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Cup Spy Feb 5-6 : Three teams hitting the high notes

by Compiled by Richard Gladwell/ 7 Feb 00:32 PST 7 February 2023
INEOS Britannia - LEQ12 - February 6, 2023 - Badia de Palma - Mallorca © Ugo Fonolla / America's Cup

Three America's Cup teams, in four boats have been hitting the high mileages and speeds. After disrupted starts the Italians and Brits have settled into their stride, while the Kiwis have continued apace in their now two-boat program.

What happened in the Cup - Feb 5-6, 2023:

  • Luna Rossa sailed on the Gulf of Cagliari on Sunday in a dying Maestrale
  • INEOS Britannia sailed on Monday out of Mallorca, with Ben Ainslie returning to the helm
  • Emirates Team New Zealand sailed their two AC40's on Tuesday, and are combining match racing, with speed testing and bringing new sailing team members up to speed.
  • American Magic have decommissioned their AC75 and will not start training again until the beginning of March
  • Alinghi Red Bull Racing last sailed out of Barcelona on February 1
  • Orient Express Team (formerly French K-Challenge) - no update.

INEOS Britannia - LEQ12 - Mallorca - February 7, 2023 - Day 23

Top sailing journalist, Justin Chisholm was on the water and made various observations on the British boat:

In an indication of just how valuable every hour of testing time is to the British America’s Cup team right now, the INEOS Britannia squad rolled out their T6 LEQ12 out of the shed at 0800 this rainy Tuesday morning in order to squeeze in a 90 minute foiling session before a gnarly-looking weather front rolled over Palma Bay mid-afternoon.

With Ben Ainslie and Giles Scott at the helming stations and Luke Parkinson and Bleddyn Mon on sail trim and flight control, at 1100 the silver 40-footer was towed 20 minutes with mainsail and J2 across mirror flat seas to the far south west corner of the bay.

After waiting around patiently for an hour the crew called for a bow tow and were immediately foiling comfortably in seven knots of breeze. With the wind steadily ramping up to around 12 knots but the sea remaining flat, the crew put the boat through its paces at a variety of wind angles, along with several slick looking foiling tacks and gybes. On the team’s larger chase boat, Coach Xavi Fernadez seemed particularly interested in the sail plan in downwind mode.

Upwind, we observed the boat being sailed several times with some windward heel and a slightly bow down pitch. A technical issue (explained later as a minor hydraulic oil leak by Scott) and a darkening sky marking the early onset of the forecast weather front saw the team down sails at just after 1400 – roughly an hour earlier than we estimate they would have wanted to.

After the session Justin Chisholm spoke with a co-helmsman for the team, double Olympic Gold medalist, Giles Scott.

"The session was a little bit shorter than what we planned," Scott explained.

"But the weather has come in now - there's a there's a big front rolling through. So finishing early is maybe not the end of the world."

The British team went out on the water and sat around waiting for the breeze to fill in and then got about 90 minutes of sailing, before a technical issue arose, later disclosed to be an oil leak "downstairs", which caused the shortened session.

Today the Brits did what many teams have been doing - switching between two jib sizes in order to establish the crossover wind speed. In the 2021 Cup the teams left jib selection until the last possible moment, and if in doubt went down a size. The logic being that it was easier to compensate a loss in power by grunting up the mainsail, but if the jib was bigger then required for the conditions, then the addition drag could not be shed, and slowed the boat.

"Predominantly size is the main difference between the jibs," Scott said. "These yachts are really sensitive to area changes. Today we've been sailing with mostly a J1 and a J3. We've filled the filled the gap with another code [J2].

"The differences between the J2 and J1 aren't that massive. It's still quite a light wind sail. But as I say, the boats are very sensitive. So with every code, code change, there's there's slight differences," he added.

Before Christmas, and soon after T6 as the British prototype is called, skipper Ben Ainslie said the LEQ12 was not 100% operational.

Scott says the gap is closing, but they are still not there yet. "It's getting closer, but we've still got some reasonably big ticket items that we know we've got to go to iron out. We'll be looking to do that over the over the coming weeks. It's a bit of a balancing act between getting good time on the water, collecting that key information that the design team need for decisions for RB3 [Race Boat 3 or the team's 2024 AC75]. So that's really the juggling act we're playing at the moment."

While some commentators, Cup Spy included, look a little askance at the 12 metre long prototypes being used for testing and wonder how well they cross over into the AC75.

"It is good fun to sail, Says Scott. "It is amazing how similar in a lot of ways they do feel like the bigger boats. But that being said they are a lot smaller and obviously not not not quite as not quite as powerful. But T6 is a great learning tool for us."

For some reason skipper Ben Ainslie was coy about saying what top speed was reached in T6 yesterday, despite saying that it was a new mark, and that other teams and their stalkers (Recon Teams) regularly reveal any new speed that is significant - top speed or otherwise.

Scott wouldn't elaborate much on how much faster the 2024 AC75's are going to be than their 2021 predecessors, except to say: "I think a lot of it will depend on where teams decide to put foil design. The [new] boats is certainly going to be quick and they're going to be a lot quicker around the course that's for sure." He hung back from making a prediction on the new top speed for an AC75 (which all teams will know from their performance prediction software).

Session Statistics - Mallorca - February 7, 2023 - INEOS Britannia - LEQ12 - Day 23

  • Weather: Cloudy with showers 12° C
  • Wind Strength 3-12kts Flat sea
  • Wind Direction: 330°
  • Roll out: 0849hrs Dock Out: 1032hrs
  • Dock In: 1449hrs Crane out: 1530hrs
  • Total Tacks: 7 - Fully foiling: 4; Touch & Go: 0; Touch Down: 3
  • Total Gybes: 3 - Fully foiling: 3; Touch & Go: 0; Touch Down: 0

Crew: Ben Ainslie and Giles Scott, Luke Parkinson and Bledyn Mon

Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli - LEQ12 - Cagliari - February 5, 2023 - Day 30

From the AC37 Joint Recon Team [Michele Melis AC-Recon]:

With an early Sunday rollout at 7:00 the LRPP team found good sailing conditions with medium to lower strength Maestrale breeze, starting from 12-14kn in the early morning and dropping to 7-9 kn around noon. The Italian LEQ12 rolled out of the shed and was craned in at 7:20am.

The monitoring of flow around foil arm stock and inboard wing seems to continue as both boards were armed with the usual GoPro cases on pressure and suction sides while a new port side flap version has been declared with minor geometry changes. After docking out at 9:00, the team headed towards Sella del Diavolo to hoist main + J2 right where the LR youth training program has happening.

The LEQ12 was boarded with four crew members which swapped on several sailing breaks. In the first part of the sailing session long straight line sailing seemed to prevail with some series of maneuvers.

Considering several observed splash downs, it seemed that during tacks transiting from port tack to starboard tack were not as successful as from starboard to port tack. With the J2 in medium breeze the take off sequence seemed steady following the usual procedure, a total of four self take off's were observed with this configuration.

Before placing some marks at 10:00, twice has the prototype been observed dropping the windward board to head up hard on an upwind course. The LEQ12 completed a total of four legs, two upwind and two downwind; Recon RIB alternated positions between upwind & downwind marks and following. As forecasted, the pressure in the gulf decreased to below 10kn around 11:30 and the team hoisted J1. After several tryouts taking off, the LEQ12 was towed up by RIB twice and after trying some maneuvers the team called it a day with a record of 15 maneuvers, out of which nine tacks and six gybes and a foilborne time of 108 minutes.

After the session Michele Melis of the AC37 Joint Recon team spoke with Andre Tesei, a flight controller with Luna Rossa and 49er sailor.

"Today was an amazing day on the water," Tesei said. "The weather was perfect. Sunshine really well makes the Mistral breeze. Very good for testing. And, yeah, great day before the storm coming from tomorrow, we're gonna have a few wild and stormy days. So was nice to get a full on day today."

Outside the teams, little is really known about the flight controller role, how they do their task and when they are on manual or automated.

"The hard part of these boats is when they have no speed," Tesei explained. "There is there is very little stability from the hull and from the foils that are not generating any lift. So it's basically like sitting on a skiff like a 49er or a Moth. You're not trapezing or flying. So it's really unstable.

"You need to use the foil cant system and the foils as your trapeze harness, and be patient generating the flow and sails as if you were a traditional displacement boat. As soon as we start to build and flow is building on the foils, then you can start on the process of lifting the boat out of the water."

One of the boxes on the form that the Recon team is required to complete, is an estimated takeoff speed - which should be done by the Recon boat pacing the AC75 or LEQ12 and noting their speed at the point of liftoff. Typically the speed is between 16-18kts. Melis asked for confirmation.

"Any insight about the takeoff speed power about 17 knots?"

"Close, close," was Tesei's succinct reply

Another point of intrigue with the teams all (except for the AC-40 One Design) testing with different wingfoils, and whether the flight controllers can tell the difference. "We know that you've been switching between starboard and port side," Melis asked. "Of course, the foil geometries are different. Any difference on that on a feeling of flight control?"

"The performance is pretty similar between the two," Tesei replied. "The two wings, although they are symmetric, they demand a bit of a different trim between the two different designs. But overall the they're pretty similar."

Melis: "And what about the cant angle? Do you have like preset cant angles for takeoff manoeuvres and so on?"

"We have our protocols for sharing manoeuvres and stuff," Tesei responded. But it's a test boat and we are learning that trying different setups, different ideas and working out which is the best compromise."

"Like most of the designing, these boats are a compromise between VPP design and then what's achievable on the water. So it's a lot of work, as we said before trying to find the right balance and compromise between manoeuvrability, handling and then pure straight line speed."

Tesei said the team were "very happy about the boat. It is performing super well, and the team is putting in a massive effort to make the boat works nicely throughout the day and without any stops. For our sailors is a dream. We can sail three hours on this boat and just crank on with the testing, get the boat handling done done and everybody can really push the limit."

"It surely does look amazing," Melis remarked.

Session Statistics - Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli - LEQ12 - Cagliari - February 5, 2023 - Day 30

  • Wind Strength 9-13kts
  • Wind Direction: NW Maestrale (Mistral) breeze
  • Weather: Sunny 13°C
  • Sea State:
  • Roll out: 0720hrs Dock Out: 0900hrs
  • Dock In: 1200hrs Crane out: 1330hrs
  • Total Tacks: 7 - Fully foiling: 4; Touch & Go: 3; Touch Down: 2
  • Total Gybes: 6 - Fully foiling: 4; Touch & Go: 1; Touch Down: 1

Crew: Francesco Bruni,Ruggero Tita, Marco Gradoni, Jimmy Spithill, Andrea Tesei, Umberto Molineris swapping with Vittorio Bissaro

INEOS Britannia - LEQ12 - Mallorca - February 6, 2023 - Day 22

Top sailing journalist, Justin Chisholm was on the water and made various observations on the British boat:

INEOS Britannia’s 22nd sailing day saw the British team cram in six valuable fast foiling runs into a two and a half hour afternoon session sailed in a shifty and gusty 9 - 14 knot northerly breeze and with a predominantly flat sea state.

According to skipper and helmsman Ben Ainslie, despite being comparatively short the session proved nevertheless fruitful in terms of data gathering. Ainslie also alluded to them setting a new top speed for the silver T6 LEQ12.

Although coy about the precise figure on the speedo, the recon rib’s top speed was a fraction over 43 knots.

Worthy of note is the fact that the entire session was carried out using the J2 headsail.

Once again the crew – Ainslie and Giles Scott as helmsmen, with Leigh McMillan and Iain Jensen on flight control and trim – put the boat through its paces in a variety of pitch angles (flying mainly at a pronounced bow up/stern down angle – but also occasionally bow down).

In terms of manoeuvres, other than a couple of displacement tacks in between runs, all the other tacks and gybes were slick fully foiling turns. The only slip ups observed were two spectacular high speed splashdowns within a few seconds of each other while high-speed reaching on port.

After the session, Justin Chisholm caught up with a very cold looking INEOS Britannia skipper.

"It's a little bit cold today," Ainslie conceded. "But it's a really good day on the water. We've made the best of the conditions and ticked off everything on our list and got a top speed for the yacht. So it was good day out."

But that was it on speed disclosure. Ainslie clammed up when asked for a number.

"Can you tell us what that top speed was?"

"I wish I could Justin," he replied. "It was good. The boats going well, and it was good to tick everything off the testing list. It was a tricky day out there. Quite a lot of cloud action, and a bit of rain around around so we felt like we got the best of the day."

"It's hard when you're trying to test and the winds changing around quite a lot," he responded to a follow-up question.

"Fortunately for us, we were doing a kind of testing where it didn't actually the [wind strength] accuracy didn't matter too much. It was more to do with how the foils were reacting to different speeds and pitches. You probably saw us messing around with that quite a lot. Tomorrow February 7), we've got some steadier breeze. So maybe we'll get into a different type of testing."

"We saw some the boat sailing with a bow up, stern down. Is that what you're talking about?" Chisholm asked.

"Yeah, exactly. Just trying different pitch sweeps with different board angles and so on, to really give the design engineers the best idea of how those foils are performing. And then that relates into how you how you go out and design your race foils," Ainslie added.

Chisholm: "You've been away for a little while from the project. Everything's been rolling along quite nicely here. I'm sure you've been getting daily or even hourly updates. How impressed are you with what's going on here while you've been away?"

"I think Giles [Scott] and the team here and Jeff [Causey] on the shore side have been doing a really good job getting the best out of the boat. We've got a lot going on with the campaign back in Brackley, which is where our design team is based. And a lot of other stuff going on across the organisation. So we're very busy at the moment, but really starting to make some good strides forwards.

One of the issues with the British team is that they are well down on sailing days compared to the other entries, with the exception obviously of the new Orient Express Team (formerly K-Challenge). The Brits are on 23 days sailing (with five of those including towing and another three days when the test boat came out of the shed and was being rigged with its towing pole, and then another one or two with its regular rig. Plus the team seem to have had more calm days than the others. [American Magic have had the most days at 44days, Alinghi RBR is on 42 days, Emirates Team NZ on 31 days, and Luna Rossa on 30 days - all with less a day or two for rigging only time.]

"Is that a problem for you? Is that a worry? Are you Are you pretty much on schedule?" Chisholm asked.

"We were obviously later than we wanted to be getting the boat going," Ainslie replied. "But now it feels like we're getting some really good hours under our belt. We're certainly ticking off all of those testing items that we wanted to. And we're getting ourselves back on schedule. So I think we're going to see that with all the other teams have moments where they have an issue or not getting great conditions. That will come and go as we go through the next 18 months."

Chisholm: "A final question. I'm sure you've been keeping an eye on the other teams. Is there anybody who's particularly impressed you or any thoughts on the other teams?"

"I think they've all been impressive, actually," Ainslie reflected. "Obviously they've all got different setups. But, we're really impressed with the other teams, and great to see the French team announced [Orient Express Team]. I'm sure they're going to be competitive with what sounds like a kiwi design package. So it's looking like it's going to be a real tough battle for Barcelona in 18 months," he said concluding the interview and headed off for a hot shower.

Session Statistics - Mallorca - February 6, 2023 - INEOS Britannia - LEQ12 - Day 22

  • Weather: Cloudy with showers 12° C
  • Wind Strength 9-14kts
  • Wind Direction: 330°
  • Roll out: 1147hrs Dock Out: 1255hrs
  • Dock In: 1720hrs Crane out: 1750hrs
  • Total Tacks: 7 - Fully foiling: 4; Touch & Go: 0; Touch Down: 3
  • Total Gybes: 3 - Fully foiling: 3; Touch & Go: 0; Touch Down: 0

Crew: Ben Ainslie and Giles Scott, Leigh McMillan and Iain Jensen

Emirates Team NZ - LEQ12 - Auckland - February 7, 2022 - Day 15

From the AC37 Joint Recon Team [Alastair Moore AC-Recon]:

A new week, new conditions. The breeze had switched around to the South West flattening the sea sate and clearing the humidity.

A two boat day with the AC40 coming out of the shed at 11.25 and both boats in the pen with sails loaded by12.30. At 13.00 both yachts were towed outside the basin and turned head to to hoist sails.

The Recon boat picked up the LEQ12 just before North Head where she was foiling nicely down wind with a J2 set. She did several gybes down towards Salt Works off Rangitoto’s Western shore then beat back up towards Bean Rock where she was joined by the AC40 to sail in close company down to the back paddock just off Eastern Beach.

Here a short windward leeward course of about 1 mile was set with with the bottom gate set wide to double as a start line. After 2 laps sailed apart the first pre start was at 14.50 with the second at 14.55 leading into a 2 lap race. The LEQ12 was a good 10 seconds late at the boat end with the AC40 in full one design mode on time at the pin.

Over the duration of the two laps the LEQ12 gradually closed the gap and by gybing early on the last run finished easily in front. They then proceeded on a long run in company down to the Southern shore of Waiheke Island heading for about Kennedy Point. The yachts now hardened up for a port making board one sided beat home.

Quite often the AC40 looked faster but I did see the LEQ12 trying some extreme pitch (bow down) and heel to leeward angles.

The Head of the LEQ12 main looks flatter than the AC40 and sometimes up range looks to be mildly inverted in the top 1/4 on the leeward side, Moore reported.

2016 Olympic Bronze medalist in the then Laser class, Sam Meech, is one of the newer recruits to Emirates Team NZ's sailing team. Alastair Moore from the AC37 Joint Recon team spoke with him after the session, and asked for his impression of the day's training and testing.

"It was fantastic, it's quite nice to get some lighter breeze," Meech replied. "We've had pretty solid wind and rain over the last couple of weeks. [Auckland has suffered a series of days of wind blowing over 30kts.] It was good to get out there and have wins of 14-17 knots.

Part of the day's session consisted of setting up a short course, with a couple of prestarts - the first time that the AC-40's had gone head to head in this America's Cup cycle.

Meech says that as a sail trimmer for the day didn't see a lot. "I was pretty much heads down just trying to follow what Josh was doing to me," he said. "But it's so much fun. And it's a great start to have these boats being out racing. It's pretty exciting for the World Series and and using them for the America's Cup," he added. `.

After striking debris on their last sail, Meech said they were keeping an eye out, but didn't see too much.

As with the other teams, on its LEQ12, the Kiwis have different wingfoils on the port and starboard foil arms. Of particular interest has been the new curved anhedral foil, and Meech was asked if the sailors could see much difference between the performance of the one design and test boat, referencing the straight line race they had back from Motuihe to the team base in downtown Auckland, after the conclusion of the session. (The hookup was captured in Justin Michell's video. The AC40 One-Design is the windward boat, and leads the LEQ12 home.)

"At times, they seem pretty similar. We are still getting used to the boat [ETNZ's second AC-40] We're pretty far behind on days [AC40-1 was launched just before Christmas.] But we're getting getting better as a team. The boats are reasonably similar in performance," Meech says.

Session Statistics - Emirates Team NZ - LEQ12 - Auckland - February 7, 2022 - Day 15

    • Wind Strength 10-18kts
    • Wind Direction: SW
    • Sea State: Slight
    • Roll out: 1200hrs Dock Out: 1300hrs
    • Dock In: 1635hrs Crane out: 1655hrs
    • Total Tacks: 37 - Fully foiling: 32; Touch & Go: 4; Touch Down: 1
    • Total Gybes: 29 - Fully foiling: 27; Touch & Go: 2; Touch Down: 0

    Crew: (LEQ12 Nathan Outteridge, Peter Burling) (AC40 Liv Mackay, Leonard Takahashi, Josh Junior) (LEQ12 Andy Maloney, Blair Tuke) (AC40 Sam Meech, Marcus Hansen)

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