America’s Cup: recon concludes on interesting Barcelona day

America’s Cup: recon concludes on interesting Barcelona day

America’s Cup: recon concludes on interesting Barcelona day


22/06/2024 - 09:00

The shared recon programme today came to a conclusion with just 60 days left before the start of the Louis Vuitton 37th America’s Cup. For certain, the next few weeks will see plenty of innovations coming to the fore as all the teams move forward in their design and development programmes and with Emirates Team New Zealand’s AC75 now safely at its base in Barcelona, it will be a very busy few months before racing starts.

It was a Saturday that promised much with stronger breeze forecasted later in the afternoon that was actually delayed as the wind swung round to the south and died out completely. For three of the four Challengers on the water today, only NYYC American Magic stayed the course and had some valuable bottom-end training time with Paul Goodison and Lucas Calabrese staying patient and coaxing ‘Patriot’ into flight.

Tom Burnham, Team Coach for NYYC American Magic summed it up well saying: “One of the biggest concerns in this Cup is when we have to race at the very bottom end of the range of the wind limit and you know there's going to be times where we start a race when we're just above the wind limit and might have to finish a race below the wind limit, so anytime we get a chance to sail just on that crossover between the five knots and 6-7 knots of wind is really valuable so it was really nice to stay out and get that little bit of extra, probably only 15 or 20 minutes more foiling, but we were pretty persistent with it and kept at it and got the boat up out of the water a couple of times and were able to do some tacks and gybes and yeah there's a lot of technique and a lot of lot of design work that's gone into making that happen so it's nice to be able to get some practise at it.”

For Patriot it was another day of new technology with replacement rigging being set and the early part of the session dominated by making sure everything was tuned perfectly. When asked when the development period stops and the team concentrate solely on racing performance, Tom added: “I mean there's still a bunch of racing that we're doing while doing all this testing and trying new bits and pieces but we aren't allowed to race and test properly with other teams until the end of July beginning of August when we get a couple of practise days, so there's really not much time we can do an actual race mode with the big boat until we start racing which is tough but that's why the time we spent this winter with the AC40s in race mode was so valuable and we really lean a lot on that and then do a lot of racing in the simulator environment as well so we're trying to validate a lot of the things that we do in the simulator out on the water but we can't have two boats obviously interacting with each other on the water right now.”

Asked where he felt the team were at in terms of the overall programme, Tom gave a positive answer saying: “I think we're in a good spot, I mean you’d never say that we're ahead of our plans, that's always a risky thing to say I think, but we're in terms of where we are I think we're pretty comfortable I mean the time is always the enemy though in this environment and I guess ‘comfortable’ maybe was not the exact right word there, but we're moving along on our targets as expected but more time would always be better so it's a tough balance of how many hours and days on the water you can spend and still make sure that the boat’s working properly and everything is going well and progressing and improving as well.”

INEOS Britannia had another productive day on the water although their selection of the smaller mainsail and an early call on a J3 jib meant that the first part of the session was largely under-powered but still valuable. Sir Ben Ainslie confirmed as much when he summed up the day saying: “It was another nice day out here in Barcelona, slightly tricky forecast we thought maybe there would be a bit more wind than ended up, we were on our small area mainsail which in hindsight was a mistake because the breeze rather than building up, it died pretty early afternoon, but still got some really useful sailing, good conditions here in Barcelona recently and you know every day to be out there learning is really a win for the team.”

The new foil flaps recently declared have very much been the focus for the team and asked whether he could feel the difference, Ben responded: “It’s pretty hard to pick out in these kind of conditions necessarily straight line performance of the tips but we’re really just looking for what we can see in in the manoeuvres, you know the foil coming in and out of the water and obviously for the pilots to get a feel for what they like and there are some other nuances but that’s something we’ll keep in-house.”

Overnight the team re-modelled the jib track fairing which was causing issues on Friday and Ben praised the team saying: “We had a slight modification with the jib track fairing just tightening that up a bit, the guys have done a nice job, we had a bit of an issue with it yesterday, we made the major modifications today, and it worked albeit in the lighter airs but we still need to give it a run through in some decent breeze.”

Alinghi Red Bull Racing had a much better day performance-wise and enjoyed some thrilling boat-on-boat action with Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli upwind and down with the two boats on different jib codes. Plenty of take-aways for the Swiss who will be analysing their speed out of the tacks with the recon team noting: “When criss-crossing with Alinghi Red Bull Racing the main facts we could see better from LRPP (over a bit more speed) were the tacks and gybes. Alinghi Red Bull Racing did some touch and go’s where they lost plenty of distance and also after each tack or gybe LRPP could go straight to its optimal pointing angle while the Swiss had to get some speed before being able to get to its optimal point angle.”

Speaking afterwards, System Control Manager, Andrea Pisano gave his thoughts on the exchange saying: “You cannot say really much with those testing, both teams are testing their set-up and not really racing, so it's difficult, it's hard to say I believe.”

Andrea also summarised the session and the focus on the water, saying: “It was a great day, it was a light breeze so we can test the various set ups in those light conditions, was also quite flat water so very nice over the previous sailing days this week where it was quite wavy so yeah it was a great day and we managed to test the J2 and the J1 and yeah different set-ups.”

Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli have been impressing all week and again today they looked imperious with easy flight being achieved and real poise when engaged. On the face of it, it would seem that Luna Rossa is the team that everyone is watching and their overall package and sailing ability is really shining through at the moment. Once again we saw Marco Gradoni getting wheel time alongside Jimmy Spithill and it was a productive four hours of sailing with 42 tacks at a foil-to-foil ratio of 93% and 28 gybes at 96%. Impressive stats from the Italians.

The experienced Gilberto Nobili, Operation Manager for Luna Rossa is instilling a lot of humility in the team and still sees a lot of room for improvement in the coming 60 days before racing starts: “We need to learn everything here from Barcelona weather and the sea state so today was a beautiful day of light wind a little bit less than what we were expecting and we take the advantage of whatever we had so was a beautiful day of light wind condition in Barcelona no waves today so it was all good on the chase boat.”

Talking about the hugely positive outcome of the exchange with Alinghi Red Bull Racing, Gilo added: “When we go out in the water, in the racing area, it's normal to crossover other boats, as we know it is forbidden to do testing but it's normal that you crisscross and I mean we are far from the race, I mean they are very close, but we are still far from there and you never know what they are really doing onboard so we need to take the opportunity to learn and that's what we do and I'm sure Alinghi Red Bull Racing does the same, so more than measure ourself, it is learning from on the water with somebody around.”

Interestingly, Gilo also spoke about the development pathway and what is coming onstream soon for the Italian Challenger: “You never stop and the big problem for us is production time of the components so there are parts like the new wing that is coming in August and is already in production so that part is decided, and a wing takes probably four to five months to be built. We have many components that are still not on the boat, we need to put them on, they are in production, some are still in design, many sails, elevator and rudders etcetera so we will see a lot of stuff in the next few weeks.”

As the shared recon concludes, the teams will all now be setting up their own spying programmes ahead of racing starting at the third Preliminary Regatta at the end of August. It has been a pleasure to bring these reports to you every day for the past two years and Sir Ben Ainslie put it beautifully when he spoke to his recon today: “Just a big thank you to you and the rest of the Recon team I think it's been a great initiative for the America's Cup both for the teams in terms of keeping the cost down but also, and possibly more importantly, for the fan engagement. Certainly, we've seen on our own team site that we've had much more engagement thanks to you guys, and I know there's so many things that we could do better next time around, but we really appreciate it and look forward to having a beer with you later.”

Cheers to that Ben. Over and out. (Magnus Wheatley)

On-Water Recon Report – NYYC American Magic: American Magic made the most of a light airs Saturday forecast in Barcelona to squeeze in a four-and-a-half-hour session of mostly boat testing – including bedding in some new rigging.

The team rolled out its latest-generation AC75 Patriot at 0857. The mast was stepped by 0915 after which the shore crew carried out an extended setup of the rig that took until 1058. After swapping to a different rudder yesterday the team returned to the previous iteration (white stock with silver blade and elevator).

The boat was craned into the water at 1105 with the regular dockside testing / configuration prep lasting an hour and three quarters before dock-out at 1243. Noted prior to dock-out was a carbon fairing fitted at the base of the mast in place of the fabric version previously used.

The M2-1 mainsail was hoisted inside the harbour at 1300 with the J1-1 headsail going up at 1315 and the boat exiting the harbour at 1325 where the breeze was at 08-09 knots from 90-100 degrees with a flat sea.

The first 20-minute session appeared to be all about checking out the new rigging with several crew members out of their cockpits and moving around the deck sighting up the mast and sails. At the end of this session a man was sent up the mast for what looked like an overall rig inspection.

The second session lasted 30 minutes and was made up of a long upwind where the crew carried out a series of slow round bear aways and round ups - with the occasional aggressive bear away thrown in.

Race practice followed with Patriot entering the start box at the starboard end and starting powerfully at the pin. The crew then sailed a windward / leeward lap with INEOS on the opposite tack / gybe. No obvious difference was noticed between the two boats upwind, but the British boat fell off the foils before the end of the downwind section.

Further sailing was curtailed for 40 minutes as the wind dropped and began a forecast shift to the south. While the Italian, British and Swiss crews headed for the dock the American persevered – spending another 30 minutes attempting to build up enough speed to take off in five to seven knots of breeze. Eventually they were successful as they accelerated to 18 knots at around 80 degrees apparent wind angle and lifted off – even squeezing in a couple of foiling tacks and gybes, as well as a touch down tack followed by another take off.

Time was called at 1640 with sails were dropped and the boat arriving back at the dock at 1705.

On-Water Recon Report – Alinghi Red Bull Racing: The Swiss rolled out BoatOne at 10:00, stepped mast and craned in the yacht regularly at 1025. Standard checks followed and the team docked-out at 12:00. The forecast suggested lighter air and a mostly flat sea-state with light chop, so the M1-1 was hoisted and paired to J2-1.

Once foilborne by self-take-off, the team dialled in with the first upwind manoeuvres in 5-8kn. Then the team bore away executing a series of gybes, beside some short touch & go manoeuvres looked dry and fast. This routine was repeated twice including occasional split tacks exchanged with the Italian challenger, which was on a J3 jib. After the downwind run, both teams decelerated and a J2 was hoisted on the silver bullet, slightly smaller compared to the Swiss J2.

At 13:25, breeze was 7-9 knots further inshore and both yachts were set a for a self-take-off, with the Swiss on starboard and Italians on port. The teams sailed split tacks for 6-8 tacks before bearing away and splitting tacks downwind for 5-7 gybes. Breeze was quite shifty in that area and several lead changes were observed. On the last upwind BoatOne fell hullborne before tacking while the Italians bore away. Boat One was quickly back foiling at 13:55 and bore-away rolling into a series of gybes and decelerating shortly after. By then, BoatOne had completed approximately 35 manoeuvres during 60 minutes of foiling: cyclors and batteries were exchanged.

A leeward gate was set up and BoatOne was back foilborne at 14:30 to practice some prestart drills. Four of these were practiced with BoatOne always on port entry and spending 2:10 minutes in the box. After a quick break, BoatOne was foilborne at 15:10 for straight-line sailing and additional manoeuvres in less breeze, 5-7.5kn from 150°.

During this stint, B2 seemed to struggle to execute dry tacks and splashed down twice. Hence the team lowered the J2-1 and hoisted the J1-1. By the time the J1-1 was up, the breeze had decreased even further to 4-6.5 knots. For the last 20 minutes, a self-take-off was sought without any success sailing hullborne towards the harbour entry. The day was called, and sails were lowered at 16:20 with 112 minutes of foilborne sailing, 32 tacks and 27 gybes. Michele Melis AC Recon.

On-Water Recon Report – Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli: Luna Rosa Prada Pirelli craned in the AC75 at 10:35 am this morning. Standard checks from the onshore team on different systems and controls were done before the dock-out, which was done at 11:30.

LRPP was towed out from the harbour and paired the MN0-2 mainsail with the J2-7 jib and started sailing just five minutes after. A wind of about 8 to 11 knots TWD 90º was blowing at that moment over a flat Mediterranean sea.

The sailing session from today was basically divided in three different stints:

Stint 1 (12:00 to 12:30) 8-11 knots TWD 90° @ 11:50 a warm-up of two upwinds and two downwinds was done with long line ups. 8 tacks and 5 gybes are drilled.
Stint 2 (12:35 to 13:30) 6-8 knots TWD 110º @ 13:10: 1 pre-start was done in this stint sailing into the box in port tack. They started on starboard with great timing by the middle of the line and did one lap of an upwind downwind course set by one of the chase boats. They did one tack on the upwind and one gybe on the downwind and rounded up the bottom mark through an upwind that had not a purpose race as they were practicing some tacks at very slow speed entering and lifting the new windward arm slowly. They did around 7 tacks and then after started sailing downwind and did 4 gybes to get back to the starting line. Once there they stopped and replaced the jib J2 for a J1.5.
Stint 3 (13:25 to 14:30) 6-8 knots TWD 140º @ 14:25 h: they started sailing upwind and after one tack they criss-crossed with Alinghi Red Bull Racing and they continued crossing each other for around 6 tacks. The Swiss won the first cross but then after LRPP took the lead every time with more distance. After they started to sail downwind and got cris crossed again for around 4 long gybes and LRPP was getting more and more distance at every cross. After the downwind they meet again in the upwind for three tacks, Alinghi Red Bull Racing then stopped and LRPP continued sailing for three tacks more and then sailed downwind back to the starting line set by the team just in front Port Olímpic and stopped for cyclors and helm exchange and batteries replacement.
Stint 4 (14:30 to 15:15) 5-6 knots TWD 140@15:15: two pre-starts were done in this stint. The first one (second start of the day) was done with the AC75 getting into the box in port side and after nailing the time on distance and crossing the line they quickly tack and went into a three course race laps upwind-downwind.
On start 3 they entered into the box in starboard side, gybed and went sailing in portside to the corner of the box. They stopped foiling for some reason and after some checks with a technician the wind dropped to almost no wind, and they decided to call the day over.

The following swaps were done:

Jib 2-7 was replaced for Jib 1.5-4 at 13:15.
Batteries were replaced at 14:10 h (after 100 min of effective sailing)
At 14:10 h two cyclors Paolo Simion (Port) & Luca Kirwan (Stb) ON; Cesare Gabbia (Port) & Mattia Camboni (Stb) OFF and one helm (Francesco Bruni OFF , Marco Gradoni ON) replacements were done.
To highlight:

Different areas from the hull were seen painted this morning like if some sanding or repair was done (see pictures).
LRPP was seen today with 3-5º of windward heel when sailing upwind.
When criss-crossing with Alinghi Red Bull Racing the main facts we could see better from LRPP (over a bit more of speed) were the tacks and gybes. Alinghi Red Bull Racing did some touch and go’s where they lost plenty of distance and also after each tack or gybe LRPP could go straight to its optimal pointing angle while the Swiss had to get some speed before being able to get to its optimal point angle.
The longer stop today was of not even 20 minutes for the batteries and crew replacement. Sails were dropped at 15:15 h and the AC75 was towed back to base and dock in was done at 15:45 h, after three hours and thirty minutes on the course and 150 minutes of active sailing. 70 manoeuvres were observed at 95% fully foiling rate. Jose Luis Piñana – LRPP AC Recon 

On-Water Recon Report – INEOS Britannia: INEOS Britannia rolled out their AC75 at 09:30 with all cameras and with the LiDAR hardware in the same position as the day before. Modifications to the jib track system were performed overnight and multiple adjustments were identified in the area during the day. In addition, the new wing tips identified yesterday for the first time on the port side foil wing, continue to be the same.

Britannia was craned to the water at 10:25 and the team docked-out at 11:30, as planned, after performing usual routine activities. The MN2-1 was selected for today’s session, combined with the repaired J3-1 to start. Both sails were hoisted once out of the harbour at 11:50.

A weak and light ESE dominated the session, shifting persistently to the right during the day and dropping in intensity towards the afternoon, combined with mostly flat seas.

The British team started the session at 12:10 with a long upwind followed by a downwind, sailing mostly on a straight line. Britannia seemed out-of-range for the existent wind intensity at that time, with the sail selection of the MN2-1 of smaller sail area, plus the J3-1.

At 12:50 there was fifteen-minute break in which there was a headsail change, in which the J2-1 came up to replace the J3-1.

The session was resumed at 13:05 with some additional straight lines, sailing clearly heeled to windward when going upwind, with a less aggressive “bow-down” pitch angle, compared to other days with similar conditions in the past. In a dying breeze, the AC75 found difficulties on the gybes when transitioning from VMG courses from tach to tack, struggling to stay consistently on the foils in a few opportunities.

At 13:45 a new break occurred in which there was a three-cyclors rotation, with Ben Cornish staying onboard for the entire training for the second day in a row. At the same time, a few technicians got onboard, one going under the deck through the front hatch, another worked on the jib track system and a third one was seen ‘hands on’ inside one of the cycling pits.

Fifteen minutes after, the training continued with the first starting sequence of the day.

Britannia started right at the pin end and followed-up with a one-lap upwind-downwind, executing two tacks and three gybes, respectively, rounding a virtual top mark.

A second stint got underway at 14:23, starting from the first third of the starboard end of the line, continuing with a one-lap upwind-downwind. However, halfway on the downwind INEOS aborted the race after a full touchdown gybe. For the following ten minutes, the team did some random manoeuvre movements, with both arms down.

One non-organised upwind-downwind was executed with American Magic on the same water, with both boats sailing on opposite tacks almost all the time. Very small differences were identified, that ended with a full touchdown of the British Team at the end of the only downwind leg.

At 15:00 the technicians got onboard once more, there was a batteries replacement and then the J1-1 got hoisted to replace the J2-1, in an effort to continue with the training in bottom-end conditions. However, once the team was ready to go at 15:30, the wind had died-out and the session was ended.

INEOS Britannia got towed towards the port entrance, where sails got lowered. The AC75 entered the harbour on the tow and docked at 16:20. Thirty minutes after it got craned out of the water, indicating the end of the day. Sebastian Peri Brusa – Recon on INEOS Britannia.

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