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Letter from the Antipodes: Cup teams split; TransAt JV start; Ocean Globe Race heads for Auckland

by Richard Gladwell/Sail-World NZ 10 Nov 2023 21:15 PST 11 November 2023
Emirates Team New Zealand - AC40 - Day 32 - Auckland - November 9, 2023 © Richard Gladwell -

Firstly our condolences to the family and friends of Simon Smith, who died as the result of an accident in the Coastal Classic.

Simon was a couple of years behind me at Westlake Boys, and our paths next crossed (in a good way) when we were involved in school teams racing - Simon as a coach and the occasions when I was judging. His enthusiasm for the sport was always evident, and the success that Westlake Boys has achieved on the national sailing scene is due in large measure to his drive, over 35 years, in a sport which is not part of the NZ school sporting mainstream.

The vital part that people like Simon play in school sports is often subliminal but should never be underestimated. They are well-placed to identify talent, even though it might not be obvious, and encourage those people to come back and keep going when there are other distractions in play, as well as being the go-to person for the sport in the school.

Of course, those who are encouraged to stay with sailing while at school often find their niche and often go on to become part of the international sailing scene. Westlake Boys is one of those success stories - possibly the most successful school in the world in terms of Olympic sailors, America's Cup sailors, Match and Round the World racers who have passed through its gates in their teenage years.

A longstanding tribute to Simon is that many top junior sailors go out of their way to enrol at Westlake Boys because of its sailing program and the opportunities that flow from that. That program and its ongoing success will undoubtedly be Simon Smith's living memorial.

Cup teams split

The America's Cup teams that were assembled in Barcelona, have split around the end of October.

It has been a hectic few weeks with the six America's Cup teams trying to get a gauge on the autumnal Barcelona weather.

To the surprise of many - but probably not those who had prior access to the data - conditions were a lot more varied/unstable than what we'd seen to date.

For the Defender, Emirates Team New Zealand, it makes their task more straightforward - requiring an all-round boat designed for the varied conditions expected in the America's Cup Match in mid-October 2024

From the weather we have seen in Barcelona over the past four months, the Challengers have some difficult choices, and they have to come up with a race boat that will perform in the seabreezes of summer and the feisty conditions of autumn. And if they win through the two months of racing for the Louis Vuitton Cup, they have to do battle with a Defender - which has had two months more preparation time, and can focus on the nuances of the October 10-27, 2024 weather window.

Over the last month, and the onset of Autumn, we have seen a real weather change, with big swells coming through the racing area. While we have seen the AC40s struggle in a heightened sea state, the takeaway from the past month was that the longer, heavier, more powerful AC75s could cope much better - provided the crews adjusted their sailing technique.

Only three teams have AC75s in Barcelona, and only two - Emirates Team New Zealand and Alinghi Red Bull Racing, have taken on the 1-2 metre, off-axis and often confused sea state.

The third, American Magic, have rolled out their upgraded AC75 Patriot this week and, based on what we have seen over the past couple of days - should get plenty of strong wind/rough water experience to refine their AC75 sailing technique. But not Wednesday, when they had their first sail in light winds of 5-10kts.

For all the incredibly fascinating points of innovation and development seen over the past four months in Barcelona, the most salient point was the inability of the AC40s and LEQ12s to handle a top-end breeze and seaway, while the bigger size, weight and power of the AC75 could carry the day - after several days of sailing, review, refinement of sailing technique.

The teams that did sail their AC75s in these conditions acquired good performance data, which will be worked over in the coming months by the coaching and sailing teams and replayed on the simulator before the learnings are taken back on the water.

The AC75 heavy air lessons were not obvious from the Recon Team videos. Boat speed is hard to estimate, but it was clear that the Kiwis were looking for that balance between keeping the hull clear of the waves, holding their speed as high as practical, and maintaining control in an uneven sea state, as well as being able to tack and gybe efficiently.

In many ways, sailing an AC75 in rough weather is like driving an F1 race car in the rain - many factors, including car setup, tyre choice and driver reactions, must be spot on; otherwise, it all unravels very quickly.

The other teams - Luna Rossa, INEOS Britannia and Orient Express will have to go through this learning process in their race boats - and hope that no damage ensues while they find their limits.

The other surprise from Barcelona was how quickly the conditions changed from summer to autumn - with winds more frequently close to the top end of the limits to start a race, and with the biggest sea states seen over the four months. Whether those conditions repeat ahead of the start of next year's Louis Vuitton Cup remains to be seen.

Ocean Globe Race is sailing for Auckland

A round-the-world yacht race is headed to Auckland. The Ocean Globe Race fleet left Cape Town on Sunday, headed for the Southern Ocean on the traditional Whitbread Round the World Race course. The event has attracted a fleet of 14 boats - it's billed as a fully crewed retro race in the spirit of the 1973 Whitbread Round the World Race. The Ocean Globe Race marks the 50th anniversary of the original event.

It's a good-sized fleet - slightly smaller than the early Whitbread Races, which were largely Corinthian events - and all about the adventure of sailing around the world.

Entry numbers dropped to single digits after the Whitbread went professional, and then evolved into the Volvo Ocean Race, and then became The Ocean Race.

Split into three classes, the Flyer class holds most interest for those who have fond memories of the early Whitbread Round the World Races - with some familiar names - Pen Duick VI originally skippered by the great solo sailor Eric Tabarly; Maiden skippered by Tracey Edwards, and arguably the boat and program that put womens sailing on the map; Translated 9 - formerly ADC Accutrac, and skippered by another great sailor, Clare Francis; L'Esprit d'équipe skippered by Lionel Pean, won her class in the 1985/86 Whitbread Round the World Race; and Neptune the legendary 60ft André Mauric design took part in the second Whitbread in 1977.

The Ocean Globe Race stopover will be part of several events in Auckland in the first quarter of 2024. Some of these were outlined in the Moana Auckland announcement at Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron on Wednesday. Moana Auckland, running from February 24 to March 24 will be an annual event each year comprising of a suite of events, celebrating the city's marine heritage and excellence. That includes the highlighting of the New Zealand marine industry which generates $3billion of revenue each year, along with $800million of exports, and runs a world leading apprenticeship program.

New marina is halfway to everywhere

One of the obstacles to sailing and boating, is the increasing scarcity of new facilities, so the construction of a new marina in Whangarei is welcome news.

Featured in this issue, Okara Marina is under construction, and due to open in 2025, adding 113 berths - along with some great and much needed shore facilities.

The location of Okara Marina has several advantages - it is an easy drive for those who live north of Auckland, and a 90 minute road journey for those who don't. The new marina also opens up ready access to some of New Zealand's best cruising locations - with Great Barrier Island only 38nm away, and is closer to Whangarei than Auckland. Of course, the Bay of Islands is only just 50nm up the coast.

Berths are still for sale - click here for full information.

Two new Club Partnerships

Two of New Zealand's major sail lofts, Doyle Sails and North Sails have announced partnerships with Royal Akarana Yacht Club and Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron respectively. Both are backing youth programs and have become the Official Sailmaker of their respective yacht clubs. It's a new move, but a welcome one and underlines how much the marine industry with its $3billion per year turnover, and $800million of exports, puts back into the sport each year to assist clubs, with Youth and Junior sailing programs, to bring the next generation of sailors into the sport.

Thank you both.

TransAt Jacques Vabre never lacks for drama

What is probably the leading offshore/trans oceanic race in the world for two-handed crews, has finally got under way from Le Havre, and will finish in Martinique.

The first class, the giant 105ft long foiling trimarans of the Ultim class were started last Saturday week in the face of a severe storm, with another to follow. The speedsters were able to clear the coast and got away on 7500nm course that took them around Ascension Island in the South Atlantic. Two other classes (Class40 - 44 entries - and Ocean 50 - 6 entries) started the same day but did a short leg to Lorient, where they were held because of the inclement weather and only got away on Monday. The IMOCA60 were held in Le Havre simply because no other port could take the 40 entrants. The event has attracted some top sailors, including New Zealand's Conrad Colman in the IMOCA60. Like many others Colman is looking to use the race as a qualifier for next years Vendee Globe, and also as a springboard for sponsors for his entry.

While the event is strongly French, World on Water have been providing Youtube coverage with a very welcome English commentary - you can view their channel World on Water or we have included their daily update in some of our reports.

Good sailing!

Richard Gladwell NZ Editor

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