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Sail-World NZ: April 20 - Cup latest..SailGP..Trans-Tasman Race..New Record..C-Tech's 25yrs

by Richard 19 Apr 2023 13:31 BST 24 December 2022
Emirates Team New Zealand's AC75 passes through a 420 training session on the Waitemata Harbour - April 20, 2023 © Richard Gladwell -

Welcome to's New Zealand e-magazine for April 20, 2023

Over the past few months, our focus has been on the 2024 America's Cup and watching the various team strategies unfold.

To date, all the America's Cups have followed a similar pattern, with the buildup phase using multiple boats of the current America's Cup Class or going into the 2017 event allowing unlimited test boats that were 5ft shorter than the AC50s used in the Cup.

This time around, teams will sail a minimum of two of the four types allowed, most will sail three, and others may sail all four - being an AC40 One Design; a LEQ12/AC40 modified as a test boat); a Version 1 AC75 (as sailed in the 2021 America's Cup); and all will build just one Version 2 AC75. A fifth option is to take a Version 1 AC75 and upgrade it to a Version 2 and then run that as a test boat before starting construction on their Version 2 AC75 race boat.

It is a very complex playbook, with the strategies having been decided around the time the entries were opened 16 months ago, on December 1, 2021 - and probably a lot earlier than that.

Keeping track of all this has been challenging with a massive amount of content available through the Reconnaissance File System (RFS), which is the central repository for all the reports, videos, interviews, and images gathered daily by the AC37 Joint Reconnaissance team - two people and a fast boat which trail each team, on every sailing day. Funded by the team being surveilled, they replace the individual spy teams of previous Cups and have removed a lot of the edginess as teams tried to protect their design secrets from the long lens of the spies.

From this seat, coverage is a lot easier than for the last Cup in Europe, as we can get a much more even view of all the teams and are seeing everything on a daily basis.

This is the sixth America's Cup campaign I've covered for Sail-World and the 12th in total. That's covering right through the full three or four year cycle, plus two Court cases - and not just a fly-in for the ten days of the actual Match. With that depth of coverage, we're a heavy user of content and RFS has been a Godsend.

Access to RFS and its massive content required a complete change in how we handle content and, more importantly, to be able to go back and access a critical shot/report detail which has suddenly become relevant. The first story I tried to write using RFS 14 hours to write. Now with the use of templates and other processes, it is probably down to about an hour per team.

We have chosen to cover all teams daily - as they are all running down the same timeline, and fans want to understand where they stand vis-à-vis the rest of the fleet - just like a yacht race. We are covering Emirates Team NZ on the day they sail - based on our own observations of the session and what else we can pick up locally. The other teams plus the Kiwis get covered in the daily group (which may be a day or two behind), and on the top is a quick daily summary of what happened with all teams - regardless of whether they sailed or not.

We also cover the off-the-water developments as separate stories - like the curious tale of Sardinia forfeiting their AC40 Regatta after six months of back and forth with America's Cup Event Ltd. A few days later, reports from Italy have it that the Sardinians are interested again - except that Brindisi has also got a bid in the early stage of development for the spot vacated by Sardinia. The AC40 Preliminary Event announced for Vilanova, in the Catalonia region of Spain is confirmed and will proceed.

After covering the America's Cup, for a while, you realise that no two days are ever the same, and commentators have to be able to work out the current storylines, and what they mean in the long-game. The teams will always tell you what they want you to hear, and RFS is a good way of getting past their PR firewall.

Currently, five Cup teams are sailing. All five sailed on Tuesday from five different locations, and three on Wednesday.

Four of those, based in Pensacola, Mallorca, Barcelona and Cagliari - are all sailing 40fters of some type permitted by the Protocol. Emirates Team NZ is the only one currently sailing an AC75 - with their 2021 America's Cup champion being upgraded to Version 2 of the AC75 Class. In theory, they could sail it in the next Cup.

While the teams will all claim otherwise, it is hard to believe they are learning as much from sailing the 40fters as the Kiwis are from sailing their 69fter (AC75).

The big unanswered question so far this Cup is how the AC75's will handle the tricky sea state off Barcelona, which had seen Alinghi Red Bull Racing, the only team sailing out of the 2024 America's Cup venue having a varied experience trying to keep their AC75 (when they were sailing it) in level flight.

Would the other teams have the same issue - and capsizes, nosedives and various other AC75 behavioral problems be experienced in the 37th America's Cup? Or would we see a series that was a step-on from Auckland, with some outstanding racing?

On Tuesday, we got a first answer when Emirates Team New Zealand ventured out onto a sea state off Takapuna that had been kicked up by four or five days of strong easterlies.

These were the same boat-breaking conditions that were the coup de grâce for the Kiwi Defence of the 2003 America's Cup, adding a second alphabet result to their scoreline.

I watched the session from various vantage points. To my eyes (assisted by a very grunty pair of Fujinon binoculars), Peter Burling and friends didn't seem to have too many problems. Certainly, there was none of the antics we have seen from the Swiss - albeit just on RFS video - which, despite being a great facility, has limitations. RFS gives you a small window into the America's Cup, but it is certainly only part of the picture, and doubtless, the Swiss will improve more rapidly than others.

So the upshot is that Barcelona should be a good sailing venue for the foiling monohulls.

But the twist came Wednesday a couple of hours into a training session when the Kiwis were having another hit-out off Takapuna in an 18-22kt north easterly and the usual seaway, conditions generally known as the Takapuna sea-breeze, so beloved by dinghy sailors.

One of the issues with the AC75 sails is that they must be capable of providing the power to get the yacht onto its foils but then be able to move into a high-speed mode and withstand the stresses and strains of sailing in windspeeds of 50-60kts of apparent windspeed. Add to that the additional stresses and strains of slamming into a seaway, and everyone starts hoping the designers and engineers have their safety margins right.

Wednesday and Tuesday's conditions were at the top end for racing in the AC75s. In the 2021 Cup, they would not have sailed on Course A, off Takapuna, in these conditions and would have gone to the frequently used and land-locked Course E.

But this is the 2024 America's Cup, which is being sailed on ocean courses. That being the case, teams must test in rough water and find weak spots. For the non-sailing cyclors, it is a real baptism of fire ripping along in these conditions and foiling at speeds in the early to mid-fifties.

The tack of the Kiwi's J2 jib gave way in today's session when the sail was being sailed above its designed range - due to the breeze increasing unexpectedly.

After you've watched a bit of AC75 racing from on the water, it is evident that the teams leave their jib call as late as possible and seem to do the reverse of the keelboat maxim - and opt for the smallest jib option. In other words, the AC75's rig for the gusts and grunt up the main to get through the lulls.

The breakdown ended the session but was also a vital lesson learned. And today's data will be looked at very carefully to compare the actual loads with what the designers had been expecting.

There has been a lot of data collecting done by all teams - however, there have been a few failures/destruction testing incidents - which are valuable because if they are repeated in a race - then it is a loss, and maybe a Cup loss.

While the Kiwis may be licking their wounds tonight, they should be grateful for the lesson learned.

Between newsletters, you can follow all the racing and developments in major and local events on or by scrolling to the top of the site, select New Zealand, and get all the latest news and updates from the sailing world.

For all the latest news from NZ and around the world, see the top stories below and check daily on our website

Good sailing!

Richard Gladwell
NZ Editor

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