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Cup Spy: The two very different Worlds of Pensacola and Barcelona

by Richard Gladwell Sail-World NZ 18 Oct 2022 19:55 PDT 19 October 2022
NYYC American Magic - Pensacola, FL October 17, 2022 © Paul Todd/ America's Cup

After a day off - American Magic resumed sailing off Pensacola, in conditions that were a striking contrast to what was seen off Barcelona the day before.

Key points October 17, 2022:

  • American Magic began sailing early afternoon off Pensacola. The session stopped several times to adjust the clew end of the boomless mainsail
  • No change to foil and rudder wings used in previous session
  • None of the other teams that have launched a training/development boat sailed on Monday. The Kiwis did sail early Wednesday morning (NZT), in the AC40 in a fresh breeze - to be covered in the next report.
  • Brits yet to launch

American Magic has productive day:

The New York Yacht Club team, American Magic resumed sailing off Pensacola, after spending what was assumed to be Sunday, as a day off - or a maybe work day for the Shore Support team.

Patriot, the team's AC75 had a short-lived competitive career in the 2021 America's Cup, capsizing on Day 3 of the Prada Cup, being hastily repaired, skipping the rest of the racing in the Qualifying Series, and then competing in the the best of seven Prada Cup Semi-Finals. There were a myriad of gremlins that were a hang-over from the capsize and subsequent repairs. The team's recovery was not aided by a light, near unsailable day, on one of the few practice days they had available before the start of the Semi-Finals - where their shortcomings were very publicly exposed.

Given that history, and that the America's Cup Class Rule has been significantly altered for Barcelona 2024, it is not surprising that American Magic have opted to take Patriot a long way into being compliant with the AC75 Version 2, class rule. It would not have made sense to relaunch Patriot as a Version 1 AC75. Patriot is too good a boat, with few racing miles in its logbook, to be cast aside in favour of developing an almost 12 metre long Surrogate boat as the British and Italian teams have done.

On Monday we saw Alinghi Red Bull Racing struggle a little in the sloppy Barcelona sea-state being a combination of easterly swell, NW wind chop and reverberation swells generated by the seawall.

Despite a similar strength winds of around 10-12kts, Pensacola later in the same day, but an ocean away, was a huge sailing contrast to Barcelona.

In a review of fifteen AC37 Joint Recon videos, we saw a near flawless foiling performance by Patriot, with the AC75 skimming over the surface often with an imperceptible difference between the lower tip of of the hull underbody and the surface. The Swiss were foiling high and safe, or occasionally getting too close and making contact with the surface - often resulting in a variety of spectacular outcomes - and none of them fast.

That begs the question of Patriot - how would it have handled the Barcelona conditions? Would the flight controller have opted to fly higher and trade that off against the end plate effect between the rig and the water surface, and sacrificing rig efficiency?

When the designers produce their hull shapes for the Version 2 AC75's, will they continue with the full forefoot seen on both Patriot and Emirates Team New Zealand's America's Cup champion. The same design characteristic appears in the AC40 developed for the Preliminary Events, as well as the Youth and Womens America's Cups, and as a test boat for the teams.

The accuracy of the flight control on Patriot on their latest sailing session is quite remarkable, and must have caused a double-take from several of the other design teams, who see the same video and still images as we do ahead of compiling these Cup Spy reports.

There has been no official confirmation by American Magic as to what they are running to pressurise their onboard hydraulic control systems. We do know what we can't see. That there are no grinding positions visible in Patriot's current layout. The cockpits are now big open spaces to hold the eight sailing crew, plus sailing team boss Terry Hutchinson who was again riding shotgun in the back of the boat. A comparison of photos of Patriot on its launch day in October 2020, with the one below of the current layout, which shows different cockpit cut-out shapes, a winch drum is clearly visible, along with grinding station handles. Both the winch drum and grinder station have gone in the latest shots.

On several occasions the sailing and support crews to crawl inside, or up the leech, of the the double skinned mainsail, to adjust the new boomless control system. The concept, at this level, was, first trotted out by the Kiwis for the 2021 Cup. They no doubt picked up on the concept used by their mainsail trimmer Glenn Ashby, who developed the same system for his A-class catamaran.

In the early days for the Kiwi team there was a lot of tweaking of what looked to be quite a Heath Robinson adjustment systems, which once the issues were better understood were replaced with a fully engineered hydraulically driven device.

Those considerations, aside the US team should be well-satisfied with their start and progress to date, however the caveat is that what may function superbly in Pensacola, may not do the job, as well as other options in Barcelona. Trade-offs will have to be made.

And as seen in the last Cup, dropping off the foils through a crew error or design flaw, is often enough to determine or reverse a race outcome, and maybe a three year campaign result.

Session Statistics - Pensacola October 17, 2022 - American Magic - AC75 Version 1.75

  • Wind Strength (AM) 6kts (PM): 6-8kts increasing to 12 knots
  • Wind Direction: WNW (AM) - WNW (PM)
  • Sea State: Not significant
  • Crane in: 1100 Dock Out: 1300
  • Dock In: 1700 Crane out: 1745
  • Total Tacks: 16 - Fully foiling: 5; Touch & Go: 7; Touch Down: 4
  • Total Gybes: 7 - Fully foiling: 4; Touch & Go: 2; Touch Down: 1

GPS Tracks:

American Magic - Pensacola, Fl.:

Image Gallery:

This commentary was written and compiled from video, still images and statistical content extracted from the AC37 Joint Recon program and other material available to Sail-World NZ including photo files, and other on the water coverage from the 2010, 2013, 2017 and 2021 America's Cups.

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