Britannia’s day is seen below but some interesting take-aways with the team pushing the lighter end tacks hard later in the afternoon whilst in the early part of the session (they were the last to dock-out at 1pm) when the wind was up around a 10 knot mean, they just looked superb with a flat mode, standing on the foils and apparently with speed to burn – the unofficial ‘line up’ with Luna Rossa was very interesting. See the video and judge for yourself but INEOS Britannia will be quietly happy.

Speaking afterwards, Dylan Fletcher-Scott who was the more-than-capable stand-in today for Giles Scott, gave a very real assessment, ignoring the building hype around the team saying: “I think like every team we've got an awful lot to be working on, there's areas in our handling and the speed that we need to improve, so every day we're trying hard to get a little bit better and so far we're happy with the progress that we've been making.”

Asked how close they are to ‘race-ready’, Dylan laughed saying: “Ha-ha, I think you’re never really ready, and you always run out of time no matter what you do but we're getting there, we're happy with the progress and we're getting through our list.” And of course, the inevitable question around the line-ups that we’ve seen this week, saw a stock response but a good one: “Great to see four teams out there racing around and yeah you inevitably have a few criss- crosses and I think we will be quite happy with our performance, but you know there’s always a little bit of bias.”

Impressive day from all of the three senior teams out on the water but equally impressive were the Youth & Women teams of Orient Express Racing and Alinghi Red Bull Racing who are grabbing these perfect days in Barcelona to get some vital on-the-water training. It’s all happening in Barcelona – the perfect venue for the Louis Vuitton 37th America’s Cup. (Magnus Wheatley)

On-Water Recon Report – Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli: The Italians rolled out their B3 boat at 8:55, stepped the mast and craned in by 9:30. Dock out was scheduled for 10:30 and the team hoisted mainsail M1-7 + jib J2-7 inside the harbour.

Similar to previous day, the first stint began with a self-take-off on starboard tack just exiting the harbour. The sea-state looked moderate with light chop of 0.3-0.6 m over the entire day. The first downwind run was suddenly interrupted by a speculative issue causing the yacht to heel to windward and fall off the foils.

Soon back up on port tack, the team began drilling straight-line upwind and downwind runs. During these, the team seemed to run some modes spending quite some time sailing very high & slow upwind on both tacks. After that, the team headed offshore for additional straight-line testing, finding slightly more swell. While heading downwind the team then focussed on a series of bear-aways and turn-up drills.

At 12:05 the team began to practice a series of eight JKs, improving its execution on both marks, only one ended off the foils. The first pre-start was observed with the engaging chase boat inside the box and during the two legs of the 1.82nm long track.

At 13:00 the team had a lunch break to change the aft cyclors and batteries after approximately 90 minutes of effective sailing and 30 manoeuvres. In the meanwhile, the breeze had decreased to 8.5- 10kn, J2-7 was lowered to hoist the J1.5-4. Then, several drills were run by the team crossing the line fast on port tack close by the pin and heading towards the right-hand side of the course before bearing-away, trimming-up and crossing the line again on starboard tack.

Afterwards the team focussed back on pre-start drills with the chase boat engaging in the box during 2:10 minutes, most of the times with the chase boat on port entry and B3 on starboard entry. Occasionally the chase boat killed time, full circling around the committee boat before chasing down B3 which started down at the pin while the chase boat changed heading to port tack.

When racing, the chase boat kept engaging with the yacht forcing comms and decisions on manoeuvres, often protecting the right-hand side. Two races were sailed with four legs each and the yacht decelerated after the second one at 14:30.

After a short break, the next pre-start drill saw B3 crossing the line just when the British team had trimmed up and both yachts crossed tacks several times but bore away at different locations.

After the last extended upwind leg, the team docked in at 15:25 with approximately 185 minutes foilborne, 52 tacks and 47 gybes were counted. Michele Melis AC Recon

On-Water Recon Report – Alinghi Red Bull Racing: The Swiss rolled out their AC75 at 10:00. The same wing tips as the ones identified on Tuesday May 28th remained on both ends of the port side foil wing. At 10:23 it was craned to the water and then two non-uniformed gentlemen were identified working on the starboard side driving cockpit for at least one hour. The entire sailing crew and cyclors came onboard earlier than usual and got in their respective pits. Cyclors pedalled while the two men worked inside the pit. Multiple mast rotations and arm movements were executed, noticing louder sounds than usual, probably dealing with some kind of mechanic-electronic symptoms. Nevertheless, the Swiss team docked out at 12:00 as planned, with the two gentlemen on one of the chase boats for the entire session.

After many days sailing with the M2-1, the M1-1 of larger sail area and wider top section was selected for today’s session, combined with the J3-1 to start. Both sails were hoisted just before heading out of the port.

Light southerly winds prevailed during the day, combined with flat-water conditions.

The training started at 12:25 with a downwind-upwind-downwind warm up, combined with two reaching legs, one on each tack. Then there was a twenty-five-minute break with the technicians onboard to perform their routine controls.

At 13:15 the session continued with one long upwind-downwind, sailing mostly in a straight line, practicing to gybe immediately after bearing away at an imaginary top mark, and tacking right after rounding a virtual leeward mark.

At 13.35, there was another break in which the technicians made further checks and the J2-1 came up to replace the J3-1. The training resumed mostly focus on the tacks and gybes, executing two upwind-downwinds.

No difficulties were seen to achieve fully foiling stable manoeuvres. Generally speaking, under ten knots of true wind speed this M1-1 mainsail of greater sail area makes life much easier for the crew in terms of boat handling and manoeuvres, having greater margins and looking much more comfortable and less critical.

At 14:07 a new five-minute stop occurred, and then there was an extra upwind-downwind focused on further tacks and gybes.

At 14:30 there was a twenty-minute break in which the second shift of cyclors came onboard in replacement of the starting quatrain and Yves Detrey came in to replace Bryan Mettraux, on the starboard side flight controller position.

At 14:50 the session resumed and a short upwind-downwind was carried out, probably to warm up the new flight controller. Then BoatOne headed to the race-course area where marks had been laid by one of the coach boats, and the pre-starts training got underway.

An only sequence was carried out, entering the box on starboard tack and starting close to the pin end. The stint was continued with an upwind-downwind executing three tacks and two gybes, respectively.

After rounding the leeward gates, in a dying breeze, a probable new J1-1 came up to replace the J2-1 in one of the last breaks of the day.

The rest of the sessions was sailed in very light wind conditions trying to take-off, sail and manoeuvre the boat in really bottom end racing wind intensity.

At 16:45 Alinghi Red Bull Racing ended the session and proceeded to lower both sails. The AC75 entered the harbour on the tow and docked at 17:15. Thirty-five minutes later, it got craned out of the water indicating the end of the day. Sebastian Peri Brusa – Recon on Alinghi Red Bull Racing.

On-Water Recon Report – INEOS Britannia: The British rolled out their AC75 at 11:00 and craned in at 11:30 for dock out was done at 13:00, when Britannia was towed to the entrance of the harbour where sails were hoisted. Mainsail MN1 was paired to a J3 jib. A wind of about 9-11 knots TWD 190 º @ 13:45 was blowing when they finished hoisting the sails.

Today’s sailing session can be summarized in a total of 7 upwinds and 7 downwinds sailed with 25 tacks and 23 gybes drilled. The first 3 downwinds and 2 first upwinds were done as a warm-up to set up the boat to the existing wind and sea state conditions.

The following 3 laps were done through 2 training races with 1 lap sailed in the first one and 2 laps sailed in the second one. Last upwind was done with really light winds from 3 to 5 knots where some take-offs were pushed and also 5 tacks were drilled: 3 touch downs and 2 touch & go.

Mark roundings were executed 75% to starboard at the bottom mark and 75% to starboard at the top mark.

 Today’s swaps:

One cycler team swap was done after 60 minutes of effective foiling.
Two swaps of jibs: J3 to J2 at 15:00 when the wind dropped from 9-11 to 7-9 knots and from J2 to J1 at 16:10 when the wind dropped from 7-9 to 3-5 knots.

Some casual crosses with Luna Rossa were seen.
Britannia was pushed to improve the tacks in marginal wind conditions. They tried to get maximum speed before turning fast into the new tack and keep momentum with enough apparent wind intensity to keep foiling.
INEOS Britannia dropped the sails at 17:10 and docked in at 17:25 after approximately 155 minutes of sailing. Jose Luis Piñana – Ineos Britannia AC Recon


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