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Cup Spy August 9: Gremlins hit two teams within 15 minutes of start of day's test session

by Richard Gladwell/Sail-World NZ 9 Aug 2023 18:58 PDT 10 August 2023
NYYC American Magic and Alinghi Red Bull Racing - LEQ12/AC40s - Day 49 - August 9, 2023 - Barcelona © Paul Todd/America's Cup

Three teams opted to sail for a second successive day in Barcelona.

Two of those ran two boat testing/racing programs with both their AC40 One Designs/Test boats engaged. However both teams suffered breakdowns on one boat, reducing the session to one-boat practice/testing only. The third team - Italian Luna Rossa only has one AC40 in Barcelona, with their test boat remaining at the team's permanent base in Cagliari.

What happened in the Cup - August 9 2023:

  • Alinghi Red Bull Racing launched two boats one (Yellow) with the "Tubercle" foil. AC40 coach Phil Robertson was co-helming one of the AC40s - designated as the Red boat, which stayed in One Design mode and was used as the benchmark boat for the Yellow AC40. After launching and in pre-session testing there were issues with the hydraulic luff downhaul on the Red boat, which was lifted from the water and the issue rectified. The Yellow test boat broke down 15 minutes into the sailing session and the Red boat (in One Design mode) continued to sail alone, training in unscheduled practice for next month's Preliminary Event in Vilanova.
  • American Magic followed a similar script to the Swiss. While their AC40 Development mode boat was apparently clearly faster than the AC40 One-design. But 15 minutes into the first sailing session the Test Boat "ventilated .. to a complete stop and never went back to sailing again." The issue was neither questioned or answered in the dockside interview. As with the Swiss, the American One Design boat continuing in unscheduled practice for next month's Preliminary Event in Vilanova.
  • Luna Rossa sailed their AC40One Design - no details of the crew are available, as by mutual agreement there is no recon team assigned to AC40 One Designs.
  • Emirates Team New Zealand opted to stay ashore.
  • INEOS Britannia also opted to stay ashore.
  • No further news from the Orient Express Team (formerly K-Challenge).


The beautiful sailing thermal wind sailing conditions arrived once again at Barcelona, with two teams having test session planned using their two AC40s. Both were set in the same mode - one as a One Design boat - with all the supplied One Design gear on board. The teams run the development boat with whatever gear they select for their test program. However today's variable common to both seemed to be testing wing foils.

The Swiss had a hitch with their One Design boat during the pre-session dock-check after launch, and the boat was lifted and the mast with its attendant hydraulic luff control was taken into the shed. The faulty part was repaired/replaced and the boat relaunched.

From there the script for both teams was almost the same.

Both stopped sailing 15 minutes into their respective sessions. American Magic's one design mode boat came to a halt with a "ventilation issue". The Swiss also came to a halt 15 minutes into the session - this time with their Development boat, leaving their One Design boat to train alone for over 2.5hrs

Putting the best spin on the situation both teams could say "we got valuable race practice" for the first Preliminary Event in Vilanova next month. That is true to a point - but it was uncontested training.

And in the case of the Swiss, their boat was co-helmed by Phil Robertson (NZL) who is not qualified under the nationality rules to sail for Switzerland. But no doubt the Clockmakers got some valuable insights from their co-skipper/coach - who is a former world match racing champion, and is now sailing in his fourth season on the very competitive SailGP circuit - with several other AC helms in the 10 boat fleet of foiling wingsailed catamarans.

However the events of the day very much underlined how dependent the rockstar America's Cup sailors and designers are on their support teams, being able to keep test and one-design boats on the water without losing session and valuable test-time through breakdowns.

Weather conditions at Barcelona August 9, 2023:

On the water, on August 9, the AC37 Recon teams reported similar winds than those recorded at Port Olimpic. Both teams reported winds of 9-16kts from 195°-220°.

According to the recorder at Port Olimpic and 10metres higher than the AC37 Joint Recon boats, tThe thermal breeze built from just above 5kts at 1000hrs to be averaging over 20kts between 1400 and 1600hrs.

American Magic started sailing at 1330hrs, and Alinghi Red Bull Racing started at the same time. According to Port Olimpic the breeze was blowing at 15kts at that time gusting 17kts (at a height of 12 metres).

Both teams reported reduced sea states from the previous days with American Magic reporting a seaway as "windchop" from 210° at a height of 0.8metres.

In the 48hour chart (below in "Additional Images") it shows the the thermal breeze builds each day in a regular time cycle, with there being some variance at the top strength for the day. Air temperature was only reported by one team at 32°, which would reduce the weight of the breeze despite the reported strength.

AC37 Joint Recon Team Reports:

Alinghi Red Bull Racing AC40 - Day 48 - August 9, 2023 - Barcelona

Alinghi Red Bull Racing rolled out their AC40-7 (RED) and AC40-4 (YELLOW) at 10:00hrs and 10:35hrs respectively. The Yellow boat was equipped with the ‘Delta Tubercle’ foil on the port side and the anhedral foil on starboard. Both foils had camera bulbs on their lower surface. Cameras on both sides of the foil arm have been added to the anhedral foil, similar to those previously added to the ‘Delta Tubercle’ foil. The Red boat remains in full One Design mode.

The Red boat faced rigging issues and was craned out, with its rigging then moved to the rigging garage.

During this time, foil arm testing occurred on the Yellow boat. According to Bryan Mettraux in the post sailing interview, the rigging issues were related to the cunningham (hydraulically operated mainsail luff tension control). Once addressed, the Red boat was relaunched and readied for sailing. The AC40-4 (Yellow) docked out at 12:35hrs with the M1-2 LE mainsail and J3-1 OD jib prepared on deck.

The 'Garbi' afternoon thermal wind was recorded at 9-11 kts at 195° at 13:20hrs, increasing to 12-14 kts at 200° by 16:15hrs. The sea state was notably calmer, a stark difference compared to the previous day.

The Yellow boat began sailing at 13:00hrs from the port entrance.

Stint 1 was marked by a series of manoeuvres to warm up: tacks, gybes, mark roundings, double tacks and 360s within the pre-start box. After 15 minutes into the first sailing stint, a touch down gybe brought the Stint to a stop. It was also noticed that the jib halyard was flying loose during sailing. Crew members were seen on board and up the mast resolving the problems. Meanwhile the Red boat started sailing at 13:35hrs, sailing downwind and briefly stopping near the yellow boat.

After waiting on hold for 10 minutes, the Red boat continued sailing, while the Yellow boat had both its sails dropped and was subsequently towed back to base with the port foil arm lifted out of the water. The recon unit returned to base with the Yellow boat, but there was no visible damage when the boat was craned out. Bryan Mettraux claimed they suffered problems with hydraulics.

The recon unit then headed back out to observe the final two stints of the Red boat, helmed by Phil Robertson and Nico Charbonnier.

Stint 1 consisted of pre-start practices and a lap of the 1.5nm course, oriented at 200°. After a 20-minute break, Stint 2 involved two pre-start practices and one lap after the second start. The session concluded under the W hotel, with the red boat being towed back, docking in at 17:30hrs.

The recon unit covered 28nm; the team spent five hours on the water. 34 maneuvers were observed between both boats, 94% fully foiling.

Crew: (Co-Helms): Arnaud Psarofaghis, Nico Charbonnier, Maxime Bachelin, Phil Robertson. (Trimmers): Lucien Crujean, Nico Rolas, Bryan Mettraux, Yves Detrey

Session Statistics: Alinghi Red Bull Racing AC40 - Day 48 - August 9, 2023 - Barcelona

  • Weather: Sunny 32°C
  • Wind Strength 9-14kts (from AC37 Recon boat)
  • Wind Direction: 195° - 200°
  • Sea State: 0.5 - 0.9m at a 3sec period
  • Dockout: 1235hrs Dock In: 1745hrs Dock In (AC40-4): 1445hrs (AC40-7) 1730hrs
  • Total Tacks: 19 - Fully foiling: 18; Touch & Go: 1; Touch Down: 0
  • Total Gybes: 15 - Fully foiling: 14; Touch & Go: 0; Touch Down: 1

American Magic - LEQ12 x 2 - Day 49 - August 8, 2023 - Barcelona

From Lea Sitjà of the AC37 Joint Recon program assigned to American Magic in Barcelona:

Bittersweet day for AM as Magic had to retire early while America kept on nailing pre-start sequences in fantastic seabreeze conditions and flattish water.

Roll out was 10:45hrs with both boats in the same unchanged configuration for the last two days: America with silver foil on starboard and One Design foil on port. Magic was in strictly One Design mode getting her and the crew primed for this month testing events leading up to Vilanova preliminary regatta.

Dock out was 13:00hrs with Harry, Tom, Severin and Riley on America; Paul, Lucas, Andrew, Michael on Magic. They hoisted jibs#2 with a nice seabreeze of 9-12kt at 200° and a warm up upwind-downwind sailing towards the course area began at 13:29hrs with both boats beautifully lined-up.

As expected, America pulled considerably away from Magic on port tack. Then Magic ventilated 13:43hrs to a complete stop and never went back to sailing again. After some time with technicians and computers on-board she was towed back to the base at 14:08hrs finishing her day on the water. America kept on sailing by herself towards the starting area and trained for an extra 2.5hours around the buoys.

By the end of the day, America had completed 10 pre-start drills and 10 laps around the course in three sailing Stints. The wind shifted persistently to the right and increased slightly to 14-16kts at 220º but the sea state never deteriorated enough to play havoc on America. All manoeuvres were clean and neat today, always under control even when pushing the boat around very hard.

They did several crew swaps along the day with Lucas and Andrew, the Magic members that remained on the chase boat. The only minor incident happened when they hit the mark with the port foil on the very first leeward gate round-up (see video), they stopped to check for damage on the foil, apparently none, and forgot about it to keep charging hard and fine tuning time-to-starting-line, two-boards slow-downs and acceleration.

American Magic called it a day at 16:14hrs foiling all the way into the base and docked in at 16:25hrs.

Report by: Lea Sitjà, Recon Unit NYAM.

Session Statistics: American Magic - LEQ12 x 2 - Day 50 - August 9, 2023 - Barcelona

  • Weather: Sunny
  • Wind Strength: 9-10kts
  • Wind Direction: 200° - 220°
  • Sea State: 0.8mtr from 210° (wind-chop)
  • Crane In: 1045hrs Dock Out: 1300hrs
  • Dock In: 1625hrs Crane out: 1710hrs
  • Total Tacks: 45 - Fully foiling: 44; Touch & Go: 1; Touch Down: 0
  • Total Gybes: 35 - Fully foiling: 33; Touch & Go: 0; Touch Down: 0
  • Foiling/Sailing: 14 mins foiling time for Magic, 1h 58mins for America (20mins + 22mins + 35mins + 41mins) out of a 3hr 25mins on water session.

Crew: America: Paul Goodison, Lucas Calabrese, Michael Menninger, Andrew Campbell; Magic: Tom Slingsby, Harry Melges, Riley Gibbs, Severin Gramm

Additional Images:

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. Its format is intended to give Sail-World readers a snapshot of all teams' progress on a given day or period.

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