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America's Cup: Recon Diary - Alinghi Red Bull Racing - Sept 22 - Barker on board

by Magnus Wheatley, America's Cup Media 24 Sep 16:05 PDT 25 September 2022
Dean Barker (left rear) - Alinghi Red Bull Racing, Barcelona, Spain, September 2022 © Olaf Pignataro/Alinghi Red Bull Racing

Recon Report September 22, 2022: As confidence grows, momentum feels like it’s starting to build in the Alinghi Red Bull Racing camp as their step-by-step, methodical approach to sailing and finessing the AC75 begins to come to fruition.

Today was a short afternoon session as the team wrestled with Boat Zero on compact, concise runs close to the Barcelona shoreline in a gusty 12-15 knots building breeze. It’s tricky sailing but desperately interesting to watch.

For Alinghi Red Bull Racing, finding stability and increased fore and aft pitch control is still proving tough but with Dean Barker back onboard, there’s a reference point and a deep well of experience to draw on for the young Swiss team who are learning fast. Spend any time in the company of guys like Matías Bühler, Bryan Mettraux or Arnaud Psarofaghis on the sailing team and what strikes is a deep intellect and a huge willingness to live outside of their comfort zone, soaking up information and then putting it into action.

On the water, it’s starting to come and with Barker’s cool head guiding and advising, and even driving today at times, the team conclude a week of positives where flight was achieved, and an air of ‘consistency’ through repetition, so prized by America’s Cup teams, building firmly into the programme both on the water and off.

Starting the afternoon session, having pre-fed the double-skinned mainsail dockside, with their big J1 jib loaded on the forestay, the team were quick to change down headsails as the breeze remained constant at a healthy 12 knots with decent gusts at around 15 knots cats-pawing across the Barcelona Bay. Sea state was moderate but sloppy and the recon units reported, as they have all week, that Boat Zero seems more comfortable on starboard tack owing perhaps to how the wave forms are hitting the hull, than on port.

Whilst heading out to sea on port, the stern resolutely seemed to want to sit down more, and the team once again gathered invaluable swell data and feel on how to tweak the foils and optimise as the session progressed. Some superb low flying ensued towards the end of the session that suggested progress all round and the question remains as to whether the team will change the starboard ‘flat’ foil in the near future or persist with it.

Nicholas Charbonnier, part of the Alinghi Red Bull Racing ‘Driving’ Group seemed pleased with the progress that the team have made this week and with a smile on his face explained why we haven’t seen foiling tacks and gybes just yet: “We’re learning the boat. We’re learning the systems. We’re learning to get the best out of our configuration. We’re not going into manoeuvres at the moment, there is no point as we still have things that we want to check. But I think we’re doing really well and every time we are going on the water, we make a step forward.”

The on-the-water recon team overheard and witnessed some issues towards the end of the session with a ‘port pump’ but once sailing was concluded Charbonnier was guarded in interview neither confirming nor denying any issue with the hydraulics controlling the port foil – the anhedral that looks so comfortable in the Barcelona chop at the moment for Boat Zero.

But overall, this has been a great week for Alinghi Red Bull Racing. They’ve bounced back magnificently from the capsize of three weeks ago and have ticked off a lot of boxes on their schedule. The support crew and coaches in the RIBs appear positive and could be seen going into lengthy detail with the sailors on the tow back to their base at the western end of Port Vell. There’s a lot to work on technique-wise to achieve stable flight but in the coming days and weeks we will see foiling tacks and gybes for sure.

Methodical. Logical. Data-driven. It’s the Swiss way and it’s compelling to watch unfold.

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