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Cup Spy June 22: Cup organisers try to put the Genie back in the botttle

by Richard Gladwell/Sail-World NZ 24 Jun 08:10 PDT 25 June 2024
Alinghi Red Bull Racing - AC75 - June 22, 2024 - Barcelona © Ivo Rovira / America's Cup

Just when it was starting to get interesting, the AC37 Joint Recon program has ended.

One of the better initiatives of recent America's Cups shut down on Saturday, as pre-ordained the Cup regulations.

All six teams are now in Barcelona, and four of those have clocked up up over 25 sailing days in the Mediterranean in their AC75s. All, except maybe the French are through their commissioning phase and are into the serious tweaks and refinements. There's plenty going on - if we're allowed to see it.

The contemporary America's Cup has modelled itself, or aspired to, on F1 Grand Prix - and in particular the "Drive to Survive" series which drew a whole new fan base. Those who are F1 fans will be only too aware of the access that TV cameras have in the pit area, and the discussions that ensue over the latest technology advance. The AC37 Recon system took the America's Cup into that realm. The problem now is that they can't put the genie back in the bottle.

Take last Saturday, four teams sailed off Barcelona, supposedly staying out of each other's way, but were unable to resist having hookups that went to the limit allowed under the Cup rules for two-boat testing.

Alinghi Red Bull Racing and Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli had, according to one Recon team quite an extensive session together, with the Italians getting the better of the Swiss, who are on their first Cup campaign in 14 years.

Saturday was also the last day of the Joint Recon program. It remains to be seen how the America's Cup teams and Event can put the genie back in its bottle.

For almost two years, America's Cup fans have, unbelievably, been following near daily stories about AC75 and 40ft test boats - not even racing - just going training and testing. No-one knows what is really been going on - except the team crews - and they aren't telling. But it has been an intriguing journey for Cup fans.

Having carved themselves out a substantial fan following - generating plenty of sponsor exposure - the Final Curtain has now fallen on the AC37 Recon Show.

Even more surprising is that the Cup teams appear to have vacated the stage, and left it open to a cast of other high profile sailing events, waiting in the wings.

There's the SailGP Final next month with the USD$2million winner take all purse - the biggest ever offered in sailing.

A couple of weeks later the 2024 Olympics get underway in Marseille - attracting an entry of more than 60 countries, plus all the other attractions and saturation television coverage of the Five Ring Circus. Never before have an Olympics and America's Cup been held two weeks apart.

Then there is the highly popular Vendee Globe single handed round the world race with a 40 strong entry - and arguably the most followed sailing event on the planet.

Somehow the Cup teams expect to be able to wriggle their way back. Maybe it would have been a a smarter move to keep the program running and stay in centre stage?

The Cup is now entering its most interesting phase - which we would have seen if the recon teams stayed in place. Now we won't get to see the close ups of the new gear going aboard the AC75s - which are always a talking point, even if most don't understand the science. Then there is was the occasional spectacular mishap - often caught by the Recon teams - with the footage picked up by the mainstream media, and showing their sizeable primetime news audience a different view of the America's Cup, and again priming for the Main Event.

We also won't see the Defender, who arrived in Spain this week, shaping up against the Challengers until the start of the next and last, Preliminary Event in the third week of August.

Unfortunately the Cup's move to Barcelona hasn't thrown up any of the 'pirate' video and photographers who operated in San Francisco, Bermuda and Auckland - doing the daily reporting now handled by the AC37 Joint Recon teams. Having enjoyed a feast of content over the past couple of years, for Cup fans the next couple of months look to be slim pickings.

A big thank you from all of us to the Recon teams, who have battled the elements on a daily basis to bring some first class coverage - the likes of which has never been seen previously in the Cup. Their eyes got sharper with every outing. While a few had previous AC75 experience - most of the scribes and photographers were thrown in the deep end and did remarkably well in their own way. The fact that the Recon teams were independent and uncoached gave their reports a raw credibility that would not have been achieved from the always PR polished team supplied material, where you are always told what they want you to see and hear.

For the first time in Cup history, we had an even view of the activities of all teams, without the parochialism that occurs when media get more exposed to one team more than others. It may have annoyed the teams to be under constant surveillance, but it is all media and consumer exposure for the sponsors - and ultimately the sponsors are paying the bills.

"If there is anything more annoying in the world than having people talk about you, it is certainly having no one talk about you" - Oscar Wilde.

Cup Spy will keep running, we have a lot of backlogged content and unpublished daily reports, sailing video and interviews, which can be interspersed with any current content that comes available.

Now, back to normal programming.

What happened in the Cup - June 22, 2024:

Four teams sailed out of Barcelona - all in AC75s on a day which most described as bottom end, and a good opportunity to test various aspects of foiling in low windspeeds and flat water. In the last Cup, these were killer conditions for many teams - from the perspective of being able to self start and get foiling, to staying airborne - relying on apparent wind if the true wind reduced in pressure. And then being able to complete dry tacks and gybes - as well as coming up to optimum heading as soon as the maneuver was complete.

There's a great piece of commentary and analysis from the Luna Rossa recon team on these aspects. Unfortunately there is little/no video of the Italians hook ups with the Swiss.

Although not mentioned in the reports, we would have expected the surrounding land and buildings to have had some impact on the light breeze that prevailed for the session. Quite what effect these intrusions have on the racing is yet to be seen.

  • INEOS Britannia sailed out of Barcelona, in a breeze which faded as the day wore on. They had one hookup with American Magic, which was inconclusive but ended when the British fell off their foils - shades of Auckland?

  • Alinghi Red Bull Racing sailed out of Barcelona again in light winds. As mentioned they lined up with Luna Rossa, with the Italians were deemed to have fared best of the encounter - as reported by their recon team. A key point made by the LRPP recon team is the way in which the Italians seemed to quickly land on their optimal heading when exiting a tack or gybe, without having to spend too long in a speed build.

  • Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli (LRPP) were reported to have had several engagements with Swiss Alinghi Red Bull Racing where the Italian assigned recon team felt "their" boat was both faster, and made gains out of every tack/gybe. The Swiss team discounted any notion of being in race mode for the session, and claimed little could be read into the relative performance difference between the two AC75s. The Recon team picked up some interesting patches on the Luna Rossa hull - see the photos in their report. What they are, or why they are there is unknown - and will now remain that way.

  • American Magic sailed the longest session, testing a new set of rigging (all rigging is a supplied one-design package). They also lined up - crossing tacks with INEOS Britannia. According to the Recon Team there was no discernible difference between the two AC75s. American Magic stayed out after the others had called it a day, and managed to get self foiling in the dying breeze, executing a couple of foiling tacks before calling time.

  • Orient Express Racing Team did not sail.

  • Emirates Team New Zealand have arrived in Barcelona. Their AC75 is now being commissioned, and the guess is that it will be sailing next week, or maybe earlier. But now only the teams will see that.

AC37 Joint Recon Team Reports:

American Magic - AC75 - Day 22 - June 18, 2024 - Barcelona

American Magic made the most of a light airs Saturday forecast in Barcelona to squeeze in a four and a half hour session of mostly boat testing – including bedding in some new rigging.

The team rolled out its latest-generation AC75 Patriot at 0900hrs. The mast was stepped by 0915hrs after which the shore crew carried out an extended setup of the rig that took until 1100hrs.

After swapping to a different rudder yesterday the team returned to the previous iteration (white stock with silver blade and elevator).

The boat was launched at 1105hrs with the regular dockside testing/configuration prep lasting an hour and three quarters before dock out at 1245hrs. It was noticed prior to dock out that a carbon fairing had been fitted at the base of the mast in place of the fabric version previously used.

The M2-1 mainsail was hoisted inside the harbour at 1300hrs with the J1-1 headsail going up at 1315hrs and the boat exiting the harbour at 1325hrs where the breeze was at 8-9kts knots from 90°-100° with a flat sea.

The first 20 minute session appeared to be all about checking out the new rigging with several crew members out of their cockpits and moving around the deck sighting up the mast and sails. At the end of this session a man was sent up the mast for what looked like an overall rig inspection.

The second session lasted 30 minutes and was made up of a long upwind where the crew carried out a series of slow round bear-aways and round ups - with the occasional aggressive bear away thrown in.

Race practice followed with Patriot entering the start box at the starboard end and starting powerfully at the pin. The crew then sailed a windward / leeward lap with INEOS on the opposite tack/gybe.

No obvious difference was noticed between the two boats upwind but the British boat fell off the foils before the end of the downwind section.

Further sailing was curtailed for 40 minutes as the wind dropped and began a forecast shift to the south. While the Italian, British and Swiss crews headed for the dock the Americans persevered – spending another 30 minutes attempting to build up enough speed to take off in five to seven knots of breeze.

Eventually they were successful as they accelerated to 18 knots at around 80 degrees apparent wind angle and lifted off – even squeezing in a couple of foiling tacks and gybes, as well as a touch down tack followed by another take off.

Time was called at 1640hrs with sails were dropped and the boat arriving back at the dock at 1705hrs.

[Justin Busuttil - AC Recon]

Crew - Sailing: Lucas Calabrese, Paul Goodison, Michael Menninger, Andrew Campbell
Crew - Power:Austin Regier, James Wright, Colton Hall, Ashton Lambie, Madison Molitor, Ethan S, John Croom

Session Statistics: American Magic - AC75 - Day 22 - June 18, 2024 - Barcelona

  • Weather: 24-26° Sunny/Clouds
  • Wind Strength: 5kts - 9kts
  • Wind Direction: 090° - 180°
  • Sea State: Flat, light chop
  • Crane In: 1100hrs Dock Out: 1243hrs
  • Dock In: 1705hrs Crane out: 1810hrs
  • Takeoff Angle TWA: 70°-80° Boatspeed: 18kts-20kts
  • Total Tacks: 14; Fully Foiling: 13; Touch & Go: 0; Touch Down: 1;
  • Total Gybes: 12; Fully Foiling: 11; Touch & Go: 1; Touch Down: 0;

INEOS Britannia - AC75 - Day 27 - June 22, 2024 - Barcelona

INEOS Britannia rolled out their AC75 at 09:30hrs with all cameras and with the Lidar hardware on the same position as the day before. Modifications to the jib track system were performed overnight and multiple adjustments were identified in the area during the day. In addition, the new wing tips identified yesterday for the first time on the port side foil wing, continue to be the same.

Britannia was craned to the water at 10:25hrs and the team docked-out at 11:30hrs, as planned, after performing usual routine activities. The MN2-1 mainsail was selected for today´s session, combined with the repaired J3-1 jib to start. Both sails were hoisted once out of the harbour at 11:50hrs.

A weak and light ESE breeze dominated the session, shifting persistently to the right during the day and dropping in intensity towards the afternoon, combined with mostly flat seas.

The British team started the session at 12:10hrs with a long upwind followed by a downwind, sailing mostly on a straight line. Britannia seemed out-of-range for the existent wind intensity at that time, with those sails´ selection of the MN2-1 of smaller sail area, plus the J3-1.

At 12:50hrs there was fifteen-minute break in which there was a headsail change, in which the J2-1 jib came up to replace the J3-1.

The session was resumed at 13:05hrs with some additional straight lines sailing, with the AC75 clearly heeled to windward when going upwind, with a less aggressive “bow-down” pitch angle, compared to other days with similar conditions in the past.

In a dying breeze, the AC75 found difficulties on the gybes when transitioning from VMG courses from tach to tack, struggling to stay consistently on the foils in a few opportunities.

At 13:45hrs a time-out was called in which there was a three-cyclors rotation. Ben Cornish stayed onboard for the entire training for the second day in a row. At the same time, a few technicians got onboard, one going under the deck threw the front hatch, another worked on the jib track system and a third one was seen “hands on” inside one of the cycling pits.

Fifteen minutes later, the training resumed with the first starting sequence of the day.

Britannia started right at the pin end and followed-up with a one-lap upwind-downwind, executing two tacks and three gybes, respectively, rounding a virtual top mark.

A second session got underway at 14:23hrs, starting from the first third of the starboard end of the line, continuing with a one-lap upwind-downwind. However, halfway on the downwind INEOS aborted the race after a full touchdown gybe. For the following ten minutes, the team did some random manoeuvre movements, with both arms down.

One non-organised upwind-downwind was executed with American Magic on the same water, with both boats sailing on opposite tacks almost all the time. Very small differences were identified, the session ended with a full touchdown of the British Team at the end of the only downwind leg.

At 15:00hrs the technicians got onboard once more, there was a batteries replacement and then the J1-1 got hoisted to replace the J2-1, in an effort to continue with the training in bottom-end conditions. However, once the team was ready to go at 15:30hrs, the wind had died-out the session was ended.

INEOS Britannia was towed towards the port entrance, where sails got lowered.

The AC75 entered the harbour on the tow and docked at 16:20hrs. Thirty minutes lifted from the water, indicating the end of the day.

[Sebastian Peri Brusa – AC37 Joint Recon on INEOS Britannia]

Crew - Sailing: Ben Ainslie, Dylan Fletcher, Bleddyn Mon, Leigh McMillan
Crew - Power: Shift 1: B.Cornish, M.Gotrel, M.Rossiter, R.Todhunter; Shift 2: B.Cornish, J.Skulczuk, H.Leask, F.Carr

Session Statistics: INEOS Britannia - AC75 - Day 27 - June 22, 2024 - Barcelona

  • Weather: 26° Part cloudy
  • Wind Strength: 6-8kts
  • Wind Direction: 80° - 135°
  • Sea State: 0.4mtrs flat
  • Crane In: 1025hrs Dock Out: 1130hrs
  • Dock In: 1620hrs Crane out: 1650hrs
  • Takeoff: Speed 17.5kts True wind direction: 90°; True wind speed:8.1kts
  • Total Tacks: 24 Fully Foiling: 22; Touch & Go: 1; Touch Down: 1
  • Total Gybes: 29 Fully Foiling: 20; Touch & Go: 5; Touch Down: 4

Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli - AC75 - Day 32 - June 22, 2024 - Barcelona

Luna Rosa Prada Pirelli (LRPP) launched their AC75 at 10:35hrs on Saturday morning. The shore team performed tests on different systems and controls before the dock out, at 11:30hrs.

LRPP was towed out from the harbour and paired the Mn0-2 mainsail with the J2-7 jib and started sailing just five minutes after. A breeze wind of 8-11kts was blowing from 090° over a flat Mediterranean sea.

The sailing session was basically divided in three different phases:

  • Phase 1 (12:00hrs to 12:30hrs) 8-11kts from 090°: a warm up of two upwinds and two downwinds was done with long line ups. 8 tacks and 5 gybes were made.
  • Phase 2 (12:35hrs to 13:30hrs) 6-8kts from 110°: One prestart was done in this slot sailing into the box in port tack. They started on starboard with great timing by the middle of the line and did one lap in an upwind downwind course set by one of the chase boats. They did one tack in the upwind and one gybe in the downwind, and round up the bottom mark through an upwind. They were not in race practice - doing some tacks at very slow speed entering and lifting the new windward arm slowly. They did around seven tacks and then after sailing downwind and did four gybes to get back to the starting line. Once there they stopped and replaced the jib J2 for a J1.5.
  • Phase 3 (13:25hrs to 14:30hrs) 6-8kts from 140°. Italians started sailing upwind and after one tack they just got crisscrossed with Alinghi and continued crossing each other for around six tacks. Alinghi won the first cross but then after that Luna Rossa took the lead every time with more distance.

After they started to sail downwind the Italians again got crisscrossed with the Swiss for around four long gybes. The Italians were getting more and more distance at every cross.

After the downwind they met again in the upwind for three tacks, after which Alinghi then stopped and the Italians continued sailing for three tacks more and then sailed downwind back to the starting line set by the team, just in front Port Olympic and stopped for cyclors and helm exchange and batteries replacement.

Phase 4 (14:30hrs to 15:15hrs) was sailed 5-6kts of breeze from 140°. Two prestarts were done in Phase 4. The first one (second start of the day) was done with the AC75 getting into the box in port side, and after nailing the time on distance and crossing the line, they quickly tacked and went into a three course race laps upwind-downwind. On the third start they entered into the box in starboard side, gybed and went sailing in portside to the corner of the box. They stopped foiling for some reason and after some checks with a technician the wind dropped to almost no wind and they decided to call an end to the day.

Points of note:

  • Different areas from the hull were seen painted this morning like if some sanding or repair was done .
  • LRPP was seen today with 3-5° of windward heel when sailing upwind.
  • When crisscrossing with Alinghi the main difference between the Swiss and Italians (apart from the Italians a having a bit more of speed) were the tacks and gybes. Alinghi did some "touch and go" tacks/gybe losing plenty of distance with each touchdown. After each tack or gybe Luna Rossa could go straight to its optimal pointing angle, while Alinghi had to build some speed before being able to get back to its optimal heading.

The longer stop today was of not even 20 minutes for the batteries and crew replacement. Sails were dropped at 15:15hrs and the AC75 was towed back to base and dock in was done at 15:45hrs, after three hours and thirty minutes on the course and 150 minutes of active sailing. 70 manoeuvres were observed at 95% fully foiling rate.

[Jose Luis Piñana – LRPP AC Recon]

Crew - Sailing:Jimmy Spithill, Francesco Bruni, Marco Gradoni, Andrea Tesei, Umberto Molineris
Crew - Power: Bruno Rosetti, Enrico Voltolini, Luca Kirwan, Emanuele Liuzzi, Cesare Gabbia, Paolo Simion, Mattia Camboni

Session Statistics: Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli - AC75 - Day 32 - June 22, 2024 - Barcelona

  • Weather: 25°C Sunny, part cloud
  • Wind Strength 5kts-11kts
  • Wind Direction: 90° - 140°
  • Sea State: 0.5mtr - 0.8mtrs from 180°
  • Crane In: 1035hrs Dock Out: 1130hrs
  • Dock In: 1545hrs Crane out: 1635hrs
  • Takeoff Data: Self Boatspeed 18-20kts Wind TWA: 70-85°
  • Total Tacks: 42 - Fully foiling: 39; Touch & Go: 3; Touch Down: 0
  • Total Gybes: 28 - Fully foiling: 27; Touch & Go: 1; Touch Down: 0

Alinghi Red Bull Racing - AC75 - Day 34 - June 22, 2024 - Barcelona

Alinghi Red Bull Racing (ARBR) rolled out their AC75 B2 race boat at 10:00hrs, stepped the mast and launched the AC75 at 1025hrs. Standard checks followed and the team docked out at 12:00hrs.

The forecast suggested lighter air and mostly flat sea-state with light chop.

The M1-1 mainsail was hoisted and paired to J2-1 jib. Once foilborne from a self take off, the team dialed in with the first upwind manouvers in 5-8kt winds. Then the team bore away executing a series of gybes, beside some short Touch & Go maneuvers (tacks and gybes) they looked dry and fast.

This routine was repeated twice including occasional split tacks exchanged with the Italian challenger, which was on a J3 jib.

After the downwind run, both teams stopped and a J2 was hoisted on the silver bullet (Luna Rossa),the Italian jib was slightly smaller compared to the Swiss J2.

At 13:25hrs, breeze was 7-9kts further inshore and both yachts were set a for a self take off, Swiss on starboard and Italians on port.

The teams sailed split tacks for 6-8 tacks before bearing away and splitting gybes downwind for 5-7 gybes.

The breeze was quite shifty in that area and several lead changes were observed. On the last upwind ARBR's B2 fell off its foils, before tacking while the Italians bore away.

ARBR's B2 was quickly back foilborne at 13:55hrs and bore away rolling into a series of gybes and stopping shortly after.

By then, ARBR's B2 had completed approximately 35 tacks/gybes during 60 minutes of foiling after which cyclors and batteries were exchanged.

For the next session, a leeward gate was set up and B2 was back foilborne at 14:30hrs to practice some prestart drills. Four of these were practiced with B2 always on port entry and spending 2:10 minutes in the box.

After a quick break, ARBR's B2 was foilborne at 15:10hrs for straightline sailing and additional manouevers in lesser breeze, which was had dropped to 5-7.5kts from 150°.

During this phase, B2 seemed to struggle to execute dry tacks (they were below the wind limit for a race start of 6.5kts) and splashed down twice. The team lowered the J2-1 and hoisted the bigger J1-1 jib.

By the time the J1-1 was up, breeze had decreased even further to 4-6.5kn. For the last 20 minutes, a self take off was attempted without any success, and the AC75 sailed in displacement mode the harbour entrance.

The day was called and sails were lowered at 16:20hrs with 112 minutes of foilborne sailing, 32 tacks and 27 gybes

[Michele Melis AC Recon].

Crew - Sailing: Arnaud Psarofaghis, Maxime Bachelin, Bryan Mettraux, Nicolas Rolaz
Crew - Power: First shift: F. Noti - N. Stahlberg - T. Schir - A. Maillefer ; Second shift: F. Trub - B.Delarze - N. Theunink - A. Cevey

Session Statistics: Alinghi Red Bull Racing - AC75 - Day 34 - June 22, 2024 - Barcelona

  • Weather: 27° Sunny
  • Wind Strength: 5 - 9kts
  • Wind Direction: 105° - 175°
  • Sea State: Flat light chop
  • Crane In: 1000hrs Dock Out: 1200hrs
  • Dock In: 1620hrs Crane out:
  • Takeoff Boatspeed: Not reported
  • Total Tacks: 32; Fully Foiling: 22; Touch & Go: 7; Touch Down: 3;
  • Total Gybes: 27; Fully Foiling: 21; Touch & Go: 5; Touch Down: 1;

The Official Video of the Day:

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. Sadly, under the terms of the rules governing the 37th America's Cup, the AC37 Joint Recon program terminated two months before the start of the first event of the 37th America's Cup. However Sail-World has a lot of backlogged content from the last couple of months, and the plan is for Cup Spy to continue with previously unpublished content, and with more analysis, as well as tracking the ongoing development.

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