Vittorio Bissaro, Flight Controller on Luna Rossa about the auto-pilot © Ivo Rovira / America's Cup
Vittorio Bissaro, Flight Controller on Luna Rossa about the auto-pilot
When Vittorio Bissaro, the Flight Controller onboard the Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli LEQ12 spoke about the auto-pilot being: “a lot better than humans,” he wasn’t joking albeit said with an Italian smile. Today out in Cagliari, it very much looked like the auto-pilot was being determinedly switched off and given the day off in preference for human intervention and it was tough at times.
The LEQ12 being some 40 feet in length, bronco’d and twitched like a stubborn stallion in the early morning session as the Flight Controllers wrestled to find stability in flight, a co-ordination that complemented the helms and a ride height that felt comfortable. Whether they had something new to test in the system was unclear but very noticeable today was the aggressive helming style by both helms and the sheer depth that was induced into the lower part of the mainsail pre-flight before dramatic flattening as take-off speed was achieved and the boat was up on its foils. Valuable data being gathered here for the technicians to pore over and captured at every angle by the shrouded cameras dotted all over the boat, rig and foils.
The transition from displacement to flight is going to be the key to winning races at the 37th America’s Cup and it's very interesting to watch the new levels that the teams are going to, to force flight and coax the hull out of the water. The recon teams estimated take-off speed at 17 knots for the LRPP LEQ12 today at a True Wind Angle of 80 degrees but the dive off pre-take-off was an even greater angle. What’s clear from today’s session was that Ruggera Tita and Jimmy Spithill have turned up the heat at the wheels and the rest of the crew are being pushed harder to eke performance. It was a full-on morning.
It was also a very early start for the shore team who rolled out the Italian LEQ12 at 5.45am from the works facility and the sailors were onboard and docked out by 8.15am sharp to catch the morning breeze and flatter water. With the European weather pattern being heavily influenced by an enormous low pressure system bringing winds down from the north and in from the west, it was a shifty 9-12 knots that the team faced out in the Bay of Angels, once the dense fog that clouds the early mornings at this time of year, had lifted.
The south-easterly swell, the remnants of the weekend’s mistral was abating and by the time the team were sailing it was 0.5 metres at worst. After almost two hours of sailing with the big J1 up, the team called the transition as the wind gusted to around 12 knots and launched the J2 for the final 45 minutes of sailing, bringing in a period of stable flight and no doubt very useful, steady data gathering for the onshore design team and technicians.
Speaking afterwards, one of the quiet and coming stars of the America’s Cup, Ruggero Tita, Olympic Gold medallist in the Nacra 17 class at the recent Tokyo Olympics confirmed that the boat had come out of the shed today “almost unchanged” from the set-up at the weekend and gave his assessment on the day saying: “Today we had some tests on the autopilot and we also had some manoeuvres to do and that’s what we did. It was a very good day.” And of those manoeuvres, gybes seemed to be the most productive with 12 attempted and 9 successfully foil-to-foil – a 75% success rate, whilst total tacks today were 10 with 6 successfully foil-to-foil – a 60% success rate.
It was Max Sirena’s birthday on Sunday and as presents go, the LEQ12 programme well on track and delivering, with a crew pushing harder and harder with every session, was as good as he could hope for. ‘Tanti Auguri’ Max.