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Cup Spy Dec 6: Early Xmas for American Magic as upgrades are testing on their AC75

by Richard Gladwell/Sail-World NZ 6 Dec 2023 19:26 PST 19 November 2023
American Magic - AC75 - Day 56 - Barcelona - December 6, 2023 © Ugo Fonolla / America's Cup

American Magic was the only team to sail Wednesday - in cold temperatures and light winds of Barcelona.


American Magic was back out on the water off Barcelona, where the team will be based for the coming eight months until the start of the Louis Vuitton Cup in August 2024.

The US team had used the time while the sailing team was away at the second Preliminary Event in Jeddah, to install several upgrades, of which sailing team member Riley Gibbs would say very little in the post-session interview with Justin Chisholm of the AC37 Joint Recon Team.

After Jeddah, the six America's Cup teams are in varying stages of flux. American Magic, Luna Rossa and Alinghi Red Bull Racing are the only ones to have tested this week. Emirates Team New Zealand is expected to resume sailing out of Auckland in its AC40 converted to an LEQ12. When is the next question.

Orient Express Racing Team announced a partnership with FMC GlobalSat which the team says "will bring high-speed connectivity with 5G and Starlink network, as well as monitoring and control of the AC40 and the future AC75 systems." Orient Express are still sailing in AC40 one-design mode and are not yet being covered by the AC37 Joint Recon Program. They have purchased a base AC75 design from Emirates Team New Zealand and construction is underway at the Multiplast facility in Vannes, France.

Alinghi Red Bull Racing have two AC40s in Jeddah and will continue with one or both in LEQ12 mode. It is unclear how long they will stay away from their permanent base in Barcelona. A read of the latest AC37 Recon team report reveals that the temperatures in Barcelona have dropped to a chilly 10°-14°C and will go further as the European winter advances.

Sailing team members from the New Zealand, Great Britain, and French America's Cup teams will sail this weekend in SailGP Dubai, with other individual members, including Jimmy Spithill, sailing in Dubai. He will replace the Australia SailGP skipper helmsman, Tom Slingsby. The Australian Olympic Gold medalist and 2023 Rolex World Male Sailor of the Year, will be absent on paternity leave - but was in his usual role as a co-helm on board American Magic's AC75 on Wednesday's test session in Barcelona.

Damaged LEQ12s now impact the on-the-water test programs of two teams - Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli and INEOS Britannia - affecting their wing foil testing and sails. However, Luna Rossa is believed to have already made many critical design decisions required for the final design/launch of their AC75 race boats.

INEOS Britannia has suffered a series of occurrences with their on-the-water testing program, which have all gone the wrong way for the Brits.

They lost time at the program's start using their specialist test boat T6, when the Measurement committee ruled that their plans for towing T6 using a towing pole - which would have effectively allowed half-size tank testing - were legal. But if a towing pole was used, the spar counted as one of their development spars - where only one was permitted. After adjusting to that setback, the Brits launched their LEQ12. They calibrated it so their chase boat team, the shore design team, and the remaining design team members based at INEOS Mercedes headquarters in Brackley, UK, could all follow the testing in real time.

T6 was launched at the end of October 2022 at the team's test base in Mallorca and had several major incidents, the first being when the boat capsized without a floatation device in the masthead/top of the mainsail. T6 inverted, with the lithium batteries catching fire during the tow ashore. As with any AC75/AC40/LEQ12 that inverts/sinks, the water damage to the systems below is extensive. Usually, a time-consuming complete replacement is easier than to repair and then suffer ongoing issues as more damage is revealed.

Next, when the Brits had recovered and appeared to be back on their critical path, they smashed the rudder and rudder box in a dramatic tow testing incident where the boat spun through 180° while foiling. The latest incident, on November 13, was a repeat of the first, when they repeated the tow-test damage in a sailing session after just six days back on the water.

The issues and delays will probably mean that the Brits are forced to rely more heavily on the resources within their design team and the impressive assets and experience of the INEOS Mercedes AMG F1 team. How the precise and carefully calibrated Brits test boat was designed and set up may have helped them recover a lot of lost ground very quickly. However, the proof of that will not be evident until August 2024, and the start of the Louis Vuitton Cup.

Emirates Team New Zealand was able to recover from a series of similar but different disasters in 2015, when, for commercial reasons, the team was within 24 hours of closing down. Even with a staff of just eight, they were able to recover - develop a design/test/simulation program that borrowed heavily from F1, changed out the sailing team, made some bold calls with cyclors and similar, and went on to win two America's Cups.

But that requires some very nimble thinking and management processes and a lot of self-belief.

What happened in the Cup - December 6, 2023:

  • Alinghi Red Bull Racing - Believed to be remaining in Jeddah to conduct further two boat testing in their two AC40s which are both at the venue for the just concluded second Preliminary Event in which the Swiss finished 3rd overall.
  • Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli - Suffered a compression crack in the port topside of their LEQ12 on Tuesday. The damage is said not to be a major repair issue, but will take time. The Luna Rossa LEQ12 is the second LEQ12 to be out of commission (INEOS being the first - see below).
  • American Magic - Sailed out of Barcelona on Wednesday in their AC75, but only with a narrow weather window for sailing, The session also suffered delay with some technical glitches. They plan on sailing again on Thursday Dec 7.
  • Emirates Team New Zealand - Did not sail and have returned to Auckland. Their "A" Sailing Team is in Dubai for the next SailGP event over the weekend.
  • INEOS Britannia - Did not sail - No update on their situation - they had rudder/rudder box issues for the second time in mid-November. There is no further comment from the team as to the nature of the damage, or the impact it will have on their testing program. They had only been sailing from Dec 5-12 (six sailing days). They were relatively on the pace with their testing program until the end of August where they sailed 13 days. They must now seriously behind with their on-the-water testing program having only sailed the LEQ12 for two days in September, two days in early October, five days in the LEQ12 from November 5-13, and none in the LEQ12 since.
  • Orient Express Racing Team - No report, however they will be sailing in the SailGP Dubai, this weekend. The team announced a new communications sponsorship partner yesterday.

AC37 Joint Recon Team Reports:

American Magic - AC75 - Day 56 - December 6, 2023 - Barcelona

The American team made the most of a narrow weather window today with a forecast that called for sub-six knot winds early in the afternoon that were predicted to rise to a peak of nine knots later before fading away again as sunset approached.

That forecast turned out to be pretty accurate, meaning that the Patriot crew – having docked out at just before 1230hrs – were able to hoist sails around two miles from the harbour entrance in flat water. The MN8-1 mainsail and the J1-6 headsail were hoisted by shortly after 1300 and the boat was sailing in displacement mode in 4-6kts of breeze by 1310hrs.

After a couple of displacement tacks the American AC75 was put on a bow tow at 1317hrs and was quickly airborne and sailing at around 30kts upwind. However this first flight lasted only three minutes before the boat touched down during an attempted tack and stopped with the mainsail looking to be pinned by both the mainsail and the traveller – a repeat of a previous issue from the last week of sailing.

After 10 minutes of work by a technician below decks the mainsail issue was resolved. A second tow up attempt at 1337hrs was aborted before the boat could take flight.

The third tow up at 1345hrs was more successful and the boat was quickly up on its foils and headed wind into a developing 7-9 kts breeze. This flight lasted five minutes before the boat rounded up from downwind, tacked and stopped with the mainsail appearing to be pinned once again.

The issue took 10 minutes to resolve before the boat was back up at 1400hrs for a six minute flight that ended with a touchdown tack and stop. A technician came on board briefly before the boat was towed up at 1410hrs for a flight lasting 35 minutes (with one brief touch and go fall off the foils downwind) during which the crew began practice laps around a laid course made up of a windward and leeward gate.

With the wind spiking up to 9-10kts a stop was made at 1450hrs for a cyclor rotation and a headsail change to the J3-6. The boat was up on foils (self take off) at 1505hrs for a flight lasting 25 minutes that included a downwind touchdown and a touch down tack both were followed by quick self takeoffs). After a tow up at 1545hrs in 6-7 kts of wind saw the crew practising light wind tacks with three touch and go tacks completed on the way back to the harbour entrance.

Time was called at 1554hrs and the boat was back on the dock at 1625hrs. Another sailing session has been scheduled for tomorrow (Thursday December 7).

Report from Sebastian Peri Brusa - AC37 Joint Recon Team

Crew: Paul Goodison, Tom Slingsby, Michael Menninger, Andrew Campbell plus AN Other in a trimmer role; John Croom, Madison Molitar, Colten Hall, Tim Hornsby, James Wright

Session Statistics: American Magic - AC75 - Day 56 - December 6, 2023 - Barcelona

  • Weather: Clear 10-14° C
  • Wind Strength: 4-10kts
  • Wind Direction: 180°
  • Sea State: Flat - light chop
  • Crane In: 1000hrs Dock Out: 1227hrs
  • Dock In: 1625hrs Crane out: 1700hrs
  • Total Tacks: 11 - Fully foiling: 2; Touch & Go: 4; Touch Down: 5
  • Total Gybes: 9 - Fully foiling: 2; Touch & Go: 3; Touch Down: 4

Additional Images:

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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