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Cup Spy Nov 17: Emirates Team New Zealand trains in top end conditions

by Richard Gladwell/Sail-World NZ 17 Nov 2023 03:16 PST 17 November 2023
Emirates Team New Zealand - AC40 - Day 44 - Auckland - November 17, 2023 © Richard Gladwell -


Emirates Team New Zealand sailed in difficult conditions of 20-25kt NW winds, rain squalls, and a wind against tide seastate in the Rangitoto Channel. In many respects the day was similar or worse than Day 3 of the Prada Cup, when American Magic capsized.

Cup Spy along with a couple of others watched the whole session from North Head, with the aid of a pair of 14x40 stabilised binoculars. Most of the session was visible apart from a short phase behind Rangitoto Island, and same again when they sailed over to the western end of Course E, or The Paddock - a near landlocked piece of water where most of the racing took place in the 2021 America's Cup.

On the tow-out it seemed as if ETNZ had decided to pass on the strong NW breeze pushing up against an outgoing tide in the Rangitoto Channel which kicked up a seastate riddled with white caps from the steep chop. Auckland's tidal fall on Friday was 3.2metres, and the Rangitoto Channel had become a tidal race.

Instead of continuing to Browns Island, and their favorite Course E, the Kiwi entourage stopped off Northern Leading Beacon midway between North Head an Browns Island, and proceeded to start rigging in the full force of the wind - which was recorded as having squalls of 20-25kts, gusting 30kts. As we saw on the day American Magic capsized, the squalls are fast moving and have almost defined lines on the water as they pass through an area. These are very challenging conditions for foiling boats. The squall definition can be seen in a couple of the images.

It was a surprising call - when the team had the option of rigging in a lot more sheltered water on the way down the harbour - indicating that this might have been a last minute decision, deciding not to pass up the top end conditions to sail the AC40 in some rough water, and conditions in which they would have been unlikely to race an AC75.

While the conditions were not as gnarly as some we have seen AC40s struggle in Barcelona, the unknown factor was what breeze would come out of the rainsqualls, which were coming from different directions and from personal experience, can hit 40-45kts in sustained gusts - sending multihulls cartwheeling.

After a short warm-up, the Kiwis put the hammer down and headed for the Rangitoto shore, where they would miss the worst of the rough wind against tide rough water, but still get a direct blast from the NW breeze.

The Kiwis speed was impressive. Top upwind speed we have clocked on an AC75 is 39kts, and we believe the top speed for the ETNZ chase boat is in the 45kts territory. Their chaseboat wasn't quite at full chat, but from the appearance of their wake was having to stretch out to keep pace. The Recon boat was quickly dropped off, and struggled with the seastate, once the got off the East Coast Bays.

While most of the focus from the shore-side pundits is on the nuances of wingfoil shape, the LEQ12's rig - they are sporting a new custom build main, which looks particularly good. The rotating mast looks to be carrying more induced bend. However a photographic comparison didn't confirm what we'd seen through the binoculars. Other areas of future photographic study include a look at the head of the sail and how battening is handled, and the length of the head.

Once clear of the red and white striped beacon on Rangitoto Island, the LEQ12 was fully exposed to the full force of the breeze and seastate. They appeared to slow initially, taking stock, and testing the boat/crew in the changed conditions. But then the confidence came back and the hammer went down again, on a long port tack up the East Coast Bays to a point just short of where American Magic capsized in similar but less extreme conditions in the 2021 Prada Cup.

A lot of the ETNZ's sailing to windward was on port tack (not using the latest foil which is on the port foil arm), and to even up the wing foil data collection , they turned and ran down the northern side of Rangitoto, coming back on a conventional multi-tack course. After a couple of repeats, they came back into the Rangitoto Channel area and had a look down at the Paddock/Course E. From what we could see there was a little sailing, but they sheltered up for a while (maybe a lunch break and chat?) before moving back into the Course D and C area and more windward runs, mostly to windward on port tack, and running back the other way on starboard (getting test data on the new wing foil).

All though the session the rain squalls persisted - each time taking the wind speed to 25kts and 30kts in gusts, and the observations for the now-casting from Northern Leading show that at least four hit that area of the harbour during the session - concluding with a final rainsquall.

Overall the session was impressive in that the team took on the conditions and tide race, when other areas of sheltered water would have better suited their testing purposes. We didn't see any spectacular stuff-ins, which would have been expected in those conditions, but some may have happened out of our sight. The most impressive aspects of the session were the rig, speed and control of the AC40, as well as the confidence of the team to handle these conditions.

That is not to say that the Kiwis as good as have the Auld Mug in their kitbag, because we think they are beatable. But ETNZ are setting a very high bar for anyone aspiring to lift the Cup, next October.

AC37 Joint Recon Team Reports:

Emirates Team New Zealand- AC40/LEQ12 - Day 44 - November 17, 2023 - Auckland

It was a little different out on the Hauraki Gulf to the last few sessions for Emirates Team New Zealand on Day 44 of testing in the LEQ12. With a good 15kts average across the gulf before launching and gusts above 25kts during the session, the team were really pushing the upper limits of the LEQ12 today. Dock out occurred at 1300hrs and the team towed down passed Bean Rock and hoisted sails between Kohimarama and Rangitoto at 1317hrs. They elected to go with the M2 mainsail and J3 Jib for the entirety of todays session.

By 1332hrs the team were sailing and opted to head up toward the bays off the North Shore. It seemed as though here the breeze was most stable and least affected by the passing rain cells. The Norwest wind against the outgoing tide really roughed up the area, with some short sharp waves up around 1 meter in the channel, and even sizable chop towards the shore. Whilst it made it difficult for the recon team, the guys on the LEQ12 made light work of it.

Sailing slightly different modes to combat the sea state, they easily foiled above the waves with very few splash downs and only a couple of touch and go manoeuvres. They could be seen sailing a little flatter today rather than with their typical windward heel - not quite as bow down as we have seen in the past either. In some of the gusts they would really load and lean on the main foils, but everything held well. The only wipeout we saw was through a tack where the rudder let go. Unfortunately we were not in range to see the exact cause of the wipeout. The team stopped briefly for a check before continuing sailing like nothing happened.

After a few laps spanning from Rangitoto Island and all the way back upwind towards Browns Bay, at 1417hrs the team bore away and sailed a long, mostly starboard, downwind, including a few round-ups and bear-aways towards North Head. Off North Head they gybed and headed down passed Browns Bay and set up in much calmer water off Eastern Beach for some more testing. Here they sailed a couple of up and down winds which incorporated some invisible mark rounding practice, round-ups and bear-aways. They also carried out a couple of pre-start style manoeuvres which involved having both foils down whilst tacking and gybing.

At 1505hrs it seemed the team were wrapping up their session down off Eastern Beach and started sailing back upwind until they were clear to lay passed Browns Island. Here we probably saw the most breeze of the session with the Browns Island wind station just to leeward registering averages around 22-23 knots. The yacht showed some impressive upwind speed with the recon RIB barely able to keep up. They were sailing in a very aggressive piercing mode which looked to be fairly locked in and very quick. They sailed for a while longer in this mode until the sea state built, then went back to a high flight and tacked their way back up the harbour before eventually dropping sails just off North Head at 15:18hrs.

It was yet another successful sailing day for the team here in New Zealand on the Hauraki Gulf before going into the weekend. And with no days scheduled again until Monday, the team can enjoy a couple of well- deserved days off. We were lucky enough to speak with Performance Engineer Elise Beavis after sailing today and get a bit of an inside as to how she thought the day went.

Crew: Peter Burling, Nathan Outteridge, Andy Maloney, Blair Tuke

Session Statistics: Emirates Team New Zealand- AC40/LEQ12 - Day 44 - November 17, 2023 - Auckland

  • Weather: Cloudy, overcast but clearing - 19°C cloudy
  • Wind Strength 15-25kts
  • Wind Direction: 310°
  • Sea State: 0.2 - 1.0mtr
  • Crane In: 1200hrs Dock Out: 1300hrs
  • Dock In: 1540hrs Crane out: 1610kts
  • Total Tacks: 21 - Fully foiling: 18; Touch & Go: 2; Touch Down: 1
  • Total Gybes: 15 - Fully foiling: 14; Touch & Go: 0; Touch Down: 1

Additional Images:

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