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Director's Cut: America's Cup World Series Team Comms of the crucial Race 12

by Sail-World.com/NZ 7 Jul 22:21 PDT 8 July 2021
Emirates Team New Zealand takes on Luna Rossa - Final race - America's Cup World Series, Day 3, December 19, 2020 - Auckland NZ, Course A © Richard Gladwell - Sail-World.com / NZ

One of the enduring lessons of the America's Cup World Series was the vulnerability of the AC75's if they happened to fall off their foils.

Nowhere was this more amply demonstrated in Race 12, the final race of the America's Cup World Series, when Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa went head to head to effectively determine the outcome of the series.

That race proved to be a full dress rehearsal for Day 4 of the 36th America's Cup, regarded by many as the turning point of the event, where the Kiwis took the score out to 4-3 over the Italians.

In a later report, Sail-World developed a Race 12 story based on synchronising the stern cameras and crew audio from both Luna Rossa and Emirates Team New Zealand. That was also synchronised with Virtual Eye, the broadcast coverage of the race from the America's Cup Youtube channel, and what we'd seen on the water from the Photoboat.

The showing of uninterrupted video and audio from each of the competing yachts was a first for the America's Cup - and created the opportunity for media and fans to listen to the synchronised conversations from the crew, making it possible to hear who said what to whom, and when.

The story that appeared in Sail-World was a test run of a very interesting and powerful technique, which stripped away the PR spin and hindsight that so-often tries to steer the reporting on a critical point in a key race. Of course, the on-board cameras and audio were invaluable to opposing teams in an event where you can never have too much data.

In the Youtube replay below, four of the five views we used are run into a single window. We ran Virtual Eye to show the boat separations, courses and data.

If you need a third screen, then set up the commentated version of the race click here with the volume down so it doesn't talk over the crew audio.

Here's the text of Sail-World's America's Cup Rialto report, based on the on-board conversations from Race 12.

The America's Cup World Series which concluded on Saturday [December 17, 2020] was determined not by who could sail the fastest. Not by who could do a dry lap.

Not by the slickest in foiling tacks and gybes. Not by the best match racer. But by who was able to stay, or get foiling in the lightest of windspeeds.

In the second leg of the final race of the America's Cup World Series, a long chase began after Emirates Team New Zealand dropped off her foils squeezing to get around Mark 1 - allowing Spithill/Bruni to extend their already handy lead at Mark 1 from 250 metres to 800 metres.

"We're just going to shoot it", Kiwi skipper Peter Burling said to his crew as he squeezed the AC75 around the mark sailing at just 10kts, off the foils, compared to Francesco Bruni's foiling 28kts just 30 seconds earlier.

"Let's gybe," he said 30 seconds later, after which the boatspeed halved to a pedestrian 5kts.

"It's going to be a real horror race from here, fellas," he said, for the benefit of those crew who could not see, as the Kiwis completed the gybe still sailing at sub-10kts as the race leader, Luna Rossa, faded into the distance, still foiling fast.

"I don't think we'd have got out of it the other way either [by tacking]", he added to the pregnant-pause ridden on-board comms dialogue - which featured a tactical and performance dialogue amongst the five members of the ETNZ afterguard.

In the commentary booth, Nathan Outteridge, Burling's long-time sailing rival in two Olympics, and the 2017 America's Cup looked at the apparently hopeless situation and declared "this could all change inside 30seconds". It proved to be a prescient comment.

About half a minute later the Kiwis got the first sniff of an increase in breeze, lifting to 8kts - the first time in the race they'd had the same as the Italians, who'd been sliding away at 30kts, and sailing at four times the wind speed.

Although Luna Rossa had an impressive speed through the water, the real story lay in the VMG [Velocity Made Good, or speed directly towards the next mark] - a navigational calculation spat out by the performance and navigation computers.

Despite their impressive 28-30kts of speed through the water, the Italians were only making an effective speed of 7kts in the direction of the leeward mark.

Their opponents, still at the top end of the course, were limping along, off their foils, at just 6kts boatspeed, but making only 1-2kts VMG.

As Bruni exited the gybe, Luna Rossa's boat speed dropped to 16kts as the race leader dropped off the foils, with a lead of 805 metres.

Almost a kilometre behind, the Kiwis boatspeed had just cracked double digits but were still 4kts slower than the Italians. The telling number was in the VMG with Bruni making just 1kt VMG and Burling 0kts - meaning he was making no progress at all toward the bottom mark, and Bruni only fractionally.

The chase was on!

Despite now sailing in exactly the same 7kts of breeze, albeit, with a 10-degree difference in direction, the kiwis began accelerating and sailing faster than Luna Rossa.

Burling and friends, were first onto their foils, lifting off at 20kts of boatspeed, and then gybing at 28kts in just 8kts of breeze.

Luna Rossa's boatspeed had picked up to a meagre 13kts - but an improvement on the ten knots they were achieving a minute earlier.

Once up on foils, the New Zealanders were away, briefly out-stripping their chase boat as they quickly accelerated to 30kts in just 8kts of wind.

When the Italians were overtaken, or rather Emirates Team New Zealand crossed their course, the Kiwis were making 14kts VMG compared to the Italians 0kts VMG - despite Luna Rossa sailing in the stronger 10kts of breeze.

The Kiwis relentlessly continued the Italian paddy-whacking as Burling extended their lead by a further 300 metres at Mark 2.

The dramatic Leg 2 turnaround in the final race of the ACWS underlined the unique sailing dynamics of the AC75, and actually determined the winner of the Prada ACWS trophy.

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