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Cup Spy Nov 20: Emirates Team New Zealand play thunderstorm roulette

by Richard Gladwell/Sail-World NZ 20 Nov 04:01 PST 20 November 2023
Emirates Team New Zealand - AC40 - Day 45 - Auckland - November 20, 2023 © Sam Thom/America's Cup

Not willing to risk a second lightning strike in less than a year, Emirates Team New Zealand cut today's foil testing session short after a serious rain squall appeared over the city.

Earlier NZ MetService issued a severe to high thunderstorm risk for Auckland.


We watched part of the session today, picking up Emirates Team NZ off Narrow Neck beach, around 1230hrs as they were being towed up, and then released to free sail - which usually comes to an end when the boat exits a tack or gybe and loses its apparent wind.

ETNZ did better than most, but eventually belly flopped, and it was clear that with the wind in its current state, the session was going nowhere.

The wind in the Harbour, Rangitoto Channel and Hauraki Gulf was near non-existent, and not looking good for a testing day. Then the first of several rain showers, with heavy rain forecast moved across Auckland. From high on North Head, we could see over the top of most of the Gulf Islands and could see that there were no areas which had wind sufficient for sailing, and with limited visibility when the rain arrived, we shot back home.

On the rain radar section of Predictwind Observations, it was obvious that rain showers were moving across Auckland, with one quite intense patch over the City. From Andy Maloney's comments it was clear the team had been warned of the possibility of thunderstorms, and while none eventuated - with the unstable weather staying out was clearly not worth the risk.

Last January the New Zealand F50 was struck by lightning at the end of racing at SailGP Singapore, causing extensive damage to the internal systems, and electrocuting a crew member. At this stage of the America's Cup testing program, with boats in three countries, and a tight testing program, the risk of damage/injury was not worth taking.

After a few relatively isolated but heavy showers, a funky SE breeze came through at 14-17kts.

The session was cut short after 90 minutes and the Kiwi team high tailed it back to base in a beautiful SE breeze, arriving at 1430hrs, and the boat was hauled 30 minutes later.

After the session Flight controller/trimmer Andy Maloney a former Finn Gold Cup winner told the AC37 Joint Recon Team that the objective today was "continuing our testing block on this new foil wing. We were pretty lucky today, to get little bits of breeze out of the different clouds that were around that dying, southeasterly and getting in before later this afternoon when we have some thunderstorms coming in."

To the surprise of no-one, Maloney wouldn't say much about the two foils that were under test.

"All the foils are different. We've got Blair [Tuke] and myself controlling them on the boat, but we've got, another 30 people [in the design team] who are very experienced at looking at foils. So it's great to have everyone looking at them from different angles and learning as much as we can about them."

The Kiwi team will finish up the foil testing block, and then will start preparing for the second Preliminary Event on the Red Sea at the end of November.

"We'll start preparing as best we can for that one design regatta. It's quite a different style of sailing for us on the boat - we all do different roles, " Maloney explained. "So we'll try and transition into that as quickly as we can over this week."

AC37 Joint Recon Team Reports:

Emirates Team New Zealand- AC40/LEQ12 - Day 45 - November 20, 2023 - Auckland

Day 45 for Emirates Team New Zealand in the LEQ12 had a mix of conditions allowing testing in a range of breezes. The day started with a 12:00hrs dock out and sail hoist straight out in front of the base before a tow down the harbour in search of breeze. Sails choice was the M2 and J2 for the entire session.

New spray guards were installed on port foil arm intersection area. [S-W the port wing foil is the latest test foil.]

Breeze was found in the Rangitoto Channel, and the team dropped the tow on the foils and commenced testing. They sailed a few laps up and down in a small area of water where there was breeze, completing almost all manoeuvres on the foil. Wind speed in the zone was not much more than 8 knots. When a non-foiling manoeuvre occurred, a tow was required to get back on the foils as there was not enough breeze generally to self take-off.

The first hour of sailing included very low exits out of tacks and high exits out of gybes and a lot of traveler play. As breeze built, a lot more main sheet tension and twist were played with very little traveler use. Good synchronized sail trim out of manoeuvres especially in the light. Team have learnt to tack onto the new foil much better in the marginal conditions today compared to two weeks ago.

Eventually at 12:52hrs the breeze shut down in this area and the team decided to take a break as they could no longer stay on the foil. It was looking a little dire on the Gulf however. Luckily for the team, a few easterly cells made their way across from the back paddock and the team were able to get up and foiling again. Some of these systems bought as much as 16-17kts of breeze but the average was around 12-14kts.

The team set up training to the South of Rangitoto sailing up wind/down wind laps between two yellow marker boys. The flat water gave the team a perfect sailing area and the wind, although up and down at times, was made the most of by the team. They sailed some longer tacks testing, and towards the end, were starting to increase the manoeuvres and were seen doing multiple full foiling 360’s including two foil glide entries and also well timed foil arm up/downs through tack to gybe and gybe to tack circles.

Overpowered at times being up range with the J2, they were running quite twisty sail profiles today. Sail trim across jib and main as in the last few sessions was very synchronised. As the breeze came up, a lot of sail ease could be seen out of tacks and more twist, with not a load of traveller being played. The yacht and sailors seemed to be performing well.

At 14:06hrs, the team bore away off St Heliers and finally headed for home after an eventful day of weather and sailing out on the gulf. On the way back up the harbour, they continued to practice many gybes and even a few aggressive circles all the way up to Stanley Point. They were really trying to push them around. One or two were semi successful with a touch and go, and the third eventuated in a full touch down. They displacement sailed back towards the chase boat before rounding up and commencing sails down at 14:20hrs.

The team arrived back at the dock at 14:40hrs and we were able to get in a chat with Flight Controller, Andy Maloney, who seemed pretty happy with what they had gotten out of the day on the water.

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

Session Statistics: Emirates Team New Zealand- AC40/LEQ12 - Day 45 - November 20, 2023 - Auckland

  • Weather: Showery - 23°C
  • Wind Strength 7-17kts
  • Wind Direction: SE - variable
  • Sea State: 0.1 mtr Flat
  • Crane In: 1100hrs Dock Out: 1200hrs
  • Dock In: 1430hrs Crane out: 1500kts
  • Total Tacks: 36 - Fully foiling: 33; Touch & Go: 1; Touch Down: 2
  • Total Gybes: 23 - Fully foiling: 21; Touch & Go: 1; Touch Down: 1

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