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Cup Spy Feb 2-3: Cup teams enters new phase with reliance on 40fter testing

by Richard Gladwell/Sail-World NZ 4 Feb 01:15 PST 4 February 2024
Luna Rossa - AC40 - Day 118 - February 3, 2024 - Barcelona © Ivo Rovira / America's Cup

The six teams that will contest the 2024 America's Cup, had a slower finish to the week with on the USA and British teams sailing on Friday, and the Italians having a good session on Saturday.

The teams are now totally reliant on their test programs in essentially half-size AC75s, and simulators, as they leave the launch dates for the new AC75 race boats as long as they dare.

What happened in the Cup - February 2-3, 2024:

  • Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli - was the only team to sail on Saturday, repeating Thursday's formula where the One Design AC40 was matched against their de-tuned LEQ12 test boat. The AC40 is set up in One Design mode including foils and sails, against the LEQ12 which is set up with test gear - likely to have been adjusted in the simulation computer to closely match the AC40s performance. The team can really only develop a match racing playbook from this setup, and from the narrative appear to have developed one interesting move.
  • INEOS Britannia - on Friday, the British team raced again in their two AC40s sailing a series of six races - using the same formula as they did on Thursday - which was to allow the races to run until they became one boat clearly had a winning advantage. In this situation, the time is better used having another pre-start and race than allowing the former race to play out its inevitable conclusion. Both boats used One design mainsails, with Athena starting the day with a custom design #2 jib, and setting their one design #3 jib and then switching back. They sailed six races, with the purpose of the session being to develop a match racing playbook coupled with finding out some crossover information on their jibs. The Brits seem to have resolved their claim that their second delivered AC40 was inherently faster than their first. The focus of their sessions is to develop a match racing playbook (particularly for pre-start) and sailing techniques on the foiling monohulls, which can only be tested on match one-designs.
  • American Magic - sailed again on Friday, with two AC40s using the One Design AC40s, with One Design sails. As with the Brits the purpose of the session was to develop a match racing playbook, as well as check different sailing techniques.
  • Alinghi Red Bull Racing - the Swiss did not sail either their AC75, which they sailed on Thursday, or paired AC40s, which last sailed on January 25 out of Jeddah.
  • Emirates Team New Zealand - Unfortunately fresh winds prevailed in Auckland on Friday and Saturday and with New Zealand heading into a long holiday weekend, it seems unlikely that they will resume before Tuesday.
  • Orient Express Racing Team - No report.

Commentary: The waiting game.

The teams have now entered a phase which has never really been seen before in the America's Cup - where they are testing variety of combinations revolving around the use of half-size AC75 test boats, and with surprisingly only three teams using AC75s from the 2021 America's Cup.

In past Cups test boats have been developed, but never relied on to the current extent, which is created by the prohibition on building multiple race boat options and testing in full size. In the 1992 America's Cup, the American defender built four International America's Cup designs, and the Challenger went one better with five full size IACC race boats.

That development triggered cost restriction to prevent the AC design race moving from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Bill Koch, team principal of 1992 Cup winner, America3, did take his defence effort down several technology related paths, including computer modelling the performance of each of the challengers - demonstrating what was possible without the need to build every option full-size.

Emirates Team NZ took that a stage further in the 2013-2017 period by following Koch's lead, but refining their systems to the point where they were highly accurate and trustworthy, and their projections were very reliable. Not that they had a lot of choice. The Kiwi team came close to running out of money and faced financial shutdown in October 2015. They could only afford to build one test boat and their race boat.

Ironically they spent more on their test boat than on the boat which went on to win the 2017 America's Cup in Bermuda.

In the 1992-2007 Cups, full size two boat testing was permitted, as had been the case in the 12Metre era. For the 2013 Cup there was a circuit developed around 45ft ACWS one designs - race by the teams and other pseudo-Cup entries who never made it to the Big Dance. Teams were allowed two AC72 boats for the 2013 Cup - permitting full size testing, but only one team - Oracle Racing - did so.

For 2017 test boats using the old AC45 hulls were permitted. But 18 months into the entry period, the America's Cup Class was altered from being an AC60 wing sailed catamaran to being an AC50 catamaran - which with the requirement to re-use AC45 hulls meant that the length gap between the two was just 5ft or 1.5metres not the 29ft or 8.8metres between the AC40 and AC75. Proportionately the power and systems difference a greater order of magnitude.

Currently we are tracking a total of 15 boats, of three types, in this cycle - 10 of which are the one-design AC40 hulls - designed by Emirates Team New Zealand and built by McConachy boats. Of the rest, there are two custom designed 12metre long test LEQ12 boats in play, and three upgraded AC75s, from the 2021 Cup, two of which have now been retired.

While much has been made of simulation testing for the sailing crews, this cycle it is also likely that Artificial Intelligence is playing a bigger role.

In the last Cup Emirates Team New Zealand used AI to canvass a wider range of design and sailing options - producing suggestions on which the design team could productively focus their efforts to develop and investigate. The Kiwis also said they used AI to check their racing of the boat - again come back with suggestions that were a faster approach, or yielded a higher reward.

In this phase of the America's Cup cycle while the sailing crews are awaiting the launch and delivery of their race boats, the AC40s and the 12 metre test boats are being used to develop match racing skills in foiling monohulls, and test how the pre-start tactics, in particular, can be developed refined to give a winning edge at the start. In the America's Cup, there is a statistic which says that in a high percentage of races, the team which wins the start goes on to win the first cross, win the first marking rounding and goes onto win the race.

While the narratives from the AC37 Joint Reconnaissance teams have become a lot more length and detailed, it is quite possible to work through these, and with the use of models and a good rules/tactical knowledge be able to see how the right of way, afforded by the rules, transition from boat to boat in different situations.

Of course the data gained from the pre-starts and racing can also be worked over in the simulator, allowing the teams to enhance their existing playbook of tactics and responses.

Many races are won and lost at the start.

In the foiling monohulls the start line win translates into being able to sail in clear air - free of the turbulence created by their rig. In the last Cup, this area of turbulent air extended was more extensive than expected, and had not broken down when a boat round the mark, and frequently the lead boat found on the upwind leg that they fell victim to their own turbulence created on the downwind leg.

The other big difference in foiling monohulls, from the monohulls used in previous Cups, is that an AC74 or AC40 can fall off their foils unexpectedly creating a big passing opportunity for their opponent. This is why we are seeing crews testing sailing technique in the 12 metre test boats and AC40s to alleviate any tendency to drop off their foils through poor technique.

Equally boats that are using test foils, which usually trade off lift against speed, need to be sure they are as good as they can be in light conditions when a minimum sized foil produces the least lift. Once foiling the minimum sized foil is faster, and the bigger all purpose foil may provide more lift but produces more drag and is slower.

Unlike the 2017 Cup, teams are not allowed to change foils and set the then AC50s up based on the wind forecast for the next race day. Only one wingfoil can be used throughout the Round - meaning it has to cover all wind extremes under which racing will be conducted.

There was no best way in the last Cup, with the Defender and Challenger being fitted with minimum and high lift foils respectively, and were 3-3 after six races.

Currently the crews and the design teams are grappling with a series of options which offer no best single solution.

Another factor is in the sails, of which we have seen some testing - but there seems to be little confidence that what works in a 40ft boat will cross over into a 70ft long AC75. It seems that the real development will take place in full size on the AC75.

The other area of focus is in mechatronics where devices can be programmed to undertake various routine tasks - allowing reduced numbers of crew to be carried. The rules have been liberalised for this Cup, opening new areas of development, of which the crews and design teams are highly secretive.

And of course there is nothing to stop teams fitting devices such as LIDAR to detect advancing wind pressure and direction - which are banned in Cup racing. The challenge for design teams is to develop alternate legal systems, which give a result which is nearly as accurate.

AC37 Joint AC37 Recon Team Reports:

Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli - LEQ12 - Day 118 - February 3, 2024 - Cagliari

Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli (LRPP) rolled out their AC40 (White) at 9:30hrs and their LEQ12(Red) at 9:55hrs, stepped masts and launched at respectively at 09:50hrs and 10:10hrs. Dockout was scheduled at 11:30hrs, sailors swapped between boats compared to previous days. Today the Red LEQ12 boat was co-helmed by Ruggero Tita and Jimmy Spithill, with Marco Gradoni and Francesco Bruni co-helming the White AC40 boat

Out on the bay, the offshore pressure looked quite patchy and shifty, firstly measured 8-10kts from 320 degrees with flat water.

Today the Red LEQ12 boat was co-helmed by Ruggero Tita and Jimmy Spithill, with Marco Gradoni and Francesco Bruni co-helming the White AC40 boat

M1-2 was paired to the J1-1 on red and the M1 OD was paired to J1 OD on white. Both boats were towed up and started sailing quite distanced but matching each opponent's manoeuvre while bottom and top marks were being set. Then the yachts sailed some individual prestart drills.

The Red yacht stopped for a speculative issue on one of the cockpits screens, which was then replaced.

In the meanwhile, the pressure shifted slightly to the right, from 325 degrees and increased to 11-13kts. Both boats changed jib, J2 OD was hoisted on white and J1.5-2 was hoisted on Red. Another short foiling stint followed for both boats before these stopped hull-borne again.

The J1.5 was then lowered as the team seemed to face an issue below deck on which electrician and hydraulic shore crew worked for approx 35 minutes. J1-1 was then rehoisted before Red was towed onto its foils. Some additional individual prestart drills followed for each boat.

Race 1: The first official start was observed at 13:50 with White (Bruni/Gradoni) on port. A routine drill was observed on the majority of prestart drills. White (Bruni/Gradoni) entered on port and sailed a full circle ending up to chase Red (Tita/Spithill) to the right hand side. After bearing away, the yachts approached the line with time to kill, Red more leeward. Both yachts tacked to port and white managed to stay foilborne winning this start. Both yachts sailed half of upwind leg and bore away to resume prestart practice.

Race 2: In the second start, both boats seemed to start even, with Red (Tita/Spithill) more windward splitting the course right away. Red protected its side and managed to round the top mark approx 5 seconds before White and won this race. A short break followed in which the sailors seemed to debrief.

Race 3: At 14:30hrs the third prestart drill was live with Red (Tita/Spithill) on port and White on starboard. White seemed to be in control and have the upper hand at the line. On the upwind leg some closer match racing took place and white managed to push red to windward which fell hull borne.

Race 4: The fourth prestart began with White (Bruni/Gradoni) on port and Red on starboard entries, White sailed in circle, tacked and began to chase Red (Tita/Spithill) while it was gybing. Red managed to slow down on two boards and ended up behind White able to push. The yachts started with a gap, Red closer to committee and tacked right away splitting the course. Red led in all upwind crosses and rounded up the leeward mark with a 12 seconds gap. The pressure shifted further to north, measured at 10-12kts from 335 degrees.

Race 5: On the fifth drill, Red (Spithill/Tita) had port entry, both yachts sailed towards the upper right bow end and bore away. White (Bruni/Gradoni) trimmed up to tack while Red gybed. Red began to chase White and the start seemed even on timing. Over the day, Red seemed to have a clear advantage on starboard tack upwind able to sail higher with less leeway, to be confirmed considering the shifty conditions of the day. On the upwind leg, Red protected its side and covered each manoeuvre gaining a gap at the top mark of 12 seconds and 8 seconds at the bottom. Two laps followed and Red clearly won this race, the yacht was decelerated at 15:00hrs for a short break.

Race 6: The 6th prestart unfolded with White on port, and chasing Red which fell off its foils after a hard trim up.

Races 7 & 8: The 7th and 8th starts took place shortly after with Red on port and White on starboard. A longer upwind race followed with Red (Tita/Spithill) leading the first three crosses and covering each tack but ducking behind White (Bruni/Gradoni) on the last cross which had gained on a shift.

The day was called for the LEQ12 with approx 160 minutes foiling time and approx. 52 tacks and 45 gybes [Michele Melis AC Recon].

Crew: Ruggero Tita, Marco Gradoni, Francesco Bruni, Jimmy Spithill, Umberto Mollineris, Andrea Tesel,

Session Statistics: Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli - LEQ12 - Day 118 - February 3, 2024 - Cagliari

  • Weather: Cloudy 13 degreesC
  • Wind Strength 7-9kts
  • Wind Direction: 315 degrees-340 degrees
  • Sea State: Flat
  • Crane In: 0845hrs|0905hrs Dock Out: 1030hrs
  • Dock In: 1440hrs
  • Total Tacks: 48 - Fully foiling: 41; Touch & Go: 5; Touch Down: 2
  • Total Gybes: 39 - Fully foiling: 34; Touch & Go: 3; Touch Down: 2

American Magic - AC40x2 - Day 86 - February 2, 2024 - Barcelona

NYYC American Magic rounded out the week with a third consecutive day of straight line two boat sail testing.

Having chosen to wait for the afternoon sea breeze rather than the early morning flow off the land, the team launched the two AC40s before midday and were off the dock at 1300hrs.

While launching a load cell was observed on the hoisting gear. A super flat sea and just four knots of wind greeted the two boats when they left the harbour at 1320hrs.

Magic was put on a bow tow and towed a couple of miles to the east, while America waited close to the harbour entrance for the southerly sea breeze to materialise. The new breeze arrived at around 1345hrs and soon after the two boats had an offshore rendezvous before setting off on the first flight of the day - an almost 35 minute session which saw the boats sail upwind on starboard before bearing away on to a long downwind run with just one gybe.

As on previous days this week the boats were sailing in close formation with regular swaps between windward and leeward. When they stopped at 1500hrs the breeze had risen from 8 kts to 11-12 kts and the crews swapped from the J1 headsails to J2s. (We were unable to identify the J2 version that went on each boat.)

Having stopped for just 10 minutes the two boats set off again on a long upwind / downwind run that lasted 40 minutes.

The final downwind section of that session saw the boats gybe 10 times.

After a 10-minute stop that saw the two crews swap boats they set off on the final flight of the day - a long upwind short tacking match race into the sun to reach the harbour entrance.

There were a couple of restarts of this match up along the way and any performance differences were more likely to be pressure/shift related than attributed to the performance of the boats.

The boats sailed into the harbour at 1700hrs and were back on the dock by 1725hrs.

No sailing is planned for the weekend with the next possible sailing day being Monday, February 5.

Crew: Tom Slingsby, Lucas Calabrese, Paul Goodison, Harry Melges; Riley Gibbs, Andrew Campbell, Severin Gramm, Kyle Langford, Michael Menninger

Session Statistics: American Magic - AC40x2 - Day 86 - February 2, 2024 - Barcelona

  • Weather: Sunny 18 degrees C
  • Wind Strength: 4-12kts
  • Wind Direction: 180 degrees - 220 degrees
  • Sea State: Flat-light chop
  • Crane In: 1148hrs|1116hrs Dock Out: 1256hrs
  • Dock In: 1720hrs Crane out: 1800hrs
  • Total Tacks: 30 - Fully foiling: 30; Touch & Go: 0; Touch Down: 0
  • Total Gybes: 11 - Fully foiling: 11; Touch & Go: 0; Touch Down: 0

INEOS Britannia - AC40-2 and AC40-10 - Day 30 - February 2, 2024 - Barcelona

INEOS Britannia launched their two AC40s, Athena(a) and Sienna(b) in one-design foils' configuration, at 06.38hrs and 06.52hrs, respectively; the two AC40s had been left with their masts up and out of the shed overnight. The team docked out at 08.00hrs, as planned.

Both boats got on the tow and headed towards the airport area with no sails. Once there, at 08:36hrs one-design mainsails and J3s were hoisted.

North-westerly offshore winds of 13 to 17kts of intensity prevailed during the session, providing great conditions for racing.

At 9:05hrs after a short warm up, both boats started to speed test doing one long downwind-upwind, switching sides. Both boats were very evened in speed and angle, both upwind and downwind, on the two tacks.

At 09:40 boats A and B were back at the airport area, where marks had been set by the coaches.

A short fifteen-minute break took place, before the start of the first race of the day. A total of six starts were executed, with Boat A - Athena - finally winning all races.

- Race 1: The first race started at 09:55 with an evened start. B to leeward and A to windward with a comfortable lateral gap. A was able to push B almost to the left boundary and tack on its bow, with a margin that was big enough to be able to cover B all the time from there on. After four tacks, A rounded the top left gate on the lead with a nine-second gap. On the downwind, A did one extra gybe than B, rounding the leeward left gate (looking upwind), but the gap was reduced to only three seconds. B rounded the opposite gate. On the following cross, A was ahead for a greater margin and the race got stopped.

- Race 2: A started to leeward of B who tacked towards the right side immediately after the gun. Found a nice shift and gust on the right side that allowed them to cross ahead. Nevertheless, A crossed very close behind the stern of B, and headed towards the right side. On the following cross, A was ahead. After four tacks, A rounded the top left mark, with B rounding 3 seconds behind. Only two gybes on the downwind to round the bottom left gate and maintain the three-second lead, with B rounding the opposite bottom gate. On the next cross, A continued to be ahead and the race was abandoned.

In between Race 2 and 3, there was a half an hour break in which boat A replaced their one-design J3 for the LEQ12_J2-4.

The following three races were sailed with a LEQ12_J2-4 on boat A vs a one-design J3 on boat B.

- Race 3: B was late to the start with A starting on time on the line. The race was abandoned right after the start

- Race 4: Even start in between both boats, with A (Athena) to windward and B (Sienna) to leeward. A was ahead on the first cross and then covered B all the time till the top mark, with both boats tacking eight times. A rounded the top right gate with a six-second gap that was maintained on the downwind leg. A rounded the bottom left gate, with B going to the opposite mark. A remained ahead on the first cross of the second upwind and then racing got stopped.

- Race 5: Once more, A started to windward and B to leeward, crossing ahead and covering from there on. A did four tacks to round the top left gate leading for just two seconds. B who was very close behind and rounded the same top mark, lost it on the bear away and ended up heading into the wind. The race was abandoned at that time.

Before the last race of the day, at 11:20hrs the wind intensity increased again and AC40(a) decided to switch back their headsail to the one-design J3.

- Race 6: The last race of the day got under way at 11:35hrs. Both boats with their OD J3. B started to windward and A to leeward. Both boats did an early tack right after the start and headed to the right side of the course. A was ahead on the cross and covered from there on doing in total six tacks. Once more, A chose the top left gate and B was forced to round the opposite mark. A extended on the downwind and rounded the bottom right gate with a comfortable lead. Halfway on the upwind racing was stopped.

At 11:50hrs the training was finished. Both boats lowered their sails and got on the tow to be taken back to the base. Athena and Sienna entered the port at 12:20hrs and docked at 12:35hrs.

Another very productive racing day for INEOS Britannia

Sebastian Peri Brusa - Recon on INEOS Britannia

Crew: AC-2: Ben Ainslie, Giles Scott, Bleddyn Mon, Leigh McMillan. AC-10: Dylan Fletcher, Ben Cornish, Youth Squad member, Luke Parkinson

Session Statistics: INEOS Britannia - AC40-2 and AC40-10 - Day 30 - February 2, 2024 - Barcelona

  • Weather: Sunny, 18 degrees.
  • Wind Strength 14kts - 17.2kts
  • Wind Direction: 315 degrees- 325 degrees
  • Sea State: 0.5mtr Short offshore wind chop
  • Crane In: 0638|0652hrs Dock Out: 0800hrs
  • Dock In: 1235hrs Crane out:
  • Total Tacks: 38 - Fully foiling: 38; Touch & Go: 0; Touch Down: 0
  • Total Gybes: 22 - Fully foiling: 22; Touch & Go: 0; Touch Down: 0

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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