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Cup Spy Jan 31: INEOS packs in 10 races - Fletcher and Cornish win 6-4

by Richard Gladwell/Sail-World NZ 31 Jan 20:31 PST 3-4 February 2024
INEOS Britannia - AC40 - Day 28 - January 31, 2024 - Barcelona © Paul Todd/America's Cup

INEOS Britannia turned on a Battle Royal between its eight crew racing a ten race series in AC40s. With seven Olympic Gold medals spread amongst three of the co-helms, the ten race series was always going to produce some fireworks, and duly obliged.

The Kiwis had more control system issues, cancelling today's test session while still on the tow-out, and were back at the base just 50minutes after departure.

What happened in the Cup - January 31, 2024:

  • INEOS Britannia - More than made up for a slow start to the week, with an excellent two boat testing session involving eight sailing crew, with seven Olympic Gold medals between them. The Brits took a leaf out of the New York Yacht Club's playbook - when they ran a series of 10 races - curtailing them and re-starting when one boat was clearly ahead - as NYYC did when conducting the Defence Trials until 1983. Out of 10 races, Sienna (Dylan Fletcher/Ben Cornish) won or was ahead in six of the races, Athena (Ben Ainslie/Giles Scott) were ahead in four races. Only the final race went the full distance.
  • American Magic - Got their delayed program under way when a 9-14kt breeze arrived in Barcelona. Like many teams today, American Magic had a racing/speed testing session running using their two AC40s, after their AC75 test boat was retired last week. The focus for the US challenger seemed to be on benchmarking their sail testing program and keeping tacks/gybes to a minimum - except for one long leg at the end of today's session.
  • Alinghi Red Bull Racing - Were the only team to sail an AC75. Today's out of Barcelona involved systems testing, pre-start practice, and a three lap race opposed by the Catalyst 45 chase boat.
  • Emirates Team New Zealand - More control system issues for the Kiwis, with their on the water session lasting less than an hour, and was curtailed while the LEQ12 was running some basic tests while on tow on the inner Waitemata Harbour. The cause has not been revealed, aside that the Recon Team believe it was an issue with control systems on their new test foil (on the port foil arm),
  • Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli - No report
  • Orient Express Racing Team - No report.

AC37 Joint Recon Team Reports:

INEOS Britannia - AC-2 and AC-10 - Day 28 - January 31, 2023 - Barcelona

INEOS Britannia craned their two AC40s, Athena(A) and Sienna(B) into the water in one-design foils' configuration. The two AC40s were launched at 10.37hrs and 10.52hrs, respectively. They had been left with their masts up and out of the shed overnight. Normal routine activities were performed before docking out at 12.30hrs, as planned.

One-design mainsails were hoisted on both boats at 12:40hrs. Immediately after, Sienna hoisted a one-design J2, while the LEQ12_J2-4 with triangular top and narrow head came up on Athena at 12:50hrs, while heading out of the harbor.

A very stable south-southwesterly sea-breeze of 10 to 13kts of intensity prevailed during the day, providing almost ideal conditions for speed-testing and racing.

For the first half an hour both boats warmed-up, mostly sailing on their own, doing three upwind-downwind laps combined with some tacks and gybes.

At 13:30hrs the two-boat speed-testing session started, performing two long upwinds and one long downwind, switching sides and maintaining always a small lateral distance in between boats.

In this opportunity, the parity in between Athena and Sienna was remarkable, specially when comparing to the differences that were observed last week on that day in which conditions were very similar. Today there was no clear faster boat, neither upwind nor downwind.

By 14:30 the team was back at the racecourse area and after a twenty-minute break, both boats were ready for racing with special focus on the pre-starts.

A total of 10 races using marks were started, with both boats switching sides for the entries on multiple times.

- Race 1: Sienna (Boat B - co-helmed by Dylan Fletcher and Ben Cornish) had a better start to leeward and closer to the pin end that was significantly favored. B was ahead on the first cross and played the shifts better than A (Athena - co-helmed by Ben Ainslie and Giles Scott), that was forced to go against the phase. B rounded the top mark in the lead, maintained the six-second gap on the downwind leg and extended on the second upwind protecting the left side staying in phase with the shifts, to win the race.

- Race 2: Sienna again had a better start closer to the pin. Lee-bowed Athena on the first cross, not too far to the starboard lay line. Boat A was able to hold the line and to push B past the port lay line, rounding in the lead the top right gate after tacking. A maintained the lead on the downwind and rounded the left gate looking upwind with a five-second gap. Half-way on the second upwind the race was abandoned

- Race 3: Once more Sienna had a better start to leeward and ahead of Athena, closer to the pin end that was biased. Sienna crossed ahead of A on the first opportunity and at that moment the race was abandoned.

- Race 4: Sienna fell-off from the foils when 20 seconds were remaining to the start. Athena started on time on the line. Then the race was abandoned.

- Race 5: Just before the start, Athena (A) to leeward of Sienna (B) had a dominant position standing both boats on the starboard starting mark lay line, with A controlling the acceleration, squeezing B. Athena started faster and ahead. Nevertheless, racing remained very close, and Sienna took advantage of the last right shift of the first upwind leg, rounding ahead of A. Sienna maintained the lead at the gates with a seven second gap and then the race was abandoned halfway of the second upwind.

- Race 6: Athena got positioned too early too close to the starting line, with too much time to burn, and Sienna came around from behind on the leeward side, forcing A to tack. Sienna had a better start with more speed without tacking. On the first cross Sienna was ahead and then the race was abandoned.

- Race 7: Athena almost capsized on the first gybe after entering the box on starboard tack, at that time the race was abandoned.

- Race 8: Athena started ahead and to windward of Sienna, after maintaining a dominant position to leeward of Sienna. Athena moved very close, squeezing Sienna to the lay line of the starboard end starting mark, controlling when to accelerate. After starting, the race was abandoned.

- Race 9: Athena controlled during the pre-start and pushed Sienna to leeward of the pin end lay line before the starting time. Athena crossed the line on port tack, on time, with Sienna not making the pin end. After starting the race was abandoned.

- Race 10: Both boats started on opposite ends of the line, Sienna slightly better from on starboard end, being ahead on the first cross and dominating from there on. This race was continued. Sienna rounded the top mark ahead and extended from there on. One downwind and one more upwind towards the harbor was performed.

At 17:28hrs both boats entered the port, lowered their sails and docked at 17:48. Boat A was the first of the two to be craned out of the water at 18:10hrs, indicating the end of a very productive day for INEOS Britannia.

Sebastian Peri Brusa - Recon on INEOS Britannia

Crew: AC-2 (Athena): Ben Ainslie, Giles Scott, Bleddyn Mon, Leigh McMillan. AC-10 (Sienna): Dylan Fletcher, Ben Cornish, Youth Program sailor, Luke Parkinson

Session Statistics: INEOS Britannia - AC-2 and AC-10 - Day 28 - January 31, 2023 - Barcelona

  • Weather: Sunny 17 degrees.
  • Wind Strength 10-12kts
  • Wind Direction: 185 degrees- 205 degrees
  • Sea State: 0.65mtr Flat
  • Crane In: 1037 & 1052hrs Dock Out: 1230hrs
  • Dock In: 1748hrs Crane Out: 1801
  • Total Tacks: 55 - Fully foiling: 53; Touch & Go: 2; Touch Down: 0
  • Total Gybes: 39 - Fully foiling: 38; Touch & Go: 1; Touch Down: 0

Emirates Team New Zealand - LEQ12 - Day 60 - January 30, 2024 - Auckland

Not a great day out on the Waitemata Harbour for Emirates Team New Zealand, with an issue occurring not long after sails were hoisted.

The team scheduled a slightly earlier start with a 0900hrs dock out for Day 61 of testing in the LEQ 12. Unfortunately, after hoisting sails, the session took a turn for the worse in what appeared to be a control issue on the port foil flap, although this is only speculation from what we saw, as nothing physical was apparent.

The team started a downwind tow after hoisting off the Viaduct Harbour. However, after only a few hundred metres, the team slowed the tow and dropped off the foils. They raised the starboard foil and displacement sailed around on the port foil for approximately 15 minutes trying to resolve the issue.

Unfortunately, they were unsuccessful and returned to the dock promptly and hauled the yacht out to conclude the day. Their movements point to the issue possibly being a physical part and potentially in the foil arm/foil control system, rather than something accessible inside of the hull. They have now, unfortunately, missed a day of low-end testing, but the plan is to sail again tomorrow with a stronger breeze predicted.

We spoke with flight controller Blair Tuke after the short session today and tried to get some answers regarding the issue and the plan going forward.

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

Session Statistics: Emirates Team New Zealand - LEQ12 - Day 61 - January 31, 2024 - Auckland

  • Weather: 23 °C Sunny
  • Wind Strength: 8-10kts
  • Wind Direction: 190 degrees- 200 degrees
  • Sea State: 0.1mtr
  • Crane In: 0815hrs Dock Out: 0900hrs
  • Dock In: 0950hrs Crane out: 1010hrs

American Magic - AC40x2 - Day 84 - January 31, 2024 - Barcelona

The American team took full advantage of near perfect weather conditions with a five and a half hour two boat testing session using the AC40s Magic and America. [To help tell them apart in the images and video: Magic has branding on both sides of the lower section of the mast].

Both boats had remained rigged in their cradles overnight and were each craned into the water by 1120hrs ahead of a double dock out at 1225hrs. Both boats were rigged inside the harbour - America with a C4 mainsail and a J2-5 headsail - Magic with a C5 mainsail and a J2-5 headsail (a J1.5 C2 headsail had been briefly hoisted but was not used).

The two boats were out of the harbour at 1300hrs and after a short delay to re-hoist America's headsail after it came off the halyard lock the pair set off on a long downwind run.

With the wind touching 10kts and the sea state flat the boats were sailing in close formation at speeds in the mid to high thirties.

A stop at 1325hrs saw the mainsail dropped on America for what looked to be a re-tensioning of the battens. Another long windward/leeward lap followed that lasted 35 minutes but featured just three tacks and two gybes (all foiling), with the crews clearly more focused on sailing in close formation upwind and down.

With the breeze edging up to 12-14 knots by 1430hrs the two crews changed headsails (America to the J3-5 and Magic to an unidentified J3).

A twenty minute close formation minimal maneuvers windward/leeward session followed before a stop at 1510hrs that saw both boats drop sails.

After the team's largest C2 chase boat made a fast run back to the base and returned the boats were rigged as follows: America: MN C3 mainsail (very narrow profile, particularly at the head) and J2; Magic C4 mainsail and J2 headsail.

The teams were back on foils at 1615hrs for a final prolonged (75 minute) windward leeward session that featured more close formation straight line sailing upwind and down with just a handful of tacks and gybes, but finished with a long tacking session up the Barcelona cityfront which saw the two teams dog fighting each other all the way.

Over the day there was no discernible performance difference that could be detected from the recon boat. The American Magic flotilla arrived back in the harbour at 1740hrs with both boats back on the pontoon by 1800hrs. Another sailing session is planned for tomorrow, Thursday, February 1.

Crew: Paul Goodison, Harry Melges, Kyle Langford, Severin Gramm

Session Statistics: American Magic - AC40x2 - Day 84 - January 31, 2024 - Barcelona

  • Weather: Sunny 14 degrees C
  • Wind Strength: 9-14kts
  • Wind Direction: 180 degrees - 190 degrees
  • Sea State: 0.4-0.6mtr swell
  • Crane In: 1106/1120hrs Dock Out: 1225hrs
  • Dock In: 1755hrs Crane out: 1825hrs
  • Total Tacks: 25 - Fully foiling: 0; Touch & Go: 0; Touch Down: 0
  • Total Gybes: 10 - Fully foiling: 0; Touch & Go: 0; Touch Down: 0

Alinghi Red Bull Racing - AC75 - Day 114 - January 31, 2024 - Barcelona

Alinghi Red Bull Racing rolled out their AC75 Boat Zero at 10:00hrs and craned in at 10:35hrs after stepping the mast. GoPros were placed on extensions on the masthead, on the transom looking at the rudder, 2m above the mast base looking down at the jib track, as well as on the deck looking up at the mainsail, and looking down at the foils.

After standard systems checks, the M2-2R mainsail and J2-2L jib were prepared on deck before 12:30hrs dockout. The J2 was exchanged with the J3-1R jib before hoisting the sails in port. Today's testing involved systems testing, pre-start practice, and a three lap race opposed by the chase boat.

The sea state presented a residual swell from the southeast, which was flatter compared to the previous day, with a slight wind chop as the wind increased.

Stint 1 (13:00hrs - 13:13hrs, 8-11kts 200 degrees @ 13:00hrs): The yacht started with a short warmup downwind, executing three gybes. The two gybes to port resulted in touch downs.

Stint 2 (13:17hrs - 13:38hrs, 7-9.5kts 190 degrees @ 13:15hrs): This stint focused on short upwind/downwind legs, with manoeuvres to port proving less consistent, leading to a short debrief, with the technical crew also jumping onboard.

Stint 3 (13:48hrs - 14:03hrs, 11-14.5kts 190 degrees @ 13:45hrs): Longer legs of upwind/downwind were sailed, as the team continued to drill manoeuvres. This was followed with round-up and bear away practice.

Stint 4 (14:10hrs - 14:35hrs, 7-10kts 195 degrees @ 14:10hrs): This stint involved dropping and lifting the windward foil numerous times. This was first done upwind, then downwind, only with the starboard foil.

Stint 5 (14:40hrs - 14:47hrs, 8-12kts 200 degrees @ 14:40hrs): A short upwind was sailed to the course start, followed by a battery and a full cyclor swap, with Barnabe D, Arthur C, Franco N, and Nico S jumping off; and Thery S, Nils T, Paul J, and Augustin M substituting on.

Stint 6 (15:05hrs - 15:35hrs, 7.5-11kts 195 degrees @ 15:00hrs): The team engaged in pre-start practice, with three starts carried out in this stint. The yacht entered all three starts on port, improving their timing on each attempt.

Stint 7 (15:40hrs - 16:14hrs, 8-12kts 205 degrees @ 15:40hrs): Concluding the day was a 3-lap race against the chase boat, with a right-side bias and a windward mark bearing of 185 degrees. After rounding the set windward mark on the first lap, the yacht rounded the Catalyst 45 chase boat for the second and third laps, which was positioned further upwind. In the latter legs, the team were more pro-active in tacking and covering the chase boat.

Sails were dropped at 16:25hrs and the team docked in 20 minutes later, as the yacht was craned out at 17:15hrs. The crew spent just over four hours on the water, with 145 minutes of sailing time.

A total of 77 manoeuvres were observed, with a 77% fully foiling rate.

Crew: Sailing Group: Arnaud Psarofaghis, Maxime Bachelin, Nico Charbonnier, Yves Detrey, Bryan Mettraux, Lucien Cujean, Nico Rolaz. Power Group: Augustin Maillefer, Arthur Cevey, Nils Theuninck, Barnabé Delarze, Théry Schir, Nico Stahlberg, Franco Noti, Paul Jacquot.

Session Statistics: Alinghi Red Bull Racing - AC75 - Day 114 - January 31, 2024 - Barcelona

  • Weather: 16 degrees. Sunny
  • Wind Strength 8-12kts
  • Wind Direction: 190 degrees- 205 degrees
  • Sea State:0.6 - 0.9mtr
  • Crane In: 1035hrs Dock Out:1230hrs
  • Dock In: 1645hrs Crane Out: 1715hrs
  • Total Tacks: 41 - Fully foiling: 29; Touch & Go: 7; Touch Down: 5
  • Total Gybes: 36 - Fully foiling: 30; Touch & Go: 3; Touch Down: 3

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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