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Sail-World NZ: May 26 - Cup Spy latest..Pre-Olympic Team announced..The Ocean Race..The 'Tubercle'

by Richard 25 May 2023 10:08 BST 25 May 2023
INEOS Britannia Team - Day 52 - T6 (LEQ12) passing two J-class off Mallorca - May 24, 2023 © Ugo Fonolla / America's Cup

Welcome to's New Zealand e-magazine for May 26, 2023

The America's Cup action enters a new phase, as the teams based outside Europe have begun the pack out to go to Barcelona, the 2024 America's Cup venue, from which they must sail from July 1, 2023, to October 31, 2023.

Our Cup Spy series, which is proving to be very well-read, took a break in early-mid May while I was operated on for appendicitis. However, yhe series has restarted, and the missing days will be caught up, and the latest reports for the last week or so are up to date.

A couple of days before being admitted to hospital, I did have the opportunity, along with a couple of other media people, to have an afternoon on the water with Emirates Team NZ on what proved to be the penultimate sailing day for their upgraded AC75, the current America's Cup champion.

I was on the water on a photo boat every available day during the last America's Cup, the Prada Cup and the America's Cup World Series, and the many practice days. Going out for yet another day to see an AC75 at the beginning of May, was not a novelty, but it was a unique opportunity to see the Kiwi boat close up in a way that was not possible during the Cup.

There has been some clear development and a few points of surprise - some not in a good way - in one of the team's two development boats. But all that will be covered in a full write-up in the next couple of weeks.

As followers of Cup Spy will know, several strategic approaches are being run by the five/six teams - we will have an idea of how these will play out - when the third of the Preliminary Events is sailed, presumably in Barcelona. That regatta will be contested before the start of the Challenger Selection Series - which does get underway in Barcelona in August 2024.

Emirates Team New Zealand, American Magic and Alinghi Red Bull Racing have all opted to run first and second-generation AC75s from the last Cup. They have each been upgraded in various ways to lift the boats to the requirements of Version 2 of the AC75 Class Rule, which will be used for the 2024 America's Cup.

Those three teams are now using the first delivery of their AC40s as test boats, or LEQ12s (Less Than or Equal to 12 metres) as they are known in the Rules.

We are seeing the first green development shoots with the Kiwis, Swiss and US teams having all revealed test wing foils on their LEQ12s. Of the three, the most interesting approach is the Swiss "Tubercle" wing foil with its leading edge bumps - borrowed from the humpback whale and the aircraft industry. Unfortunately, this development came out while I was in hospital, and it was only last week that there was time to look at it in depth.

The other two teams - INEOS Britannia and Luna Rosa Prada Pirelli - have opted to use custom-designed test boats and have used their allowance of one LEQ12 in this direction rather than an AC40 hull.

Using custom design LEQ12s as test boats has been a mixed benefit. The British have adopted a very F1-skewed approach revolving around the careful setup of a test platform and precise measurement of data. Unfortunately, they have had a lot of dead time compared to the other teams - with the saga over the legality of using a towing pole in the LEQ12, which would have neatly skated around many of the issues associated with the prohibition on using towing tanks. Then their capsize, and minor fire early in the "T6" program put the test boat out of action for six weeks from February 8 to March 21. While the Brits claim they had a development block booked for several weeks of that time slot, the rebuild of T6 was something they could have done without.

However, they are putting in a lot of sailing days and appear to be cutting through the testing worklist. But they are in a battle against time- which is always the case with teams in the America's Cup.

A similar but different comment applies to the Italians - whose LEQ12 looks very sticky and hard to get a water start to begin self-launched foiling. Part of that stickiness lies in the Italian's use of six sailing crew [the new Version 2 AC75's are allowed only eight crew], so there is a proportionately heavier crew weight aboard the Italian test boat - which makes it a problematic boat to get foiling - without the assistance of a tow-up from their Chase boat.

With all five sailing teams, there has been a lot of conjecture about top-end speeds - remembering that American Magic holds the AC75 speed record of 53.31kts set in the Semi-Finals of the Prada Cup, just after a bear away, and before the rudder ventilated, causing the AC75 to broach.

Emirates Team NZ became the first team to divulge a top speed - of 50.7kts in a bear away (originally reported as 57kts), which is an interesting number.

Several of the Class of 2024 allude to having gone well past the 50kts mark. Quite by how much is theirs to know and will be found out once we see the speed numbers displayed during the 2024 America's Cup racing.

But as we will cover in the story of the afternoon on the Chase boat with ETNZ, top speed is a little irrelevant in the context of the America's Cup. Far more relevant is the Velocity Made Good (VMG), a theoretical calculation which resolves the sailing angle and boat speed in the direction of the next mark - and generally gives an advantage to the boat which can sail the shortest course at the most efficient speed.

One of the early surprises of the 2013 America's Cup in San Francisco was that Oracle Racing could generally sail a deeper course downwind than the Kiwis, and some of the advantage ETNZ built in the early stages of the race was erased by the time the Challenger and Defender reached the bottom mark. Early in that series, despite being behind at Mark 2, the Kiwis were able to build a lead on the first upwind leg. Of course, later in the series, Oracle Racing got the time to perfect upwind foiling, and with their downwind superiority, plus a few lucky breaks, they won 11 races to the Kiwi's eight wins on the water.

Another point is how long will we continue to think of the hulls on foiling monohulls as hulls, or is it more accurate to use aircraft terminology and call the middle bit a "fuselage". Certainly, the "hull" should spend very little time in the water, and how it passes through the air is a far better performance indicator. In America's Cups of yesteryear, hull shape and the different design approaches were far more relevant, however in contesting the 2024 America's Cup, where the AC75's should be able to be airborne for 100% of the racing time, the nuances of sailing in displacement (non-foiling) mode are of little relevance - provided the AC75 can water-start in winds of 6kts - which is a big ask of designers and sailors.

Those who have followed the Cup Spy series will have seen some of the stats which show that some teams are turning in 100% dry tack/gybe success percentage - mostly in AC40s but occasionally in AC75's. But more of that in the later story.

New Wing - Armstrong Foils

Wingfoiling is arguably the fastest-growing aspect of the sport. Armstrong Foils are one of the leaders in wingfoiling and board foiling generally - be it in surfing, paddling and anything else that pits the sailor with nature and physics using a foil.

Like the successful marine companies that have gone before, Armstrong Foils offer a complete range of equipment and plenty of excellent advice and design their product range so that it is an easy upgrade as the sailor moves from beginner to varying higher levels of expertise. Originating in Raglan, Armstrong Foils offer plug-and-play upgrades, which allow the sailor to upgrade components without having to purchase an entirely new set of kit once they are no longer challenged by their current setup.

The latest upgrade is a new wing - the A-WingXPS - available in June 2023. Like all other components from Armstrong Foils, the new wing has been developed in conjunction with leading designers and engineers from outside the company - ensuring that they represent the latest thinking and expertise currently available. The amount of time that Armstrong Foils put into design and testing is impressive, particularly in an aspect of the sport, which is fast-growing. That process also applies to materials testing, resulting in a product that Armstrong Foils describes as "a highly refined combination of materials which delivers impressive strength to weight, durability and overall performance."

You can read more about the A-WingXPS here

Matuku - Lloyd Stephenson Boats

We have an update on a previous story from Lloyd Stevenson Boatbuilders, where one of the boats in build was the Artnautica 60 (18m) Sportfisher. What piqued our interest was that Matuku is an all-carbon power yacht. Many are familiar with carbon construction in racing yachts and all the reasons for the weight and structural strength inherent in that build medium. However, taking it into power boats/yachts is an interesting approach and must give significant advantages in performance and economy.

The significant part of the two LSB stories is that in the images from the first, we are in the black world of carbon construction. In the latest images of Matuku, we move into the world of a beautifully finished, well-designed boat with all of the features and practical edges that we expect to see from a top boatbuilder, working in conjunction with an experienced designer who can produce a boat that more than meets the expectations and dreams of the owner.

It is quite something to see that transition from the building yard at Lloyd Stevenson Boatbuilders to powering along the Whangaroa shoreline.

SailGP Technologies - TP52 builds

SailGP is in the sailing headlines every month as another round of the now 11-regatta, ten-team event progresses worldwide. Season 4 starts in mid-June in Chicago. Behind the scenes, some are aware of SailGP Technologies, the Warkworth-based company that keeps the show on the road. In a couple of the regattas of Season 3, the NZSailGP F50 was struck by lightning in Singapore - necessitating a return of the boat to Warkworth, where it was checked, stripped and rebuilt - a significant task given the complexity of the wingsailed foiling catamaran. The Kiwi F50 was repaired earlier than expected, only missed one regatta (Sydney), and was on the start line for SailGP Christchurch.

At the end of the first day of the SailGP Sydney regatta, you may recall a localised weather bomb hit the Technical Base. The swirling wind caught the wingsail being craned off the Canadian F50 and went rogue, smashing itself, a couple of tents, and a slew of wingsails for all teams in storage. Again the damage was repaired well ahead of expectations, and SailGP Christchurch went ahead without apparent impact.

Of course, having the capability to achieve those turnarounds is not an accident and requires a very well-set-up facility with some amazing equipment and staff. Over the past few years, we've had a couple of very impressive tours through what is now the SailGP Technologies build facility. A visit a couple of months ago (between the departure of the NZSailGP F50 and the arrival of the damaged wingsails) was a step up from what we had seen before. Unfortunately, we were not permitted to take photos, but what we saw was impressive. The most significant change was the increase in CNC Milling machines and the capability to build race yachts - with some very specialised gear - under one roof.

As we have seen with some of the America's Cup teams, building a race boat in one facility has several key advantages, mainly having full control over build times and quality without being dependent on off-site construction and suppliers. It is not surprising to see that SailGP Technologies has built two TP52's which have performed very well on the top race circuits, a third is being shipped, and a fourth is under construction.

The most impressive part of SailGP Technologies is the massive 5-axis gantry CNC milling machine with a platform measuring 18 metres x 6m x 3m. That's sufficient for a male plug to be milled in one piece for a TP52 hull. The key benefit is that the CNC Milling machine can reproduce the design exactly as drawn by the designer without any possibility of error or variance. The perfect shape means no hull/fairing filler is required - all the weight goes into the keel or wherever it will make the boat the fastest.

Anyway, read the story of SailGP Technologies in this edition, and see the images taken by SGPT's photographer, the great Brett Phibbs.

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.

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Good sailing!

Richard Gladwell
NZ Editor

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