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Cup Spy Jan 22: Italian's crew 'problem'. USA fix gremlins. Brits stay with One Designs

by Richard Gladwell/Sail-World NZ 22 Jan 23:46 GMT 17 January 2024
INEOS Britannia - AC40's - Day 22 - January 22, 2024 - Barcelona © Paul Todd/America's Cup

Four teams sailed in Spain, Italy and New Zealand. Given their rich talent base, the Italians appear to be doing some crew testing, evaluation and upskilling ahead of their race boat launch. The US team continued with AC 75 development and continue to debug control systems. The Brits stayed with their two AC40 one designs in respect of foils and sails. New Zealand stayed with their one-boat LEQ12 program and revealed a new test foil on Monday.

What happened in the Cup - January 22, 2024:

  • American Magic - Sailed out of Barcelona on Monday in their AC75. There was a delay of three hours between rollout and dockout - as the team were advised to wait for the wind to strengthen and settle. The first half of the session was marred by a series of breakdowns, however they got on top of the gremlins in the second half of the almost 6hr session. Statistically they only dropped off the foils in only one maneuver out of 49 tacks/gybes. Skipper Paul Goodison was replaced during the session after suffering a wrist injury.
  • Alinghi Red Bull Racing - Have been sailing their AC40s in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for the past week. No recon report from Monday. We now know that they have stayed in Jeddah.
  • Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli - Continued to sail their AC40 against the LEQ12. The word is that the LEQ12 has been de-tuned to give a more equalised performance against the AC40 which is in One Design mode. Our guess is that the team is undertaking "seat racing" as used for rower selection in Rowing, as well as cross-training and challenging the sailing team. The Italians are strong - with four accomplished, quality helmsmen and others, from diverse backgrounds. With the upcoming launch of their race boat, will need to sort out their preferred sailing team ahead of the start of racing in August. Other teams seem to be more settled on their sailing crew combinations. However the Italian's problem is a nice one to have. With the exit of Jimmy Spithill from the US team, Luna Rossa does not have "driver" on the SailGP circuit - and Luna Rossa appear to have set up an energetic alternate program, using an interesting mix of sailor and coach experience.
  • Emirates Team New Zealand - have started sailing their AC40 as an LEQ12 again, but sporting a new test foil - the second in less that a week - which was the subject of an earlier Cup Spy report https://www.sail-world.com/news/270829/Cup-Spy-Jan-21-22-Kiwis-reveal-new-test-foil
  • INEOS Britannia - The Brits were back sailing their two AC40's. There is no indication as to whether the damage will be repaired on their test boat T6 whether their test boat 'T6' would sail again, or whether they would stay with their double AC40 program until their AC75 raceboat is launched. Both AC40's are in one design mode - foils and sails. It seemed the Brits were interested in testing various straight line sailing techniques. Top Olympian Hannah Mills stepped into a co-helm role substituting for co-helm Ben Ainslie in the early part of the session.
  • Orient Express Racing Team - No report, however they were mentioned as being expected to start wing foil testing this week and will have a team from the AC37 Joint Recon program assigned.

Commentary: A nice problem to have.

In the dockside interview after the session coach Philippe Presti was questioned by the AC37 Joint Recon team.

"It's going pretty well," Presti said of the racing program: "we're looking at having two full [sailing] squads. We're using this opportunity to do some racing and free sailing."

He was a little dismissive of the thought that the Italian team could be using the two boat program to test out crew options. "The race has got to happen in six or eight months. So it's a long time. It's just a part of the process. We want to mix the people as much as we can, and mix the pairs and everyone gets the taste of what is match racing. The decision will come when we need to take it, but it's not now."

While Presti's comment is accurate for the established co-helm combination of Francesco Bruni and Jimmy Spithill, the new talent in the team Ruggero Tita, Vittorio Bissaro and Marco Gradoni are a different situation. Time is of the essence.

Ruggero Tita is the defending Olympic, and current world champion, and probably a near certainty to be selected for the 2024 Italian Olympic sailing team. The Sailing Olympics begins on July 26, 2024, with the Nacra 17 event starting August 3 and finishing with the Medal race on August 7. Prior to Paris 2024, most crews will do several Nacra 17 regattas in the Olympic build up.

The first race in the 2024 Louis Vuitton Cup Round Robin qualification phase is on August 29 through to September 8. The rest of the Semis and Finals follow, with a week-long break between each. That is a tight schedule on which to come down from the emotional high and competitive stress of an Olympics, and merge into an America's Cup program. However top Olympic coach Hamish Wilcox is back with Luna Rossa. He coached Peter Burling and Blair Tuke at Tokyo2020. They had a four month break between the end of the America's Cup in mid-March 2021, and the start of the Olympics in late July.

Vittorio Bissaro is the Italian #2 for the Nacra 17. He finished 5th in the 2023 World championship, and is potentially available for Olympic selection. He would have been an automatic choice and potential 2024 Olympic medalist had he been sailing for another country. Bissaro is also a flight controller for Luna Rossa. Another talent is Marco Gradoni, who is the only sailor to have won three successive world titles on the Optimist, and who turned heads in the second Preliminary Event at Jeddah, Saudi Arabia - when he co-helmed the Luna Rossa AC40 with Ruggero Tita, into second place.

the Italians now have a very broad sailing team that at one end of the spectrum has Jimmy Spithill - as a co-helmsman - who is a double America's Cup champion. And at the other is Marco Gradoni, with no Cup or Olympic experience, who four years ago was sailing Optimists. But both have one thing in common - they are former winners of the prestigious Rolex World Sailor of the Year, awarded by World sailing.

From various perspectives the current phase of the Luna Rossa program is fascinating - particularly as to how it plays out into a very talented America's Cup sailing team with plenty of good options for Barcelona.

The Italians have debriefed well from the 2021 Cup in Auckland, where they were 3-3 with the Defender after three days of racing in the Match, and playing down the excitement of that moment, was a big focus for the team at that juncture. Since, they have made some very good decisions, and even more so than Emirates Team NZ have, Luna Rossa have focused on building depth and breadth into their sailing team. They have built on their strengths and strengthening their weaknesses, one of which like almost all other Cup teams, they did not have a second sailing squad that was interchangeable with the first - without any loss of quality.

One of the Luna Rossa coaches Philippe Presti, who was part of the winning Oracle Racing team in 2010 and 2013, and on the losing team in 2017 and 2021. Given that losses are the greater learning experience, Luna Rossa are taking a unique approach this Cup. In the interview below Presti touches on some of the issues, Luna Rossa are currently addressing.

AC37 Joint Recon Team Reports:

INEOS Britannia - AC-2 and AC-10 - Day 22 - January 22, 2023 - Barcelona

Team INEOS Britannia rolled out their two AC40s, Athena(a) and Sienna(b), at 08.30hrs and 10.00hrs, respectively. Both boats were completely on one-design configuration.

At 08.55hrs Athena(a) was craned to the water, while Sienna(b) was sent almost two hours after. A few shore team members could be seen working on some of the stickers of AC40(b). Other than that, nothing in particular was noticed. The team docked out at 11:35hrs, as planned.

One-design mainsails and J2s were hoisted while coming out of the harbor at 11:40hrs and 11:45hrs, respectively.

At 11:50hrs the training started with each AC40 sailing on their own, doing some warm-up tacks and gybes in a marginal 5 - 6 kts southwesterly breeze.

At 12:30hrs there was a first break in which Hannah Mills, who was steering on the starboard side of AC40(b), got replaced by Ben Ainslie, after 45 minutes.

From 12:30hrs till 13:30hrs the wind intensity decreased considerably and both boats were unable to take-off without towing assistance. During this hour, not much sailing happened.

Finally, at 13:45hrs, the forecasted southwesterly kicked in, averaging 12 to 14 kts, and the training was back on. The J2s were replaced by J3s on both boats, and then both AC40s were off for speed testing.

One long downwind and one long upwind were carried out.

The parity in between both boats was remarkable, both while going upwind and downwind. No specific differences in boat balance, sails trimming, or boat tuning could be identified.

After that one speed test, at 14:55hrs once back at the race-course area, there was a new half an hour break in which a batteries replacement took place.

Before closing the day, after three warm-up laps and a few practice pre-starts, two two-lap upwind-downwind virtual races were carried out using virtual marks and virtual boundaries. Both match races were won by AC40(a).

There was a third start, but the race was abandoned at the top mark, when both boats continued to sail upwind towards the port.

Both AC40s entered the harbor at 17:05hrs. Sails were lowered a few minutes after and the team docked at 17:25hrs. INEOS Britannia plans to resume their two-boat training program tomorrow, with an early morning session.

Sebastian Peri Brusa – AC37 Recon on INEOS Britannia

Crew: Athena: Dylan Fletcher, Ben Cornish, Leigh McMillan, Bleddyn Mon/Nick Robbins. Sienna: Ben Ainslie/Hannah Mills (stb), Giles Scott (port), Iain Jensen, Luke Parkinson (Hannah Mills sailed for the first 45 minutes of the session before swapping with Ben Ainslie)

Session Statistics: INEOS Britannia - AC-2 and AC-10 - Day 22 - January 22, 2023 - Barcelona

  • Weather: Clear 16°C.
  • Wind Strength 6-14kts
  • Wind Direction: 210°-250°
  • Sea State: 0.82mtr swell
  • Crane In: 08301000hrs Dock Out: 1135hrs
  • Dock In: 1725hrs Crane out: 1755hrs
  • Total Tacks: 50 - Fully foiling: 45; Touch & Go: 1; Touch Down: 4
  • Total Gybes: 41 - Fully foiling: 39; Touch & Go: 1; Touch Down: 1

Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli (LRPP) - LEQ12 - Day 114 - January 22, 2023 - Cagliari

The Italian team Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli rolled out their AC40 (White) at 7:30hrs and their LEQ12(Red) at 7:55, stepped masts and craned in respectively at 7:45hrs and 8:10hrs.

As previous days, both wings of Red boat were equipped with two GoPros each. The previously detected modification on wing01 and rudder elevator were confirmed by 51st declaration. Compared to previous days, helm and trimmers swapped between boats before docking the yachts out at 9:15hrs.

Out on the bay, the forecast looked similar to previous sailing day: lighter than forecasted, flat water and 8-10kn from 305°. Considering the breeze, M1-2 was paired to the J1-1 on Red and the M1 OD was paired to J1 OD on White. As the white AC40 self took off, the GoPros were activated on Reds wingfoils before being towed up on port tack and bearing away shortly after.

Both boats started sailing around a virtual course while marks were being set up.

After two individual starts, Red and White tested the course sailing an upwind and a downwind leg.

The first official prestart was observed at 10:05hrs with White on port and Red on starboard entries. Both yachts seemed to sail towards the lower right box bottom before turning up.

White led the start and Red seemed to start 2-3 seconds later tacking off right away. Both yachts sailed half leg before bearing away to keep up the start practices.

The pressure seemed to be shifting slightly to the right and decreasing to 7-9kts 320°. Before the second start, the LEQ12 fell hullborne after an unsuccessful JK (720°).

A self take off followed and the second prestart was live with White on port and Red on starboard. Both boards started on time, white further down the pin. During the upwind leg, White seemed to squeeze Red with a high mode forcing Red to tack away.

The third prestart unfolded similar to the second with both yachts down the right bottom and turning up towards the line. Red chased White and tacked right over the starting line. During the fourth race, the breeze seemed to be suddenly dying, both yachts came hullborne heading up. It became a drag race with White being able to stand up on foil quicker than red and winning this start by 25 seconds.

Red boat was then towed up, and the fifth prestart took place with, once again, White on port and Red on starboard. White was almost late for its entry, but still able to pull off another start beating the Red boat which fell hullborne after a manouevre. Breeze was still marginal with 6-8kts from 320°.

On the sixth start, Red was on port and White on starboard. Once again, for the LEQ12 the breeze seemed to not be enough to stay foilborne, handing so the prestart win to white. Both yachts decelerated and tow lines were passed by chase boats for a longer break of 20 minutes waiting for some profitable puffs.

The wind seemed to pick up slightly again, both yachts were towed up and sailed similar angles upwind and downwind, engaging occasionally covering the maneuver of the opponent. The higher maneuverability of White during tacks and gybes certainly proves an advantage compared to the longer two boards transitions of Red.

However, on the longer straight line runs, the LEQ12 seemed to be definitely quicker than the AC40. As the breeze finally picked up again, Red and White headed quickly towards the leeward gate. For the seventh start, Red was on port and White on starboard.

Both boats started on time with White closer to Committee and Red closer to pin which tacked to split. As racing was live, several lead changes took place with White in front on the first cross, Red on the second and finally White on the third. Racing was then cancelled due to a ferry coming through and the day was called for the LEQ12 with approx 95 minutes foiling time and approximately 36 tacks and 39 gybes [Michele Melis AC Recon].

Crew: Ruggero Tita, Francesco Bruni, Jimmy Spithill, Umberto Mollineris, Vittorio Bissaro, Andrea Tesel, Marco Gradoni, Jimmy Spithill, Frederico Colannino

Session Statistics: Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli (LRPP) - LEQ12 - Day 114 - January 22, 2023 - Cagliari

  • Weather: Sunny 12°C
  • Wind Strength 13-18kts
  • Wind Direction: 330°-335°
  • Sea State: Mostly flat
  • Crane In: 0900hrs Dock Out: 1000hrs
  • Dock In: 1320hrs Crane out:
  • Total Tacks: 36 - Fully foiling: 29; Touch & Go: 4; Touch Down: 3
  • Total Gybes: 39 - Fully foiling: 33; Touch & Go: 2; Touch Down: 4

American Magic - AC75 - Day 70 - January 22, 2024 - Barcelona

Patience and persistence were the two watchwords of NYYC American Magic's five hour day on the water which saw the first half of the session marred by a series of technical issues with their second generation AC75 Patriot.

The team spent these first two and a half hours in stop/start mode, with much more time spent head to wind effecting repairs than up on foils. The sailing team's patience and persistence was rewarded however with a much more productive second half to the session where Patriot looked to almost be back to full strength.

The team rolled out at 0850 this morning and had the boat rigged and launched by 0910. Dockout was delayed on the advice of the team's weather experts who wanted to give the forecast south westerly breeze a chance to properly develop. After docking out at 1200 the team had the MN7 mainsail and J1.5-2 headsail hoisted inside the harbour entrance at 1220 and the boat sailed out of the harbour a few minutes later.

An initial tow up due to the 6-7kt breeze resulted in a 10 minute flight which ended when the boat turned downwind and sailed out of the new 10kt band of wind coming in from 260°. The next flight ended abruptly after five minutes when the rudder elevator broke the surface downwind on port, which dropped the stern abruptly and then nosedived the boat into the back of a wave before emerging on the other gybe with the wind instruments dangling from the bowsprit.

Port helmsman Paul Goodison left the the boat with a reported sprained wrist and was replaced by Lucas Calabrese for the rest of the day. There were many more short flights and long breaks for repairs – including what looked to be the replacement of one or both of the hydraulic rams used to control the mainsheet traveller.

Then at the end of a 15 minute stop in the flat water by the harbour mouth a flat rectangular unit was handed off the yacht to the chase boat (see 07m 20sec in the highlights video). After this the boat looked transformed and the crew were able to complete long freestyle windward / leeward laps and pull off foiling tacks and gybe seemingly with ease.

It wasn't completely perfect however as there were a number of touch and go splash downs during the second half of the day. Time was called at shortly before 1700hrs with the boat back on the dock by 1723hrs. Another sailing session is scheduled for tomorrow Tuesday January 23.

Report from Justin Chisholm - AC37 Joint Recon Team

Crew: Paul Goodison, Tom Slingsby, Lucas Calabrese, Michael Menniger, Riley Gibbs, Andrew Campbell, John Croom, Colten Hall, Tim Hornsby, James Wright, Ashton Lambie

Session Statistics: American Magic - AC75 - Day 70 - January 22, 2024 - Barcelona

  • Weather: Clear 10-14° C
  • Wind Strength: 6-15kts
  • Wind Direction: 220°-270°
  • Sea State: 0.4-0.6metre Steep chop
  • Crane In: 0910hrs Dock Out: 1200hrs
  • Dock In: 1723hrs Crane out: 1745hrs
  • Total Tacks: 19 - Fully foiling: 18; Touch & Go: 0; Touch Down: 1
  • Total Gybes: 20 - Fully foiling: 20; 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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