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RS Sailing 2021 - LEADERBOARD

Letter from the Antipodes: AC40 arrives..F50 sets speed record..Swiss capsize..Olympic shakeup

by Richard Gladwell/ 15 Sep 02:15 PDT 15 September 2022
Logan Dunning Beck & Oscar Gunn - 49er - (NZL) - World Sailing Championships - Nova Scotia - September 2022 © Sailing Energy

The sailing action is picking up, with a full-on summer of sailing to come Down Under - and thankfully, henceforth, without any Covid restrictions - which came off last week.

AC40 first look

On Tuesday, Emirates Team New Zealand announced the arrival of the first AC40 in New Zealand from the McConaghy Boats facility in China. From the photos and video, the new AC40 looks like a nice boat with sweet lines and a very aero/hydrodynamic-friendly hull shape. It has undergone stress testing, and one assumes that there were no issues.

While the hulls are made in China, where Australian builder McConaghy Boats has a long-established boat building facility optimised for producing high-quality race boats to a price and tight schedule. Most components, our guess is 50-60%, of the AC40 is made in New Zealand, including the design work and software, rudders and bearings, foil arms, masts, sail hardware, hydraulic hoses and manifolds, and various other fixtures and fittings.

The target price for an AC40 (set in the Protocol - now up to Version 4) is USD$1.85million ex sails and running rigging. That's around NZD$3million, of which the NZ content would be at least 50% or a $NZD15million total spend.

One of the images released by Emirates Team New Zealand includes a below-deck shot, the first we have seen of a boat of this type, which gives an inkling of the complexity of the foiling monohulls under the bonnet.

Most teams are getting two of the AC40s, requiring a eight sailing crew in total - the same number needed to sail the AC75. The Brits are building one for themselves. There are said to be ten on order. It is not known if that includes two for the newly announced SailTeam BCN. That team out of the Real Club Nautico de Barcelona (RCNB) say they have been approved as the Spanish team Youth and Womens teams that will contest both their respective America's Cup Regattas, part of the Preliminary Events.

ETNZ has released a video and images of the AC40 being stress tested - which is an interesting and tense process, as the two videos in the story attest. In the build up to the 2021 Cup AC fans maybe can recall the issues over foil arms failing their destruction test at less than the designed load - which is why these parts are tested to the point of catastrophic destruction. However breaking on the test bench is a far better outcome than during training in an extreme load situation.

Emirates Team New Zealand are on the move - over the opposite side of Wynyard Point marina - vacating the Viaduct Events Centre and its $4.5million a year rental demand - and going into the purpose-built base constructed by INEOS Team UK, which should last the team for the current campaign and the next.

The new base has been blessed by local iwi Ngati Whatua Orakei, with whom the team has had a long association, and the AC40 is being commissioned in the new facility.

Hopefully, within a couple of weeks, we can see the Wynyard Point area back in action again - and have some actual sailing to see, shoot and write about.

When the AC40 emerges from the team base, that occasion will also be the first outing for the new recon teams, who will input photos, video and daily reports into the Reconnaissance File System (RFS). All teams access the RFS, and no longer will there be a fleet of spy boats bristling with cameras, pursuing a rival team.

We have a detailed piece on the AC40, which should become a cornerstone in rebuilding the America's Cup event. The Cup has never recovered from the years spent in the New York Supreme Court arguing over the validity of the Challenge accepted in error from Club Nautico Espanol de Vela, in July 2007.

The piece is a bit of overkill for all but the technically inclined, but this is the most open look we have seen on foiling monohulls genre, in the normally very secretive world of the America's Cup.

Spithill gets a monkey off his back

It seems that some of the Red Bull Racing magic rubbed off on SailGP USA skipper Jimmy Spithill with the visit of current F1 World Champion Max Verstappen and Sergio "Checo" Pérez to the US Team base in Saint-Tropez.

The three have a mutual connection through Red Bull Racing - where Verstappen and Pérez are part of the Oracle Red Bull Racing F1 Grand Prix team. Spithill is a long-time Red Bull athlete, covering sailing and water sports. Both the F1 and SailGP teams rely on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure for data analysis. Oracle is, of course, the brainchild of SailGP co-founder and soon-to-be America's Cup Hall of Fame inductee Larry Ellison.

Spithill helmed the US team to their first SailGP event at Saint-Tropez, while just over 300km away at Monza, near Milan, Verstappen was cruising to his fifth successive F1 win of the 2022 season - but behind the safety car.

Off Saint-Tropez, Spithill was also travelling at reduced speed, helming USA SailGP to their first regatta win of Season 3. On Sunday, the fleet sailed at displacement speed, in contrast to the 30kt breeze of Saturday, when an all-comers foiling speed record of 54kts was set.

That mark was set by the French team helmed by Quentin Delapierre on the final leg of Race 3 in front of a jubilant home crowd. According to what we have found, the top speed in San Francisco set by ETNZ in an AC72 was 48.12kts. Artemis Racing did 47.16kts in Bermuda in an AC50, and American Magic did 53.1 in Auckland in an AC75. The French AC50 is now the fastest foiler in a race, lifting the mark by almost 1kt.

The level of competition in SailGP is improving with every regatta, and how Season 3 pans out will be fascinating to follow.

We have seen a better performance from the Swiss team, helmed by Nathan Outteridge, but he is still not at the level he was with the former Japan SailGP.

For America's Cup teams wanting to stay sharp ahead of the 2024 events, it is hard to go past SailGP, and it remains to be seen how long the other three teams will stay out of this racing opportunity - which certainly found out the America's Cup champions in the first two regattas of Season 3.

Swiss capsize

One of the major points of interest of the past fortnight, missed by the mainstream NZ media, has been the sea trials and first sail of Alinghi Red Bull Racing at Barcelona.

Like many AC75 first sails, the Swiss came close to seriously damaging their boat after being caught in a hail squall accompanied by winds of 35kts, gusting 43kts.

The hail-squall certainly was an awesome display of the power of Nature and seeing an AC75 laid on its beam ends is a compelling image.

Fans who have only seen the AC75 on TV don't realise how close to the edge these boats sail, and capsizing is not that difficult.

When the design concept was first launched, the AC75's were touted as self-righting. In practice, they clearly aren't. The response to this perceived shortcoming is that with a bit of forethought, the AC75s are simple enough to right quickly with the assistance of chase boats. The last AC75 capsize we saw involved Emirates Team NZ's Te Rehutai. The incident occurred during a Cup practice session, and the righting only took a few minutes.

Unlike their first capsize, the Kiwis did not continue sailing - it was near the end of the practice session, and they decided to tow Te Rehutai back to the base and do a full check. The Cup champions have capsized at least three times, of which we are aware. Their recovery is now very fast, taking about the time of a centreboarder.

The bottom line seems to be that the changes required to make the boats self-righting would significantly impact performance, and the pain is not worth the gain. In many ways, the boat is better to lay on its side and be pulled upright in a controlled way rather than this being a random uncontrolled action, triggered by a quirk of physics.

Seeing the Swiss AC75 knocked one way and then the other, in the video, is a little disarming. Emirates Team NZ's meteorologist Roger 'Clouds' Badham commented on the Swiss incident:

"The thunderstorm on Thursday 31st August was large and developed over the Pyrenees during the afternoon. The storm then moved steadily south, taking some three hours to reach and cross the city of Barcelona at around 6.45 pm. The day was hot and very humid, with cold air aloft, and the storm became severe as it neared Barcelona generating a nasty squall with peak windspeed of 43 knots. The storm crossed the city and then moved out over the Mediterranean Sea. It lasted just 15 minutes and during that time produced strong to gale force winds. The NNW wind averaged 30-35 kts with peaks gusts of 40-43 kts.

Spanish team announced

Now the America's Cup focus turns to the first sailing of the AC40s, expected to be late September/early October.

The latest news from Spain is that the Real Club Nautico de Barcelona (RCNB) has formed a Youth and Women's America's Cup team.

SailTeam BCN will be led by top Spanish sailor Guillermo Altadill (the son, not the father of the same same), along with Stewart Hosford, CEO of Origin Sports - who worked with Emirates Team NZ on the 2024 America's Cup venue selection process. The new team has set several objectives, one of which is to develop into a full-blown AC75 team, for a future Cup.

Olympic shake-down

The World Championships for the 49er, 49erFX, and Nacra 17 classes concluded earlier this week in Nova Scotia.

While New Zealand missed out on the Medals, so did the countries generally counted as the powerhouses of Olympic Sailing.

New Zealand's best performance was in the (Men's) 49er with a fourth and seventh overall. The Women 49erFX had crews in eighth and 11th overall, while the Nacra 17 crew finished ninth overall.

Australia got a fifth overall (Nacra 17), and the other two classes had crews placed worse than 20th overall. The British finished fourth overall (Nacra 17), 17th overall in the 49er (with their Tokyo2020 Gold Medalists having retired), and ninth overall in the 49erFX. The Double Gold medalists in the 49erFX, Martine Grael and Kahena Kunz (BRA), finished eighth overall.

The Dutch were the top performing nation, with wins in both the 49er and 49erFX classes and eighth overall in the Nacra 17.

The simple message is that there is a real shake-up going on in the Olympic ranks, which means there's an opportunity for new sailors wanting to make their mark - and extending beyond Paris2024.

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