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Cup Spy August 12: Light air foiling decides Final Day of Test Event - with a lesson for the Cup

by Richard Gladwell/Sail-World NZ 12 Aug 2023 17:20 PDT 13 August 2023
Start - AC40 - Broadcast Testing - August 12, 2023 - Barcelona © Ugo Fonolla / America's Cup

Today was the final of three days for the teams to test the race management and broadcast systems ahead of the first of three Preliminary Events.

The light 5-7kt E-SE breeze asked plenty of questions of the competitors - with the degree of difficulty masked by the beautiful summer weather.

What happened in the Cup - August 12 2023:

  • Emirates Team New Zealand, American Magic, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli and INEOS Britannia all participated in the test racing. Alinghi Red Bull Racing did not race.
  • American Magic did not dominate as in Day 2. Skipper Terry Hutchinson said racing in the light in the AC40-ODs was much harder than the fresh breeze of the previous day. He expressed his frustration with being able to access the one design components, when there was a breakdown.
  • Luna Rossa did not have a Recon Team following - in a dockside interview with co-helmsman Jimmy Spithill said the racing was a good opportunity for the team to get two-boat sailing experience, given the Italian team have opted for a single AC40. He expressed disappointment at not being able to see the race management software that had been promised before the regatta. However despite his comments, the Recon team thought the Italians looked good in the racing, such as it was.
  • No further news from the Orient Express Team (formerly K-Challenge).

Commentary:

Today was the third and final day of test racing in the AC40 One Designs, with American Magic, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, Emirates Team New Zealand and INEOS Britannia participating.

The series is a lead-in to the first of three Preliminary Events to be held next month a few miles along the coast in Vilanova i La Geltrú in just four weeks on September 14-17.

While today's events can dismissed as "just a Test Event", and the one in a month as "just a Preliminary event" - the question remains as to how and when the trailing teams will close up the margin on the leaders.

The thermal breeze which has prevailed for several days, deserted Barcelona for Day 3 of the testing - and foiling ability in the light 5kt breeze was a major determinant of race outcome. Great weather for spectators, but not so for sailors. Double America's Cup champion, Peter Burling commented after the racing on Saturday: "It's pretty tricky when the breeze gets below 7kts to keep these boats going, especially when you're crossing the wind shadows - but that's great practice. These are super-tough conditions, and we're really excited to be out there racing other teams."

In the last Cup the notional minimum windstrength was 6.5kts average over a 30 second period, until three minutes before the start - so Burling's 7kt comment is a little surprising, given that the disproportionate AC40s are only a third of the weight of the AC75, but over half the length of the current America's Cup Class.

As can be seen in the breeze map from Port Olimpic, Saturday had a funky breeze, quite different from the more stable thermal breeze that has prevailed for much of the past week. A small point maybe - but we are now only a few days short of the 12 month anniversary for the start of the Challenger Selection Series, Barcelona. Are the conditions of today, what the Challengers could be facing this time next year?

The match racing today continued as on Friday with Luna Rossa and American Magic sailing against each other, with Brits and Kiwis in the other flight.

Then followed two fleet races of which Emirates Team New Zealand won the first two-lapper. American Magic was leading the second when the breeze died completely and all four teams dropped off their foils and racing stopped.

The big take-out of the day - as in Auckland - is that light air performance is vital in the foiling AC classes, and while a small speed increment beyond 50kts at the top end of the range sounds impressive, there is nothing so deflating as falling into displacement mode in less than 7kts of breeze, while your opponent stays foiling and does an horizon job on you.

Weather conditions at Barcelona August 12, 2023:

The test session got away just after noon, with with the teams docking out about an hour or so earlier.

Unlike previous days there was not a lot of difference between the wind recordings on the surface and at Port Olimpic - 12 metres up.

The breeze stayed mostly between 5-7kts and shifted slowly though 30 degrees from 075 degrees at noon to ESE 105 degrees. The required minimum windstrength, generally speaking was 6.5kts in the last Cup, and the emphasis with the AC40 and AC75 is to come up with designs and foils that will work at even lower speeds. Unlike the 2017 America's Cup, the teams have to declare a configuration before the start of a series, and can't change foils on a daily basis depending on the forecast.

AC37 Joint Recon Team Reports:

American Magic - Test Racing Day 3 - August 12, 2023 - Barcelona

From the AC37 Joint Recon Team:

Second day of racing between teams that was cut short because of the dying breeze. American Magic docked out at 10:30hrs with Paul, Tom, Michael and Riley on-board who were greeted by a marginal wind of 6-8kt from 110 degrees with a sea state 2 so they hoisted jib#1 and went for a 26min warming up initial drill on their own. LRPP joined as planned and attempted a first race at 12:20hrs.

Magic on the lee won that start and was still leading on the first run when LRPP dropped off the foils and killed that 1 lap race. They stopped briefly and had to be tow assisted to take off to start Race 2 at 12:58hrs. Magic started at the pin end an LRPP mid line with a big gap between them both on starboard tack. Right at the first crossing LRPP managed to slam tack in front of Magic, for the rest of the 2 laps race LRPP kept a tight cover giving Magic no options to overtake. Rounding up at the bottom gate of the first lap Magic ventilated and fell further behind.

Race 3 started at 13:43hrs with LRPP at the pin end and Magic in the middle who ventilated right when crossing the start line. This gave the lead and enough advantage to LRPP to keep again a tight cover on Magic who could just trail behind for the rest of the 2 laps.

Next came FLEET RACE 1 in which everyone got invited. They started at 14:45hrs with LRPP to windward and Magic on her lee very tight together, next on the lee was ETNZ a boat length ahead of them and INEOS Britannia (IB) further down the line but very late to the start. It looked like ETNZ was slightly OCS, or everyone else slightly late.

First crossing was to Magic who had gone further to the right but it was ETNZ who got the lead at the top gate and never gave it away, actually extending the gap to the other boats for the remainder of the 2 laps. LRPP and Magic got to the top mark overlapped with Magic outside and put a nice fight on the first run until Magic dropped off the foils in a tight crossing with LRPP who had right of way. Positions didn't change from then on and IB kept losing behind the other boats to finish very last. The race was comfortably won by ETNZ, next was LRPP followed close by Magic and last INEOS Britannia miles behind.

Fleet Race 2 was started at 15:30hrs with ETNZ unexpectedly late on port tack at the pin end, INEOS Britannia starboard tack alone mid line and Magic and LRPP to windward close together having their own fight. In this first upwind Magic played the shifts or the pressure better than the rest and was leading at the top gate followed closely by LRPP, next INEOS and then ETNZ far behind. But the wind was dying and eventually every boat dropped off the foils on the first run except for LRPP who kept foiling to finish alone this first lap miles ahead of a drifting fleet.

With just 4-6kts of breeze from 160 degrees wind they called it a day. Dock in for Magic was at 16:16hrs. All the action has been recorded on video.

- Lea Sitjà NYAM (AC37 Joint Recon team)

Session Statistics: American Magic - AC40 - Test Racing Day 3 - August 12, 2023 - Barcelona

  • Weather: Sunny
  • Wind Strength 5-8kts
  • Wind Direction: 110 degrees-160 degrees
  • Sea State:2
  • Roll out: 0845hrs Dock Out: 1030hrs
  • Dock In: 1616hrs

INEOS Britannia - AC40 - Test Racing Day 3 - August 12, 2023 - Barcelona

The third day of the special racing session saw INEOS Britannia once again paired up with Emirates Team New Zealand for the match racing section of the day. After leaving the harbour at 1145 the British crew - helmsmen Ben Ainslie and Giles Scott with trimmers / flight controllers Leigh McMillan and Bleddyn Mon - spent an hour and a half in free practice, initially on their own and then in tandem with the New Zealand team, with the breeze peaking at just eight knots and a flat sea state.

As in the previous two days there was very little to choose between the two boats upwind or downwind in terms of straight line speed but from our vantage point the New Zealand crew's boat handling just looked that little bit crisper at times in terms of the stability and speed out of manouvres.

When the official match racing started the pair sailed two partial races. In the first at 1330 the Kiwis came in port and led off start line.

The teams ignored the windward mark, sailing well past it before the Kiwis bore away first to round the leeward gate well ahead and stop. The second 'race' saw the British enter on port and chase the NZL team to the far right (looking upwind) of the start box before tacking in front of them to lead back to the line on starboard. The British led at the windward mark and leeward gate by 10 seconds. The teams stopped shortly after starting the second beat at 1410.

In the first of the two fleet races NZL led off the startline from USA and ITA (who were the first to tack away to the right). GBR made a late start and were never really in contention.

NZL led around the first mark and went on to win the race easily. USA rounded second finished second but were under constant pressure from ITA who closed the gap steadily throughout the race.

The second race saw USA lead from ITA at the top mark with GBR in third. NZL had been a late starter after coming in on their own from the left end of the line and rounded fourth.

With the breeze dropping to 5-6 knots the teams were gybing through huge angles to to try to stay on the foils.

Only the Italians managed to make it to the leeward gate with the other three dropping off their foils. Time was called on the day at 1545 but the British team stayed out for some extra free practice after being towed onto their foils.

The team docked in at 1700. No sailing is scheduled for tomorrow (Sunday August 13) but the team plans to sail the following day in their T6 LEQ12 test boat.

Justin Chisholm - Recon on INEOS Britannia

Session Statistics: INEOS Britannia - AC40 - Test Racing Day 3 - August 12, 2023 - Barcelona

  • Weather: Sunny 30 degrees C
  • Wind Strength: 5-8kts
  • Wind Direction: 090 degrees
  • Sea State: Flat
  • Crane In: 1033hrs Dock Out: 1135hrs
  • Dock In: 1700hrs Crane out: 1730hrs
  • Total Tacks: 32 - Fully foiling: 30; Touch & Go: 1; Touch Down: 1
  • Total Gybes: 22 - Fully foiling: 18; Touch & Go: 3; Touch Down: 1

Crew: Co-Helms: Ben Ainslie (S) and Giles Scott (P); Bleddyn Mon, Leigh McMillan

Emirates Team New Zealand AC40 - Test Racing Day 3 - August 12, 2023 - Barcelona

ETNZ rolled out their only AC40 in Barcelona from the shed at 10.20 on one-design configuration. The boat was craned to the water at 11:00 and the team docked out at 11.45, as planned. The main and the J1 were hoisted at 11:55 and 12:02, respectively, inside the harbor. No sail changes were performed on the entire day.

To begin with, for approximately one hour, some speed tests were carried out sailing upwind with team INEOS Britannia. ETNZ positioned to windward and INEOS to leeward on starboard tack. On those speed tests, the Kiwis were slightly higher and faster and more consistent on their tacks. However, since the pressure was not the same everywhere and given that the boats were far away enough from each other in order to be on different winds, the confidence level of those speed testings is not extremely reliable.

At 13:30 the first of two match racing races with team INEOS got under way. One of the main goals of the day was to test the tactical software and some pending race management system aspects from the previous days. A set of pre-established series of situations were organized such as early entries to the start box, starting early over the line, sailing past the lay line boundaries, and getting penalties. None of those two races were completed.

Nevertheless, ETNZ had a better start on the first one and lead most of the way, while INEOS did it on the second one.

After those races, at 14:30 approximately, LRPP and AM joined to run two fleet races. A two-lap upwind-downwind race course with leeward gates, but with only one upwind mark was set. For the first race conventional marks were used, while on the second robotic marks came in replacement.

On the first race, ETNZ had the best start and was able to lead and extend during the entire race without almost any mistakes. LRPP finished 2nd on a close finish and after tight racing during most of the race with AM. INEOS was 4th.

On the second fleet race, ETNZ crossed the starting line late on port tack behind the rest of the fleet as a consequence of a bad maneuver during the last minute falling from their foils, that completely changed their starting plan and time-distance approach. The distance after the start was considerable and they were not able to recover on the entire race.

On a dying breeze, LRPP was the only one to be able to finish the race foiling, finishing 1st; while the rest fell-off from their foils on the last downwind and ended up sailing on displacement mode or trying to take-off with almost 180 degrees differences in their courses in between the two tacks.

After the races, ETNZ stayed for another 45 minutes training on their own doing some tacks and gybes in marginal wind conditions. A couple tows were needed to take-off in some opportunities.

Sails were lowered outside the port at 16:55, the boat was back in the dock at 17:05, craned out at 17:32 and back in the shed at 17:58.

Sebastian Peri Brusa - Recon on ETNZ

Crew: (Co-Helms): Peter Burling, Nathan Outteridge, Andy Maloney, Blair Tuke.

Session Statistics: Emirates Team New Zealand AC40 - Test Racing Day 3 - August 12, 2023 - Barcelona

  • Weather: Sunshine, 30 degrees
  • Wind Strength 4kts - 5kts.
  • Wind Direction: 95 degrees - 110 degrees
  • Sea State: Flat
  • Dockout: 1147hrs Dock In: 1705hrs
  • Total Tacks: 40 - Fully foiling: 37; Touch & Go: 2; Touch Down: 1
  • Total Gybes: 38 - Fully foiling: 34; Touch & Go: 2; Touch Down: 2

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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