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Cup Spy Dec 21 : INEOS Britannia flies impressively

by Richard Gladwell/ 21 Dec 2022 19:05 PST 22 December 2022
INEOS Britannia - LEQ12 - December 21, 2022 - Badia de Palma - Mallorca © Ugo Fonolla / America's Cup

INEOS Britannia - LEQ12 - Mallorca - December 21, 2022

Over two months after emerging from the temporary team base in Mallorca for the first time on October 17, INEOS Britannia went foiling under sail in their LEQ12, a half-size AC75 prototype.

Technically the Brits' first sail was earlier in the week, but that was displacement sailing only, in light winds, at the end of a day of on the water setup.

The 37 AC Recon Team enthusiastically shot and posted 93 video clips of the preparations and first sail. After reviewing all of those, the INEOS Britannia's first sail was impressive.

It was not the slick show of the type put on by Emirates Team New Zealand, on their maiden sails - which are typically punctuated with multiple foiling tacks and gybes - mostly all dry.

But then the British were not sailing a boat that as a development of boats and systems with which they were very familiar. The testing did not take place in flat water - far from it. The British boat is the first attempt from a combined F1 and America's Cup design team - and is a very specialised test platform.

What is left of the Brit's AC design group, don't have two great success stories to tell from their two AC75's from 2021 Cup. The F1 side if the INEOS Britannia, have never designed a yacht before. They are starting with a blank piece of paper, so to speak, in the high-tech world of America's Cup and Formula 1 design.

The LEQ12 prototype appeared to get foiling unassisted on their first attempt (confirmed by AC37 observers). T6 flies close to surface, so the exact point of flight is not easily picked, but they did get liftoff without a lot of drama.

As the day wore on, the team improved - which is another positive - hitting speeds in the 30-35kt range - which are good numbers for a first sail in 8-12kt winds. The boat speed equates to 2.5 or 3 times windspeed.

A point which needs to be front of mind viewing any video, or eyeballing, the half-size AC75 test boats - be they AC40's or LEQ12's, is that while the boat may be half size AC75, the sea state is full size - which has a significant effect on foiling and also the ability to self-launch.

One thing that is apparent from watching the now two bespoke design LEQ12's sailing, is that in pre-foiling state they push a lot more water for their size than their AC75 counterparts, particularly on the leeward foil arm. Plus they don't have the water clearance to be able to afford to sail slightly heeled to windward. In a windward heeled state the windward foil - even if it is raised, is still very close to the water surface. If there is a foil strike, that is more drag and the boat just slows, spoiling the stream of test data.

As an aside, foiling monohulls of the AC type are the opposite of regular monohulls. Windward heel is not fast. It is an indication that the leeward foil is asking for more downward pressure to be applied from the rig, which is achieved by sheeting on and carrying more power, and generating more speed. Plus the slight heel to leeward keeps the windward foil tip well clear of the water surface.

Remember when assessing video and still images, foilers are all about righting moment, and maximising pressure on the leeward foil, not backing off and using a technique that works well in International Moths.

The Emirates Team NZ designed AC40 hulls, don't seem to suffer quite so badly - which could be due to several factors such as lighter all up weight; not carrying more than four crew; lighter construction weight; less systems and sensors; more advanced design and simulation programs within the team's IP, which can better predict foiling self-launch issues.

The purpose of using the LEQ12 is to have a dedicated test boat, the self-launch ability in light airs is nice to have, but the LEQ12's purpose in life is to provide a solid platform for performance testing when foiling.

Leading sailing journalist Justin Chisholm is part of the AC37 Recon Team in Mallorca and made these reservations in his report:

"Conditions in Palma, Mallorca for INEOS Britannia's first proper day of sailing could not have been better today with sunny warm flat calm conditions early this morning as the British shore crew rigged and launched the boat and 8 - 12 knots of breeze and flat water in the afternoon when the five person crew of the team's LEQ12, codenamed T6, sheeted on with purpose to quickly accelerate and lift her hull clear of the water for the first time without outside assistance.

"The sun was only just up at 0808 this morning when the British shore team rolled T6 out of the shed, while simultaneously hoisting the LEQ12 yacht's Southern Spars carbon mast skyward ready to be stepped. By 0910 the mast setup was complete and 10 minutes later the boat was in the water and teeming with technicians getting her ready for the day ahead.

"Just before 1000hrs the sailors loaded the sails aboard and were in the process of connecting the double-skin mainsails - and blowing up the diagonal inflatable battens that help keep the square top sail standing proud - as the boat was side-towed off the dock at 1101.

"The mainsail hoist was completed in the harbour before - with some encouragement from the local harbour pilot. - T6 was towed out into the Bay ahead of a couple of large commercial ships heading for mainland Spain.

"On board were helmsmen Ben Ainslie and Giles Scott, along with trimmers/flight controllers Ian Jensen and Luke Parkinson, and Bleddyn Mon in an additional oversight role.

"After hoisting the jib and going through a few minutes of systems checks the crew powered T6 up and started to punch through the moderate chop before accelerating to take off speed - around 18 knots - for the first time at 1216. Once airborne the speed built further to the mid-twenty knot range, before the run was brought to an end a few seconds after the British crew crossed the wake of a large commercial [car ferry] vessel. [S-W This is seen in the opening sequences of the video at the bottom of this story and T6 handled it surprisingly well.]

"Six further runs were completed with the crew looking more and more in control on each flight.

"The most spectacular run was near the end of the day with the boat sailing downwind angles at speeds touching 35 knots. That run ended with the boat landing bow down carving up huge sheets of spray either side.

"A final downwind run did take place with the top speed estimated to be just under 30 knots but at the end of that around four minute session a delay of almost an hour followed before the jib and main were dropped and the boat was towed home in displacement mode."

"It was nice to get the boat up out of the water," skipper Ben Ainslie reflected dockside, after the session.

"It was a beautiful day for it here in Palma. We had some good breeze. We managed to work the boat through some more systems checks, and then get it up foiling, which is nice.

"We still have plenty to work on the system side of things, which was causing us a few delays and a few issues. But that, will come. I think it's easy to forget just how complex these boats are, and the systems that go into them. And, you know, we've clearly taken a different step with this boat. And it's taken us a while to work through that. But we'll get there.

At the time of the interview, Ainslie had not had any feed back from the INEOS team of designers and engineers watching the video and data in the Mercedes-AMG base almost 700nm away in Brackley, UK.

"It's been a big step, combining America's Cup with Formula 1. And so for a lot of those engineers get their heads around, what goes into a boat like this - getting the systems operating, and then getting it up to the point of flying. So it was a good step forward for the team. But clearly a long way to go to get the boat fully operational."

Probably like no other boat in this America's Cup cycle, T6 bristles with sensors and other performance data measurement devices. Ainslie concedes they have a lot of work to do, to get the platform where it needs to be to provide accurate analysis and for the design process to move at pace, to catch up the time that has been spent in T6's development and commissioning.

"The operation capability of the boat, is not where it needs to be currently," he says. "So we're working through that. We've got a good squad on it, and we'll get there. But we need to get that squared away before we go into some other testing protocols and testing schedules that we've got all the way through till next summer. It's a good step to get the boat foiling. Then we can start working through this testing schedule."

He acknowledges the day ended early for the team with a small but critical breakdown. "That was a shame because we had great conditions. But that said, we've certainly taken a huge amount from the last couple of days sailing particularly in the systems area and what we need to fine tune to get the boat fully operational."

Bleddyn Mon was on T6 for the first sail. "He's one of our key trimmer/aero guys and works heavily in the design group as well," Ainslie explains. "He was keeping an eye on the on the sail systems and trim. It's nice if we can take a fifth person on board the boat, just to give feedback to the technical group, and also keep an eye out to see if there's anything that's potentially causing us an issue we may have potentially missed because we're heads down sailing the boat."

"It's a good squad and we've got a great sailing squad here. We'll start rotating sailors around a bit now that we're up and running."

Ainslie said the team probably would not sail on Thursday. "I think it's most likely we won't sail tomorrow. So that's probably the end of our sailing, going into the Christmas period."

"But there's big job list to work on, to take the boat to the to the next step, and start to get some manoeuvres in and move forward."

Session Statistics - Mallorca - December 21, 2022 - INEOS Britannia - LEQ12

  • Wind Strength 0-2kts(AM) 8-12kts (PM)
  • Wind Direction: N(AM) 220 SSW (PM)
  • Roll out: 0920hrs Dock Out: 1101hrs
  • Dock In: 1550hrs Crane out: 1615hrs
  • Total Tacks: 0 - Fully foiling: 0; Touch & Go: 0; Touch Down: 0
  • Total Gybes: 0 - Fully foiling: 0; Touch & Go: 0; Touch Down: 0

Crew: Giles Scott, Ben Ainslie, Luke Parkinson, Iain Jensen, Bleddyn Mon (Technical/design observer

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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