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America's Cup Rialto: October 20 - Luna Rossa design team steers a steady course

by Richard Gladwell, Sail-World NZ 20 Oct 2020 03:53 PDT 20 October 2020
Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli - October - Waitemata Harbour - Auckland - 36th America's Cup © Richard Gladwell / Sail-World.com

The Challenger of Record for the 36th America's Cup, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, launched their second AC75 and most likely race boat, in a formal launch ceremony in Auckland on Tuesday morning.

While the two other challengers launched raceboats, late last week, that were radically different from their first launched AC75's. Luna Rossa has continued with the same design theme, as their first launched AC75.

"The boat looks similar and is a development of Boat 1. If you have a technical eye you can spot the differences between the two boats", claimed skipper and Team Director, Max Sirena, who was seconded from Luna Rossa to Emirates Team New Zealand for the 2017 America's Cup won in Bermuda.

Unfortunately, it is not that easy to spot the changes with only very limited photographs available of the first boat.

He did go on to offer the advice that the deck was "completely different".

"We worked very hard on the detail and the aerodynamics. The skeg is deeper; the flare on the bow of the boat is different. There are many differences - and it is not just what you see on the outside, but it is what is there on the inside."

"We have put on this boat a lot of things we could not put on Boat 1, because it was already built", Sirena explained. "We have done a long development process on everything - systems, sails, wings and so on. We are going to see a lot of new things coming along in the next few weeks," he added.

One of the two Luna Rossa helmsmen, Jimmy Spithill says that boat launched today looks similar to Boat 1 ", but that is not the case. There are some huge changes that you can see with the eye, and then there is a lot you can't see with the eye."

In a divergence with the other teams, Sirena says they will keep their first AC75 in sailing trim, and while their focus was on the development of the second launched AC75, they would switch boats occasionally. Under the America's Cup Protocol, the teams are not allowed to run two-boat tune-up programs which were a feature of the America's Cup preparations until 2013, and certainly in the IACC era from 1992 to 2007.

Sirena declined to offer an opinion on the merits of the other two challengers who both launched race boats that were in quite a different design direction from their first launched. His says the Italian team were happy with the design direction of their first launched and had continued in that same direction with Boat 2.

He noted that none of the AC75's had yet sailed against each other, and "there were no references" until they had done so in the three-day America's Cup World Series event in mid-December. "If you come with something completely new, it means you were not happy with your Boat 1," Sirena responding to a question as to whether he expected Defender Emirates Team New Zealand to launch a boat that that was divergent from their first design, Te Aihe. "I think they were pretty happy with their Boat 1, so who knows. We shall see in a couple of weeks," he added.

Luna Rossa expect to complete the initial tests this week, and be sailing by Sunday.

Twice America's Cup champion, Jimmy Spithill is one of two helmsmen on the Luna Rossa team. "The clock is ticking, the other guys are out there and we need to get going as quickly as we can. We're the last to arrive and we've got to get some hours on the race track.

"Everyday on these boats, something is upgraded - it might be something you can see, but a lot of the time it is stuff you can't see - systems, software and the like. These are very sophisticated boats and a lot more than where we were in Bermuda and also San Francisco. They're weapons, these boats," he adds.

The Australian admits they have no real idea of the relative speeds of the other teams despite different methods use to measure speed by the reconnaissance crews, saying the most critical piece of the puzzle is accurately knowing the apparent wind angle of the other AC75.

"It's a real tough group here in Auckland," he says. "No-one is lacking anything. Everyone has got the money, the technology, the resources - there's no excuses. It will be a good series."

He says this campaign is like the America's Cups of old - where no-one knows how fast they are relative to the other teams, until they line up in the first event - which in this Cup will be in mid-December - with the three day America's Cup World Series regatta which has been folded into the Christmas Cup. A month later the Prada Cup and Challenger Selection Series gets underway, with the first challenger to be eliminated three weeks later. "It's a fascinating campaign in that regard" is Spithill's view of the race schedule ahead.

Like all America's Cups at this stage of the cycle, time is a precious commodity. "It's all going to come down to the second boats - how quickly we can get onto the water. How quickly we can get these boats operating at 100%, and who does the best job of developing from now on. These boats are just starting their lives and there is a lot of boatspeed to be extracted."

"Getting through the Challenger Series is going to be a fight in itself. Then taking on the kiwis in their home waters is going to be a tough one."

All of the teams that have sailed in Auckland so far have capsized at least once. "We haven't been over yet - but wait a few days and that may happen - it will happen to everyone. It is just part of sailing these boats. The American's almost went over [again] the other day. These boats are on the edge. The harder you push the faster you go."

"One real positives for the class is that in the capsizes that have happened , the teams have pretty much been able to pull them up and keep going. That's what we want to see. We want to see the races keep going - even if a mistake is made."

Spithill says initially with the foiling monohulls, everyone thought they would be like the catamarans (used in 2013 and 2017 America's Cups). "It's not. It's completely different. It's another level of learning and sophistication. The boats are very fast and very powerful. They are a lot of fun to sail - real physical."

As American Magic demonstrated on their first sail in Patriot, their raceboat, the AC75 seems to demonstrate some unique characteristics, or aquabatics, at times.

"It's just something that everyone has got to deal with. It's a dynamic boat, but once you get time on the water and some hours you start to get used to it."

"This boat will be another step up from Boat 1, so it will take us some time to learn to handle it - that's for sure."

Many have questioned how the AC75's will work as match racers, with the foil arms and wings protruding several metres from the hull and potentially locking with a wing on the other boat in close quarters racing. "These boat have risk - there's no two ways about it. But every team has to be smart because there is no soft contact, with these foil arms hanging out the side. We're all learning. No-one has done a race yet - and that's something we've all got to figure out. To be in the running you've got to have a boat upright at the end of the race as well."

In the closing stanzas of the 2013 America's Cup in San Francisco sailed in 72ft wingsailed foiling catamarans, there was the occasional contact in the pre-start as the racing became more desperate. "I don't think we want to see contact in these boats because of the way the foil arms are set up. Bu again we don't know what the racing will be like, because none of us have ever raced these boats. That Christmas Cup will be the first time to see what it is like."

While Emirates Team New Zealand often claim that their highly advanced simulator is one of their key advantages, Spithill says that Luna Rossa has one too - that he says was designed by the same guys who designed the Team New Zealand one used in the last Cup. It is incredible."

"In a lot of ways, in the Cup, I thought we were a little slow to get onto it [the simulator]", he adds.

Luna Rossa first competed in the America's Cup in Auckland in 2000, winning the Louis Vuitton Trophy in what is still regarded as the most hard fought challenger series yet - sailing against the San Francisco based America One team, before sailing in the 30th Match against Team New Zealand.

Spithill says the America's Cup has a huge following in Italy, and now more so than ever.

"People remember when the Cup was last here, and Luna Rossa were in the Final and there was a big following. They are just passionate about sailing and passionate about this team. We've got a huge following and are just hoping that a lot of them can get down here."

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