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America's Cup: Code Zero makes re-appearance on the Waitemata

by Richard Gladwell 13 Jan 2020 01:54 PST 13 January 2020
Emirates Team New Zealand - Waitemata Harbour - January 13, 2020 © Richard Gladwell /

Emirates Team New Zealand appeared to have a good day testing the Code Zero on their AC75, on a rare light breeze day in Auckland's windy summer.

The Code Zero is one of the conundrums of the AC75 - when it should be deployed, for how long, and what do with the large headsail when it has done its job and is no longer required.

One of ETNZ's first sails with the Code Zero in early October ended abruptly, when the tack of the sail gave way, when the tack of the sail gave way, bringing the training session to an end.

The reappearance of the bowsprit defied Kiwi media speculation over the weekend that the non-appearance of the spar, after Te Aihe's Xmas upgrade, was indicative of a new move by the America's Cup champions.

The bowsprit was missing last week, after Te Aihe resumed her testing program following the Xmas break and a development upgrade.

While it is not compulsory for teams to have a bowsprit, it is one of the items specified in the Class Rule. If not present, the boat must carry a compensating ballast weight in a specified place.

It is also unlikely that the team will run a detachable bowsprit, saving aero-drag in moderate to fresh winds when the sail and spar are redundant.

Under a Notice published last March, teams must declare their yacht's configuration for the Match, 120hrs before its start, and it must remain in that state for the duration of the Match. That brings to an end the practice, first used in 1983, of being able to mode a boat according to the weather forecast on a daily basis.

Another consequence of that rule is that teams can only measure in one set of foil wings, capable of being used in all conditions, and not switched out as the daggerboards were in the 2017 America's Cup. In Bermuda the teams had a set of high lift, high drag light weather boards which were substituted with AP (All Purpose) boards which were lower lift, lower drag - and consequently faster in moderate to fresh winds. Several times teams got caught out when the winds did not perform to forecast, and boards were used out of their range.

Often a team would lose the race - against the run of form - as happened with Artemis Racing (SWE) and Groupama Team France on Day 2 of the Challenger Selection Series. The hapless French had lost their race against ETNZ, by the length of the Final Leg on Day 1, but then led the crack Swedish team all around the course on the first race of Day 2, after the breeze fell short of their AP board's range, by a knot or three.

In the 2021 America's Cup teams will have to use a set of AP wings capable of being effective at 6-7kts through to 24kts of breeze.

Long session in light winds

Monday's session which began with the tow-out at 0900hrs and finished around 5.00pm, was plagued initially with a lack of wind which later in the morning flicked between 3-5kts, and then increasing to a more even 5-8kts later in the afternoon.

At the end of the session, Te Aihe did an impressive foiling run, across the breeze - taking just 3 secs to get foil-borne from a displacement state. That transition is likely to be one of the key points of difference in racing in the AC75 - with the competitor who is first to get foiling in light winds expected to enjoy a hefty, probably race winning advantage.

The run took place on the area in the Rangitoto Channel designated as Course B - one of five course areas nominated for America's Cup and the Challenger Selection Series (Prada Cup).

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