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Cup Spy May 16: Self-starts still a work-on for teams

by Richard Gladwell/Sail-World NZ 17 May 18:05 PDT 18 May 2024
A study in bow shapes - American Magic - AC75 - Day 6 - May 16, 2024 - Barcelona © Alex Carabi / America's Cup

The US and British teams sailed on Thursday off Barcelona on a day that was not hugely productive in actual sailing time compared to time on the water. The issue lay in a storm - with thunder and lightning - that never really hit the teams, but did take out the breeze that existed at the start of the session.

Both teams sailed 20 minute legs without being able to generate the grunt to pop free from an off axis seaway. The sea state is blamed for the AC75s being unable to self-start foiling - when they were impressive in flat water and lighter winds on Wednesday.

What happened in the Cup - May 16, 2024:

  • INEOS Britannia sailed today in their AC75 - completing a five hour session which resulted in just 40 minutes foiling time.
  • American Magic repaired their jib sheet issue from Wednesday. They were on the water for two hours less than the Brits, but got a similar amount of foiling time.
  • Alinghi Red Bull Racing did not sail.
  • Emirates Team New Zealand did not sail in the AC40s. Their AC75 is decommissioned and in the process of being shipped to Barcelona.
  • Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli have decommissioned their AC75 in preparation for relocation to the team's America's Cup base in Barcelona.
  • Orient Express Racing Team: Were on the water sailing in One Design mode in their AC40. Their AC75 is in Barcelona however a launch date has yet to be publicly advised.

Commentary: The truth comes out

The notable feature of the day was the lack of sailing due to the presence of a storm system to the north of the training area off Barcelona.

This killed off the light, but sailable breeze at the start of the session. An off-axis seaway of less than a metre made foiling even more difficult for both AC75s - which are both in the new Version 2 configuration and weighing 800kg less than those which competed in Auckland.

Both teams got in about 40 minutes sailing time from over five hours on the water spent by INEOS Britannia, and three hours by American Magic.

The series of images below from Race 8 of the 2021 America's Cup illustrates the impact of hitting a soft spot in the breeze, and coming off the foils, without being able to self start.

Luna Rossa won the start of Race 8, leading Emirates Team New Zealand around the first mark by 16secs and had remained in that place, the series score would have gone to 4-4.

Soon after rounding Mark 1, the Kiwis hit a soft spot in a gybe and came off their foils and stayed in displacement mode - letting the Italians out to a lead of 4mins 8 secs at Mark 2. The Italians extended on the next upwind to lead by a massive 4min 27sec around Mark 3, only to fall into the same hole in the breeze as the Kiwis on the previous leg, and could only watch as Emirates Team New Zealand turned their Mark 3 deficit into a 4m 6sec lead - or a delta of 8min 33sec in just one leg. Despite all the smart thinking that goes into an AC75 - being able to self-start foiling in marginal races still pays the biggest dividend.

The Kiwis managed to negotiate their way through the dead spot - carrying their self-generated apparent wind through the holes and out the other side, dropping a few seconds of margin to the Italians once they got foiling - but still won by 3min 55sec and a 1800 metre lead and 3-5 in the series.

Changes in the AC75 Class Rule were aimed at lowering the wind strength in which the AC75s could self-start foiling - however from today's experience it would seem that the teams have some work ahead of them, if Barcelona's notorious off-axis seaway kicks in.

Today in Barcelona maybe racing could have been possible at the bottom end of the wind range, but the seaway made the AC75s "sticky".

In the upcoming Cups, for a race to start, the breeze only has to reach a minimum of 6.5kts in a five minute period during the countdown from the 9th to the 4th minute before the scheduled start. Once that criteria is satisficed the race has to start and is only subject to a first leg and then full race time limit.

Once the race is declared to be "live" it is up to the teams as to how they cope with the conditions. And cope they must. Clearly the ability to be able to self start their foiling - even if the wind drops below the regulation 6.5kts. The lesson from today appears to be that even at that windstrength in a seaway, the AC75s struggle. Their additional challenge is once foil-borne to remain in that state, even if they hit an area of lighter pressure.

On the water it is apparent how quickly the foiling dynamics can quickly turn to custard, after hitting a zone of lighter pressure, and the foiling monohulls which can sail at up to four times the windspeed, really struggle to get back on their feet. Their only hope is that their opponent suffers the same fate.

So there were plenty of questions and not too many answers from today's session - with the hope that these conditions will vanish in 100 days, when racing starts in the 2024 Louis Vuitton Cup and the 37th Match thereafter.

AC37 Joint Recon Team Reports:

INEOS Britannia - AC75 - Day 11 - May 16, 2024 - Barcelona

INEOS Britannia rolled out RB3 at 08:30hrs today and crane in was done at 09:05hrs and after some regular checks and maintenances on the different aero and flight control systems, the British docked out at 11:35hrs.

Foil cameras were removed on the last sailing session but today the camera from starboard side foil was seen installed again.

RB3 was towed outside the harbour with one of the chase boats when a storm with rain, lightning and thunders was coming from a direction of 240º and many clouds with rain could be seen in the north direction. When looking offshore into a 150-180º direction the sky was clear. RB3 was towed for 7nm in that direction and then stopped to hoist sails. Main sail MN1 was hoisted and paired to a J1 jib.

At that moment wind was about 5-7kts from 170º and the sea state was about 0.5-0.9 m. When RB3 started sailing the wind dropped to 3-4kts and it was not until 13:25hrs that picked up to 7-8kts and the British AC75 could start sailing.

A long upwind of almost 20 minutes was done and seven tacks were made. These tacks were basically the strong part of the sailing session from a foiling perspective, and we could see how different approaches to this manoeuvre were done. When the wind was very light it seemed like they tried to bear away a little bit to gain speed, get a bit of height, turn fast and delay dropping the windward foil arm as late as possible.

Today INEOS also sailed some long straight lines in displacement mode trying to take off. When the were done we had the feeling that with the waves today of 0.5mtr to 0.9 mtr, the boat need a bit more of speed to make the take off, compared to the last day when waves of 0.3mts to 0.4 mtr were found (both days were in the bottom end of the wind range).

A full cyclors swap was done at 14:40hrs, 2hrs after the sails were hoisted.

INEOS Britannia dropped sails at 16:15hrs and dock in was made at 16:50hrs.

As a summary they foiled today for 40 effective minutes and did 9 tacks (1 touch and go, 2 touch down, 6 fully foiling), 3 gybes (1 touch and go, 2 fully foiling) and plenty of take-off attempts and displacement straight lines. A total of 55 miles were sailed including the towing done from the chase boat.

[Jose Luis Piñana - INEOS Britannia AC Recon]

Crew: Sailing: Ben Ainslie, Giles Scott; Bleddyn Mon, Leigh McMillan. Power Group: Matt Rossiter, Ben Cornish (->Matt Grotel, James Skulczuk). Freddie Carr, Neil Hunter (->Luke Parkinson, Ryan Todhunter)

Session Statistics: INEOS Britannia - AC75 - Day 11 - May 16, 2024 - Barcelona

  • Weather: 21 degrees Clear skies, Sunny
  • Wind Strength 3-8kts
  • Wind Direction: 140 degrees-350 degrees
  • Sea State: 0.65- 0.9mtrs from 176 degrees.
  • Crane In: 0910hrs Dock Out: 1135hrs
  • Dock In: 1650hrs Crane out: 1730hrs
  • Takeoff Data: Boatspeed 18kts, Angle 85 degrees, Windspeed Not stated
  • Total Tacks: 9 - Fully foiling: 6; Touch & Go: 1; Touch Down: 2
  • Total Gybes: 3 - Fully foiling: 2; Touch & Go: 0; Touch Down: 1

American Magic - AC75 - Day 6 - May 16, 2024 - Barcelona

American Magic rolled out Patriot at 10:20hrs and craned in half an hour later.

It was noted that the small endplates on the starboard wingtips have been removed. Further maintenance was carried out on the jib sheeting system, followed by work on the Cunningham and mast rotation. A spell of rain put work on the yacht on pause, before clearing up for Foil Control Systems checks, and mast rotation testing with cyclors in their pods.

The team docked out at 13:40hrs, with the MN2-1 mainsail and J1-1 jib hoisted under the breakwater by 14:00hrs. Sailing commenced at 14:20hrs under an average windspeed of nine knots, allowing Patriot to take off at an estimated 75 degrees TWA. The team sailed a 25 minute stint under the freeport breakwater, drilling light air maneuvers and take offs.

Tech crew jumped on board to work on the jib system, before taking off again in approximately six knots wind speed. The crew were unable to complete a foil to foil tack, and did not find the wind to take off again. A battery change was carried out as more work on the jib system was observed, with technicians below deck.

By 16:00hrs, the wind dropped below five knots and swung way to the right, a 180 degrees shift. Patriot was tow started a couple of times, but not able to maintain flight for more than a few minutes. The decision was made to return to base and end the day, with sails dropped by 16:40hrs.

The team docked in by 16:45hrs after three hours on the water, of which 38 minutes were productive sailing (the team spent more time sailing in displacement and on the towline). Eight manoevures were performed, of which three were fully foiling.

American Magic - AC75 - Day 6 - May 16, 2024 - Barcelona

  • Weather: 20 degrees Partly Cloudy
  • Wind Strength: 6-18kts
  • Wind Direction: 190 degrees - 220 degrees
  • Sea State: 0.3-0.6mtrs from SSE 157 degrees
  • Crane In: Dock Out: 1240hrs
  • Dock In: 1535hrs Crane out: 1625hrs
  • Takeoff Angle TWA: 50 degrees-70 degrees Boatspeed: 18-20kts
  • Total Tacks: 7; Fully Foiling: 2; Touch & Go: 2; Touch Down: 3;
  • Total Gybes: 1; Fully Foiling: 1; Touch & Go: 0; Touch Down: 0;

Photos of Interest:

These images were mentioned specifically by the AC37 Joint Recon Teams in their reports, sent to all teams. These draw the teams' attention to new aspects or features of the AC75s which have not been seen previously, or are requested specifically by the teams as part of the Recon process.

American Magic:

INEOS Britannia:

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, and 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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