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America's Cup: Driving like he stole it - Jimmy Spithill on Luna Rossa's AC75

by Richard Gladwell Sail-World NZ 4 Jan 2020 10:28 PST 5 January 2020
Luna Rossa sailing off Cagliari, Sardinia © Carlo Borlenghi / Luna Rossa

Twice America's Cup Champion, Jimmy Spithill is believed to be on the helm of Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli's first AC75, when filmed sailing in rough, following seas off Sardinia.

The video was first released by before New Year (December 29, 2019), and was apparently shot from a drone (due to the absence of chase boat wake, and elevation of the camera and proximity of the AC75).

It shows the skiff-hulled AC75 sailing very close to the water, in what is accepted as the optimum height for an AC75 (provided the windward foil arm is not making contact with the water).

As the camera tends to flatten off the appearance of the sea-state - the only way to judge the conditions is by the frequency of the breaking water. Plus the chase boat has some difficulty in holding a steady course. So it must be assumed that the sea state was substantial, and the performance of the Italian team is impressive in the conditions.

Relating the video to Auckland, and the case before the Arbitration Panel relating to wind limits for both the Prada Cup and America's Cup, the comment has to be made that this sea state could be avoided by sailing on one of the four sheltered water America's Cup course areas, allowing the AC75's to sail in stronger winds, but without the complications caused by the sea-state in the video.

There is no video of Emirates Team New Zealand's AC75 sailing in similar conditions to the Scirocco, for the simple reason that there has been very little onshore breeze, this summer, in Auckland.

On the one occasion Sail-World observed the team sailing in an 18-20kt sea breeze, the team seemed to handle the conditions well, until the publicised splashdown, caught on camera. However after a debrief and on the water check, Te Aihe headed upwind again for several minutes before turning and running downwind, in a moderate onshore sea, sailing very fast indeed, straight and steady in height, and continued the session in the relatively land-locked waters of "The Paddock".

The images below are of Emirates Team New Zealand sailing in a fresh (15-18kt) seabreeze and moderate sea, with no swell, in early November 2019.

To recap, Te Aihe was sailing well to windward, in the sea breeze, and unexpectedly nosedived into a sea, rolled to windward lifting her leeward wing clear of the water. After a debrief with the chase boat crews they headed back upwind for several minutes without any issues, tacked twice, and then took off at high speed and level flight down the Motutapu Island shoreline before gybing out and back to head for The Paddock (America's Cup Course Area E) to continue training.

Emirates Team New Zealand returning from The Paddock - December 2019

Below is some video of Te Aihe sailing upwind in an offshore (SW) breeze. The point of interest between the two boats, both have a centre skeg (Luna Rossa) and a more rounded centreline bustle (ETNZ). Both appear to do the job intended by their respective design teams - providing additional hull volume and buoyancy when immersed without slowing the boat with excessive drag.

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