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North Sails Performance 2023 - LEADERBOARD

Cup Spy August 22: 172 years on from the first race for £100 Cup

by Richard Gladwell/Sail-World NZ 23 Aug 2023 02:04 PDT 23 August 2023
Luna Rossa - LEQ12 - Day 85 - Cagliari - August 22, 2023 © Ivo Rovira / America's Cup

Three Cup Challengers wanted to sail on Tuesday, the anniversary of the race for the race around the Isle of Wight for £100 Cup, which evolved into the America's Cup.

For the second successive day, the breeze was effectively a no-show in Barcelona. In Cagliari, Luna Rossa again got in a solid four hour session. Orient Express Racing Team (FRA) sailed their AC40-OD, for the first time, in Barcelona.

What happened in the Cup - August 22 2023:

  • Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli - The Italians once again enjoyed near perfect foiling conditions, at Cagliari, Sardinia, with a 10-16kt breeze, steady in direction and clear skies. They sailed their LEQ12 test boat and are now on Day 83 of their America's Cup program - the most days of any team to date in this America's Cup cycle in a single boat.
  • Alinghi Red Bull Racing back from a holiday break tried sailing their AC75 from the new permanent base in Barcelona, but never got enough breeze to get foiling.
  • Orient Express Racing Team had their first sail, in their AC40-OD (#9 off the McConaghy Boats production line) and got sailing after being towed up onto their foils by a Chase Boat
  • INEOS Britannia - remained ashore
  • Emirates Team New Zealand did not sail
  • American Magic did not sail


Tuesday in a marked contrast to the events off Cowes Isle of Wight, venue of the first race, for what became the America's Cup on August 22, 1851.

There the schooner America had a walk-over win against a fleet of 17 yachts, England's best.

Fast forward 172 years, in what has become the most prestigious trophy in Sailing, and arguably the World, a fleet comprising four Challengers and the Defender debated whether or not to go training in a near non-existent Mediterranean breeze. In Cagliari, 375nm distant, the Italian challenger sailed a four hour test session winds of 15-17kts.

Like Monday, the wind in Barcelona failed to materialise in any workable pressure, and the teams from five nations stayed ashore or ventured out in the hope of some breeze that would sustain foiling after a tow-up from the Chase Boat.

It was a completely different story in Cagliari, where the sixth team, Italy's Luna Rossa Parda Pirelli have opted to continue testing their LEQ12, custom designed test boat.

Rather than struggling to foil like the Barcelona-based teams, Luna Rossa took full advantage of the 15-17kt breeze to work their way up their jib inventory, and try a few sails that wouldn't see daylight in Barcelona.

"We've had an awesome week very, very productive - great conditions for testing and gathering numbers. And we had a good long day today over four hours," co-helm and twice America's Cup winner, Jimmy Spithill told the AC37 Joint Recon Team's Michele Melis.

Luna Rossa got onto their J4, jib - one size off the smallest the J5.

"We haven't had that many opportunities lately to go into the top end [of the jib range]. We were expecting it to get up there, today, but it didn't quite.

"We probably got maximum of maybe 16kts today. But still good enough, just to see those smaller sails down range, especially in the flat water. Once you're up and foiling and the appparents [wind] are high, it's actually impressive just how well those smaller sails go," he added.

Luna Rossa pioneered the use of co-helmsmen in the AC75, during the 2021 America's Cup, where the other teams, like the 2017 Cup in Bermuda, had the helmsman swap sides.

His co-helmsman was Francesco Bruni, in the 2021 Cup, and Spithill says that relationship has become "asymmetric" with Spithill sticking to his favoured starboard side, and Bruni taking port. He says the other helms they have in the Italian team are much more ambidextrous - and don't have a strong preference for a particular side.

The co-helm system gave Luna Rossa a couple of advantages. Firstly, they could keep Jimmy Spithill, probably the top match racer in the fleet, on starboard side for the vital pre-start phase, and in most races, Luna Rossa controlled the pre-start in the Prada Cup and America's Cup itself.

It was unusual, if it ever occurred, to see competitors try and start on port tack, and being the give-way boat. Sitting in the starboard seat Spithill had right of way, and use his superior match racing skills to take tactical control of the start. Emirates Team New Zealand's eventual response was to stay in contact, make sure they got to the favoured side of the course and ground the race out from there.

After they were 3-3 after three days of racing in the America's Cup, Emirates Team NZ had a good look at their strategy, and made changes.

In Bermuda, they were in a similar situation - of making sure they were in contact with their competitor at the bottom of the course (Mark 2) and then started their attack from there.

The other advantage of the co-helms, is that the sailor in the leeward position got a very good view of changes in wind pressure and direction around the jib, and could both communicate this to their helmsman. No changing sides meant they could keep a steady perspective on the race and wind picture - which can unfold very quickly when sailing at 40-50kts.

Now it seems that instead of being the outlier, most teams will adopt the Luna Rossa approach. A point of interest will be whether any teams actually have crews crossing the boat.

AC37 Joint Recon Team Reports:

Alinghi Red Bull Racing AC75/B1 - Day 79 - August 8, 2023 - Barcelona

Alinghi Red Bull Racing rolled out their AC75 at 09:45hrs, in anticipation of better wind conditions in the afternoon. By 10:20hrs, they had successfully stepped the new mast (04752001-MT1) and craned in the yacht, securing it alongside Chase Alpha at the dock.

During the early hours of setup, a distinct focus was observed on the mast rotation, with a hydraulics engineer pedalling in the port forward cyclor pod. Despite temperatures soaring above 30 degreesC, the team diligently progressed with their tasks. The port foil arm underwent a temporary lift, with technicians from the electric and hydraulic departments, supported by an IT engineer, closely inspecting the system. This activity seemed to be more time-consuming than usual, though the precise reasons remain unknown.

Docking out at 13:00hrs, the team hoisted the M2-2R mainsail and J1-1R in port and were then towed out for their session in light wind and flat sea. The first stint of sailing started under the W Hotel, but due to wind speeds averaging a mere 5 knots, the yacht couldn't achieve takeoff speeds. This period was marked by concentrated efforts on the mainsail controls, predominantly at the clew and foot.

Technicians onboard were keenly inspecting these areas. An interesting observation was the temporary removal of the skin actuator rod, potentially hinting at integration efforts concerning the jib skin actuators with other components.

The second stint lasted only 15 minutes, with the yacht still sailing in displacement mode. The yacht undertook several non-foiling tacks in fairly short succession during this period, with technicians maintaining their attention on the mainsail control area. The yacht was then towed back to the base, with sails lowered within the port and dock in at 14:40hrs.

In total, the day saw the team spending just under two hours on the water, without foiling under sail. A total of 50 minutes were spent sailing in displacement mode.

Crew: Arnaud Psarofaghis, Maxime Bachelin, Nico Rolas, Bryan Mettraux

Session Statistics: Alinghi Red Bull Racing AC75/B1 - Day 79 - August 8, 2023 - Barcelona

  • Weather: Sunny 27 degreesC
  • Wind Strength 10-20kts (from AC37 Recon boat)
  • Wind Direction: 110 degrees - 200 degrees
  • Sea State: Residual Easterly swell. SW wind swell 0.7-1.7m at 4sec periods
  • Dockout: 1200hrs Dock In: 1745hrs
  • Total Tacks: 27 - Fully foiling: 21; Touch & Go: 1; Touch Down: 5
  • Total Gybes: 31 - Fully foiling: 26; Touch & Go: 2; Touch Down: 3

Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli - LEQ12 - Day 82 - August 18, 2023 - Cagliari

The Italian team Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli (LRPP) rolled out their LEQ12 prototype at 10:25hrs, proceeding with the mast stepping procedure and craning the yacht in by 10:30hrs.

Routine checks such as rudder rake, board rise and drops followed as dockout was scheduled for 11:30hrs after having locked in the first declared mainsail M1-1 with the J1.5 jib.

The team had planned a sponsor day with some photoshooting of a wakeboarder getting towed by the quick LEQ12. The Recon Unit chase boat hosted several dronepilots and remained in stand-by at designated location before the training day actually started by 13:30hrs. As the breeze filled in, it build up to solid 9-11kts from 175 degrees True Wind Angle (TWA) with an overall flat seastate beside some light chop.

The usual six crews boarded the prototype and swapped between passenger seats and pods during the whole day. The J1.5 was lowered as the breeze increased to approximately 13-15kts to hoist the J4 and start right away their first foiling stint.

Once towed up foilborne the LEQ12 headed downwind for some gybes, rounded up and executed some tacks repeating this routine several times. Once again the flat seastate allowed the LEQ12 to fly low for end-plating.

In the meanwhile Chase2 laid out two marks for leeward gate and perhaps a virtual mark windward and two legs were completed by the LEQ12 coming to a stop shortly after. The second foiling stint began after lunch break for the team which practiced two prestarts with time on distance and four legs on the course before the prototype splashed down rounding the leeward mark.

Quickly towed up by Chase2, in the last foiling stint, the LEQ12 kept on sailing windward of the virtual mark where the J4 seemed to be better in range and came to a stop to lower the sails once again on maneuvers before decelerating in front of the harbour pier. Sails were lowered by 15:35 and the day was called with approx. 108 minutes of foiling, 26 tacks and 24 gybes.

[Michele Melis AC Recon].

Crew: (Co-Helms): Francesco Bruni, Jimmy Spithill, Andrea Tesei, Umberto Molineris

Session Statistics: Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli - LEQ12 - August 21, 2023 - Cagliari

  • Weather: Sunshine, 27 degrees
  • Wind Strength 10-13kts
  • Wind Direction: 145 degrees - 150 degrees
  • Sea State: No report
  • Dockout: 1000hrs Dock In: 1310hrs
  • Total Tacks: 24 - Fully foiling: 17; Touch & Go: 5; Touch Down: 2
  • Total Gybes: 18 - Fully foiling: 10; Touch & Go: 8; Touch Down: 2

Orient Express Racing Team - AC40-OD - Day 1 - August 22, 2023 - Barcelona

Crew:No crew list or AC37 Recon Team report available

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.

Additional Images:

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