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Cup Spy Jan 24: French tow test LEQ12/AC40. Kiwis and Swiss sail in a big breeze

by Richard Gladwell/Sail-World NZ 25 Jan 02:19 GMT 24 January 2024
Orient Express Racing Team - AC40 - Day 1 - January 24, 2023 - Barcelona © Alexander Champy-McLean / OERT

Alinghi Red Bull Racing and Emirates Team New Zealand sailed their AC40s in fresh winds in Auckland and Jeddah. The French challenger Orient Express Racing emerged in Barcelona to conduct tow testing on an AC40, now an LEQ12 test boat, that has been converted from auto flight control, to the manual system required to be used in the America's Cup.

What happened in the Cup - January 24, 2024:

  • Orient Express Racing Team - Began tow testing on Wednesday, at Barcelona rigged and unrigged, and testing flight control systems.
  • Alinghi Red Bull Racing - continued to sail their pair of AC40s off Jeddah, in fresh winds.
  • Emirates Team New Zealand - Sailed their AC40/LEQ12 on Wednesday morning in a freshening breeze, which was recorded as gusting to 30kts. The Recon Team felt the LEQ12 was over-powered for much of the sail. Cup Spy saw part of the session, the LEQ12 was notable for the amount of fine high-speed spray following like exhaust smoke. See the video in this story.
  • American Magic - are on a six day break, having retired their test AC75, Patriot, yesterday.
  • INEOS Britannia - according to, the Brits sailed the AC40-OD with an Athena Pathway (Youth and Womens) crew. No word on when and if they will resume in their damaged test boat T6.
  • Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli - according to, the Italians trained with a Youth and Womens AC pathway crew on their AC40-OD.

Orient Express Racing Team - AC40 LEQ12 - Day 1 - January 24, 2024 - Barcelona

Since their arrival back in Barcelona after the Preliminary Event in Jeddah, the French team, have been busy converting their AC40 from automatic flight control, to a manual system, which is required for America's Cup racing in the AC75.

On Wednesday the new flight control system was subject to a towing testout of Barcelona, in ideal conditions for tow-testing.

The towing was conducted without the rig, and then with the mast and sails and all equipment aboard.

Although there is no comment from the AC37 Recon Team, it would seem that the tow test was uneventful, and therefore a success.

Test sailing is usually taken a day or two after the tow-test, which should be accompanied by a full AC37 Recon Team - providing a report and images (still and video), along with a highlights and interview with a team member nominated by the team.

Orient Express Racing is competing on the SailGP circuit with their America's Cup team and management. Their AC75 is being built by highly experienced French yard Multiplast to a base design from Emirates Team New Zealand.

The team is expected to begin testing wing foil designs.

Alinghi Red Bull Racing - AC40 OD & LEQ12 - Day 72 - January 24, 2024 - Jeddah

Alinghi Red Bull Racing rolled out their AC40-7 (Black) at 08:45hrs and AC40-4 (Red) following at 09:10hrs. Both boats were craned by at 09:30hrs. It was immediately noted that the manual flight controller was absent, indicating a return to automatic flight control systems. Standard preparations were carried out and the following LE jibs were prepared: J2-2, J3-1, J3-2, and J2-3, ahead of a day of sail testing and match race practice. GoPros were placed on the sheer line of both boats, pointing up at the OD mainsails.

The crew combinations underwent a significant change, with Arnaud Psarofaghis and Jason Waterhouse helming Red, with Lucien Cujean trimming on starboard, Bryan Mettraux on port.

Nico Charbonnier helmed Black on starboard, with Nico Rolaz trimming behind him, Maxime Bachelin helming on port and Yves Detrey trimming. The team docked out at 11:00 under the prediction of strong winds and heavy chop later in the day. The teams hoisted One Design mainsails, with Red selecting the J3-2 LE and Black hoisting the J3-1 LE.

Stint 1 (11:20hrs - 12:05hrs, 13-16kts 320 degrees @ 11:25hrs) The session began with both boats warming up separately, followed by parallel sail testing on long legs upwind then downwind. The wind began increasing in this stint, reaching up to 16 knots.

Stint 2 (12:15hrs - 12:25hrs, 14-20kts 320 degrees @ 12:15hrs) During this stint, gusts reached up to 20kts with lulls around 14kts. Sea state also began to increase to a strong chop. Start 1 saw Black enter on port. Red on starboard, with Red starting ahead on windward. Black encountered came to a stop with a technical issue, as Red continued solo pre-start practices. Nico Rolaz was seen working on the Jib head, as technicians jumped on board with a computer to work on systems.

Stint 3 (12:35hrs - 13:10hrs, 16-20.5kts 320 degrees @ 12:35hrs, 14-18.5kts 320 degrees @ 12:50kts) Both boats resumed on the course. Start 2 saw Red enter on port, Black on starboard. Red touched down with a gybe, causing them to start 28 seconds delayed in comparison to Black who started on time. A third start was abandoned as technical difficulties surfaced on Red, requiring technicians to jump on board. Black continued with pre-start entries and time on distance.

Stint 4 (13:15hrs - 13:30hrs, 15-19.5kts 320 degrees @ 13:20hrs) Sea Start 3 saw Red enter on port, Black on starboard, as Red had a big touch down mid pre start, but recovered to hit the line on time, rolling over Black, despite both boats 4s late. Start 4 saw Red enter on port and Black on starboard, with Black starting to windward as Red were slow off the line to leeward, touching down with both boards down, possibly due to lack of battery power, as batteries were subsequently changed.

Stint 5 (13:50 - 14:15, 15-19kn 320 degrees @ 13:55) The course was set to 320 degrees. Start 5 / Race 1 saw Red enter on port and Black on starboard. Red won the start on windward and continued sailing to the left, as Black immediately split and sailed to the right. Red led at the singular windward mark which was rounded to starboard, but Black snuck into the lead sailing at a lower angle downwind. Black gybed first and Red followed, but touched down heavily, bringing them to a stop. Black continued to win the race, shortened to one lap, as they rounded the leeward gate with both foils down. After a brief pause, Black completed an additional lap as Red took some time to recover. A very aggressive chop of 1m wave Hight at 4s period made it difficult to follow the race pace.

Stint 6 (14:20hrs - 14:40hrs, 15-20kts 320 degrees @ 14:30hrs) While Red resolved technical issues on board, Black continued practice. Start 6 / Race 2 saw Black enter on port, while Red entered on starboard with a touch and go gybe. Red won the start on windward, as Black tacked off immediately, with Red following shortly after. Red looked slow upwind with the jib notably eased, they then turned downwind and called it a day, sailing back to base. Black completed a lap of the course and continued back to base.

The day concluded with sails dropped by 14:50hrs and dock in at 14:55hrs, with both boats craned out by 15:35hrs. Over four hours on the water, the teams spent 150 minutes sailing, with a total of 73 manoeuvres observed of the Red boat. The overall fully foiling rate was 81%, reflecting the challenging conditions and adjustments made throughout the day.

Crew: (Red) Arnaud Psarofaghis, Bryan Mettraux, Jason Waterhouse, Lucien Crujean. (Black) Nico Charbonnier, Nico Rolaz, Yves Detrey Maxime Bachelin,

Session Statistics: Alinghi Red Bull Racing - AC40 OD & LEQ12 - Day 72 - January 24, 2024 - Jeddah

  • Weather: 30 degrees degrees. Sunny
  • Wind Strength 13-20kts
  • Wind Direction: 320 degrees
  • Sea State: 0.5 - 1.0 mtr NW
  • Crane In: 0900/0930hrs Dock Out: 1100hrs
  • Dock In: 1455hrs Crane out: 1510/1535hrs
  • Total Tacks: 42 - Fully foiling: 37; Touch & Go: 5; Touch Down: 0
  • Total Gybes: 31 - Fully foiling: 22; Touch & Go: 4; Touch Down: 5

Emirates Team New Zealand - LEQ12 - Day 58 - January 24, 2023 - Auckland

An epic, high-end Day 58 testing, out on the Gulf for Emirates Team New Zealand on the LEQ12.

With breeze averaging in the low twenties and gusts into the high twenties, the team were really pushing the limits of these two new similar design foils.

The team docked out at 10:00 for a brief, but almost non stop, two hour session, hoisting the M2-3 main and J3-2 jib. While this is their heavier air configuration, it was still far too much sail area for today and it was only downwind that we saw the main sheeted properly. For the rest of the time, the team sailed with loads of ease, traveller down and appeared to be very overpowered at times.

Not a whole lot of manoeuvres were carried out today with only nine tacks and eight gybes.

Instead the focus seemed to be on loading these new foils up and testing the limits. It was interesting to also note the upwind heel angles were very different to what we have seen in the past. Whether this is to do with these new foil shapes or just the high-end nature of the wind today, we will have to keep observing more.

The team barely sailed with any windward heel especially on the upwinds. In fact at times, they were purposely loading on the foil with a good few degrees of leeward heel.

On the starboard foil there was little to no piercing of the wing tip. On port there was a little more piercing seen, noting that the port foil has a less aggressively curved wing tip. A lot of lower modes were also seen today but with very impressive upwind speeds being recorded of up to approximately 37 knots.

It was an impressive day to be out on the water with Emirates Team New Zealand, and even in these high-end conditions, for most of the time, the team seemed to be in good control of the boat.

Even the high speed exits out of gybes and manoeuvres seemed fast and stable today with no real wipeouts, just a couple of small crash downs which appeared to be due to cavitations from misreading ride heights or piercing through waves.

When arriving back at the dock, all the team seemed happy with the day and data collected.

We were lucky enough today to catch up with port Flight Controller Blair Tuke after the session to ask him a few questions regarding the success of the day.

Crew: Peter Burling, Nathan Outteridge, Andy Maloney, Blair Tuke

Session Statistics: Emirates Team New Zealand - LEQ12 - Day 58 - January 24, 2023 - Auckland

  • Weather: Overcast/Sunny 18-20 degrees C
  • Wind Strength: 17-23kts gusting 27kts at Rangitoto light
  • Wind Direction: 220 degrees - 230 degrees
  • Sea State: 0.2mtr
  • Crane In: 0915hrs Dock Out: 1000hrs
  • Dock In: 1200hrs Crane out: 1230hrs
  • Total Tacks: 9 - Fully foiling: 9; Touch & Go: 0; Touch Down: 0
  • Total Gybes: 8 - Fully foiling: 8; 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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