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Letter from the Antipodes: AC40 first look.. Sailing survives COVID .. Open competition

by Richard Gladwell/Sail-World.com/nz 27 Jan 02:29 PST 27 January 2022
AC40 - is modelled on an upgraded version of AC36 winner Te Rehutai - America's Cup © America's Cup Media

First shots and video have come through of the AC40 foiling monohull to be used by the Youth, Women and two of the three Preliminary regattas in the upcoming America's Cup.

As promised, the hull shape is a development of Te Rehutai, the current America's Cup champion, showing the familiar bow section and a very flat afterbody.

Emirates Team New Zealand seem to be staying true to their word to provide an update to their AC36 winner and handing AC37 competitors an updated working model of their winning design. That is unprecedented in America's Cup history.

How much the Kiwis are giving away is debatable. The existing teams have access to their own photo libraries of the Kiwi America's Cup winner. Those images can be photogrammed to derive a computer-based design of Te Rehutai - reckoned to be 3kts quicker than the opposition.

New teams probably don't have those image libraries and will have to make do with whatever is on the public record.

No doubt, the AC37 teams will be crunching the numbers from their AC75 data, checking the new AC40 to see what improvements have been made, to assess the direction of the Kiwi design team's AC37 thinking.

The polars for the AC40 show a remarkably showing a very fast upwind boat - doing 39kts, compared to the 40kts reckoned to be the top speed of the AC75 in the last Cup. Downwind speed looks to be less than the AC75's, which regularly topped 50kts. American Magic achieved the top speed of AC36, hitting 53.31kts during a wild moment in the Prada Cup on Course C.

The light airs speeds on the polars are impressive.

The AC40 has been designed to mimic the boats that will come from the updated version of the AC75 rule.

Cup aficionados will recall that the enhanced AC75 is almost 1000kg lighter than the previous version.

Both the AC40 and AC75 designs should be less sticky and should get foiling a lot more quickly in light winds. That will propel design teams down the development route of small profile wings, as used by ETNZ and American Magic.

Eight AC40's are said to be on order - for whom is the intriguing question.

Red Light switched off

Unlike many other sports, the advice we have at Sail-World is that the "Red Light provisions of the Covid Protection Framework should have minimal impact on sailing - on the water at least.

Two significant events - the Mahurangi Classic Yacht Regatta and the Auckland Anniversary Regatta - are confirmed to go ahead for the weekend.

Already cancelled is what was to have been the first NZ hosted regatta in the SailGP series - to have been sailed in Christchurch. However, that was ditched some months ago when the NZ Govt refused to allocate the requested 170 places in MIQ (Managed Isolation and Quarantine) necessary to allow international crews across the NZ border to compete in the event.

Had the MIQ spots been made available - the event would have been able to proceed, as are most other sailing events - shore based spectators may have been needed to separate into groups of 100, but that is all.

Yachting NZ is proceeding with the Oceanbridge NZL Sailing Regatta in mid-February. But like all regatta organisers, YNZ would appreciate early entries so any compliance issues can be resolved.

In other sports, there is a long list of significant events/activities that have been cancelled or are close to getting axed. Sailing seems to be an outlier, as is Rowing, which would also appear to be proceeding with their normal program, aside from shifting the Nationals from the North to the South Island.

There are a set of simple and understandable principles explaining the Covid Protection Framework on the Rowing NZ website as it applies to Rowing and as an is equally applicable to a Sailing situation.

With a small amount of onshore re-organisation, there is no reason that most sailing events cannot proceed as planned.

Before the Government declared the Code Red, Auckland's sailing scene looked to be recovering quite nicely after its 107-day stint in what was Alert Level 3. Other provinces weren't that affected by their softer lockdowns. Hopefully, the Code Red - which looks likely to last until the end of the summer sailing season - won't prove to be a barrier to sailing's recovery.

Great results from women sailors in open fleets

Last weekend, the NZ National Match Racing Championships and NZ ILCA (read Laser) titles were contested in Auckland and Picton, respectively.

As we report, the three-day Harken Match Racing NZ Championship devolved into what all match-racing should be - a very close tactical affair, with the outcome not being decided until the last moments of the final race.

The focus was on the tightest of finals between teams skippered by Nick Egnot-Johnson and Reuben Corbett. The championship was decided by the closest of margins in the final moments of the final race. The two were equal on the points leader board with each taking 11 win to 1 loss for a 92% win percentage.

The top womens crew placed fourth overall with the Megan Thomson skippered 2.0 Racing crew emerging with a 42% win record. Two male crews, and a second female crew rounded out the Top 8 overall.

With no sailing allowed, for AC36 teams, in the America's Cup until mid-September and with Emirates Team NZ needing to lift their match racing skills, maybe there is the opportunity for the America's Cup rockstars to be pitched against the top talent from the NZ Match Racing ranks. When the major match racing titles were sailed in the now 30yr old MRX fleet, these groups used to come together for a hit-out in the Auckland champs and then the NZ Nationals, but the interest seems to have faded with the shift to the smaller, and more nimble, Elliott designs.

A re-vamped Pro-Am event would pull the media and fan interest. The underdogs have plenty of scope to give the AC rockstars their comeuppance. Both groups would have a shared learning experience, which can only lift the standard of their sailing. Add in the considerable talents of Dean Barker and Phil Robertson, along with the ETNZ sailing team, and you have a showcase event.

The ILCA6 & 7 Nationals, staged by Queen Charlotte Yacht Club in Picton, attracted a big fleet of over 90 boats for the former Laser Radial and Laser standard rig classes. The Youth and Womens fleet raced as one, in the ILCA-6's and were scored that way in the fleet of 30 boats. The Masters raced in their own ILCA-6 fleet of 21 boats. A second group of Masters raced in the Open ILCA-7 fleet which attracted 41 entries.

The outcome of the ILCA 7, or standard rig Laser event, went according to the Form Book. Indeed it would have been the shock of 2022 if the recently crowned ILCA 7 World Champion, Tom Saunders, had not added the champion Kiwi title to his list of accolades. He was pushed by George Gautrey and the two Lukes - Cashmore and Deegan - who placed 3rd and 4th overall.

Caleb Armit gave the ILCA6 fleet a sailing lesson, winning nine of the ten races and finishing 30points ahead of the next placed youth competitor.

Provided he can win selection for the 2022 Youth Worlds, Caleb should get the opportunity to emulate the 2018 Youth Worlds Gold Medal win of his brother Josh. Their dad, Leith, is a four-time world champion in the OK Dinghy class and Olympic Finn reserve, and their grandfather Tony Armit was the first New Zealander to sail around the world.

Women took four of the top eight places in the ILCA 6, which like the NZ Match Racing, was contested in an Open fleet giving an overall finishing place for both genders giving the women sailors/crews a valuable domestic benchmark against their male counterparts.

After being passed over by selectors for the 2016 and 2020 Olympics, the NZ Women's ILCA 7/Laser Radial squad is on the rebuild. They made a good start in Picton, but like Caleb Armit, they need to get away onto the international regatta circuit and check their performance at the next level.

Five points separated the first three women, in Picton, with Greta Pilkington placing 4th overall with 46pts, Annabelle Rennie-Younger 5th on 50pts, and Olivia Christie 6th on 51pts. Emily Overend was 8th in the Open fleet with 67pts, after coming adrift in the final three races of the ten race regatta.

The squad have a steep slope to climb for Paris 2024. The Laser Radial/ILCA 6 is possibly the most competitive of the women's Olympic events. First introduced at the 2008 Olympics in Qingdao, the class has been dominated by three competitors, who, between them, have won seven of the 12 medals that have been on offer at the last four Olympiads.

Cracking into that exclusive club will not be easy, and the Kiwi womens sailors need a lot better support and backing for international regattas than was the case for the Rio2016. Tokyo2020 was an inevitable consequence of those premature selectorial decisions for Rio.

As mentioned, the NZ ILCA Nationals attracted a 90+ boat fleet - across all classes. That's an excellent entry, given the event was at the top of the South Island. But maybe it is no surprise, given the increased interest in dinghy sailing, across the board.

The Cherub is another dinghy class strongly in a revival. This weekend the America's Cup rockstars and their sons will compete for the Northland Cherub Championship at Algies Bay - about an hour's drive north of Auckland.

Transatlantic record breaker

Internationally, the main event has been the RORC Trans Atlantic Race - a 3000nm dash from Lanzarote in the Canary Islands to Grenada.

The multihull event was keenly contested between three 70fters, with a damaged Multi 70 Maserati being first home after eight days of sailing, followed by two MOD70's.

There was no real surprise in the monohulls with the 100ft Comanche writing another race record into her logbook.

.

The significance of the TransAtlantic Race is that it is another foundation stone in rebuilding the sport back to where it was pre-Covid. The daily coverage was excellent, including a high-quality video.

America's Cup gets momentum

The news that New York Yacht Club had their Challenge accepted by the America's Cup Defender puts a bookend on a ten-month long saga.

That brings the announced Challengers to four, with another expected.

Whether that is the final count remains to be seen. The disclosure by Emirates Team New Zealand that there were eight AC40's on order - indicates that a couple of the entered teams are buying two AC40's, or there are more Challengers to come.

Those involved in the protracted venue selection process for the next America's Cup are saying little.

Three venues are believed to be making the serious running - two in Spain and one in Ireland.

The process hasn't been made any easier by the surge of Omicron through Europe. However, that wave appears to be receding, and the venue announcement should be made on or before March 31, without further delay.

The first AC75 sailing can commence less than two and a half months later if you are a New Team and have purchased a first-generation AC75.

On that basis, Alinghi could be the first team to get sailing in the current cycle, in their as-yet-unannounced purchase of Te Aihe, Emirates Team NZ's first AC progeny.

As pre-existing AC75 teams, who sailed in AC36, the other three announced teams - Luna Rossa, INEOS and American Magic, plus ETNZ, can't start sailing until three months later, on September 17, 2022.

That works OK for the Kiwis, who will be going into their summer sailing season. Of the Northern hemisphere teams, Luna Rossa will probably be able to get by from their base in Sardinia. The others will have to move south to warmer climes or have a stand-down for a further six months.

American Magic may become a beneficiary of Omicron, with New Zealand's despised Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) system looking set to crumble in a few months. That could let the US team into Auckland, re-open their base, and go sailing again in the Kiwi Spring and Summer - if they wished.

The trans-Tasman border is still on track to come down at the end of February if the NZ Prime Minister's comments are to be taken at face value. NZ's international border is expected to open a few months later - opening the way for Cup teams to sail in Auckland if they wish.

One of the inequities of the next America's Cup appears to be a sailing timeline that works very well for some teams, while others will have to wait up to nine months for their first sail.

Then, of course, there is the issue of AC40 allocation and sailing, with the Kiwis getting the first of the youth/women's/training boat and the Brits the second, and the rest being allocated in the order of entry.

Clearly, given the staggered sailing program start times, all teams will require some original thinking to wring the most out of their development and sailing programs.

In an event where time is as important a commodity as money, this staggered start for AC37 team programs could prove to be crucial on the outcome of the Match which will be sailed in June 2024.

Good sailing!

Richard Gladwell

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