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Cup Critiqued: Weather delays for Swiss...Challenger list announced

by Richard Gladwell/ 11 Aug 22:42 PDT 10 August 2022
Alinghi Red Bull Racing being craned into the water at the team base in Barcelona on August 8, 2022 © Alinghi Red Bull Racing

Alinghi Red Bull Racing's first sailing in their AC75 BoatZero, has been delayed by unfavourable weather in Barcelona.

After being formally launched on Monday, the first generation AC75, formerly Emirates Team New Zealand's red hulled Te Aihe, has stayed in the shed.

"We won't go out towing/sailing until we haven't finished all the system checks, testing and programming. Which is still ongoing, " one of the Alinghi Red Bull Racing media team told Sail-World.

Sources in Barcelona told Sail-World: "It's quite windy down here. Yesterday (Thursday) was an offshore breeze from the mountains. Today it's blowing in from the west, and judging by the windsurfers. It's quite gusty. All the locals have warned about the flash storms that come in for about 15 minutes bringing rain and howling wind."

According to the real-time observations from Predictwind at a land-based location close to the Port of Barcelona, breezes topped out at 15kts average from the south on late Wednesday afternoon and back again earlier on Thursday afternoon, dropping away to 10kts average around 3.00 pm. Today Friday, it is blowing 22-25kts in Barcelona, in line with all feeds in Predictwind.

In the end, BoatZero went in the water alongside the Alinghi Red Bull Racing dock, did a few ups and downs to test foil arm systems, and was then hauled from the water. In the prevailing conditions, the team was unwilling to conduct the tow test, for which some of the routines are quite extreme.

Given that this is the August to October period, nominated for the 2024 America's Cup regattas, the wind attendance and behaviour are more than a passing interest.

On Friday, there was a considerable variation in the forecast, with the more detailed ECMWF feed being the outlier predicting an average of 11kts. Other feeds in the Predictwind system show winds well above 20kts. That is for a location offshore but in the area that is expected to become the America's Cup course.

On Saturday, all feeds in the Predictwind system are aligned around breezes of 8-10 kts in the early afternoon from a southerly direction. In Predictwind, a feed variation means the forecast is less certain. If all feeds essentially say the same, then the certainty is relatively high.

That being the case, sailing should be an option - at a speed that should enable foiling. However, they will not be looking for a repeat of the American Magic experience on their maiden sail in Patriot, in similar conditions where the new AC75 sailed well for the first minutes. So good, in fact, that the crew opened the throttles, just as there was a foil control system failure, accompanied by a sudden increase in wind pressure, and the AC75 went airborne, crashing back in a most spectacular fashion.

Helmsman on that Day, Dean Barker, now working with Alinghi Red Bull Racing as a sailing coach/consultant - has split loyalties with the AC75 having its first sail with a crew new to the class and boat in Barcelona, and his daughter sailing in the Nacra 15 Worlds at Lake Garda, Italy, in a regatta which started on Thursday.

Challenger Order announced

The Defender has announced the list of Challenges when entries closed at 2359hrs on July 31, Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and its team Emirates Team New Zealand.

There is no change to the already announced four Challengers, which is a little surprising given the intimations surrounding the French K-Challenge.

That aside, the critical point is the order of the Challengers - determined by their time of entry.

1. Royal Yacht Squadron/INEOS Britannia 2. Société Nautique de Genève/Alinghi Red Bull Racing 2. Circolo della Vela Sicilia/Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team 3. New York Yacht Club/NYYC American Magic

The order of entry will determine the allocation of AC40 Test/Youth/Women's boats - after the Defender, Emirates Team New Zealand. All teams are expected to take two AC40's - with a total of ten to be manufactured by McConaghy Boats and the engine above the deck provided by North Technology Group.

The first AC40 is expected to be sailing out of Auckland in late September/early October, with the other teams receiving their first about a month apart, then the second AC40s are expected to be delivered.

Late Challengers on flexi-time and payment

Late Challengers have until May 31, 2023, to lodge their entry. The system adopted for Late Challengers for Barcelona 2024 allows the Late Challengers to lodge their entry at any time. They will be required to pay all entry fees, performance bond, and additional fees - totalling USD$2.425million plus a further USD$1million Performance Bond covered by lodgment of guarantee documents. The progressive late entry fee and flexible date avoids the issue of a raft of late entries being lodged at the end of the Late Entry period - copping an additional entry payment of USD$1million. None of the teams eventuated as America's Cup contestants in Auckland.

For Barcelona 2024, Late Challengers will have to pay all fees plus a Late Entry Fee of USD$100,000 per month after September 1, 2022. The announced challengers have had to pay only the first Entry Fee of $USD1,000,000. The second instalment of $1.25million is due on September 1.

Alinghi Red Bull Racing is the only "New Team" entered and can sail a first-generation boat from July 17, 2022. The other entries, including the Defender, can sail any number of AC40s costing USD$1.85million each, with all charges above that level subject to audit. The teams also have to own at least one Hydrogen powered chase boat, which Emirates Team NZ can supply with a price cap of NZD$2million (USD$1.29million), or the teams can build their Hydrogen boat(s) themselves, as American Magic has elected to do.

The Challengers are all running in-house design teams, or in conjunction with an F1 team, at budgets expected to be $120million with a team size of around 100 people.

One option for any team contemplating entry is to purchase a design package from Emirates Team New Zealand, which was on offer last time, and only taken up by one late challenger who completed hull tooling. The total cost for a Challenge using an ETNZ-supplied design is estimated at $60-80million - depending on largesse with team salaries and accounting for a reduced design and engineering team size, and depending on what else can be negotiated from Team NZ or elsewhere by way of design software and simulators.

US technology company Altair announced they had re-signed with Challenger for the 2021 America's Cup, Luna Rossa and would again provide the Italian team with simulation technology, engineering consulting and other "performance maximization services". The Michigan-headquartered company, with locations in 25 countries, says the partnership with Luna Rossa "expands upon the companies' ongoing collaboration since 2019".

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