Alex Carabi / America's Cup
Alinghi Red Bull, banking Barcelona knowledge
Today, the Swiss encountered very different conditions to those of the rest of the week, with light southeast winds blowing in from the Sahara Desert and a residual half metre ground swell, but the intel gathered would have been gold-dust for the analysts and data gurus both onshore and back at base.
This was a long session with a lot to dissect. The early part of the afternoon was spent almost in free-sailing mode as the team got their eye-in and a feel for the conditions. Downwind the flight was high and on the edge with some interesting trim of the mainsail to maintain and promote flight – the cunningham looked to be used aggressively in the gusts whilst the constant mainsail trimming simply had to be on point all day with the traveller getting a monster workout. Upwind things were certainly calmer once in flight with relatively low ride height as the flight controllers played with cant angle to keep the boat level rather than rocked aggressively to windward as we’ve seen elsewhere with other teams in the AC40 – local knowledge might be key on this simple metric.
As any racing sailor knows, crew communication is vital to build innate co-ordination into the boat-handling and little by little we’re seeing Alinghi Red Bull Racing climbing a virtual Matterhorn of learning, making increased strides forward. This was evident once the Chase Boat team had laid down a few marker buoys, with the second part of the afternoon simply electric to watch and it’s here where the hours on the water are paying dividends. Laylines were sharp, bear-aways were flat and powerful, the JK’s at the leeward marks were crisp, upwind was calm and collected. It was top-class foiling at virtual race pace on display.
We also saw the now customary crossing over to the windward side of the ‘ballast crew’ in marginal conditions to aid acceleration with a crewmember hanging off the windward shroud for all he was worth. Maxime Bachelin, one of the calmest and most logical sailors in the Cup world summed it up beautifully, as always, saying: “It was quite tough, I would say it was a lot to do for the trimmers because we need to power (up) the sail quite big when it was in a lull but we are still learning the boat…I think we're doing a very good job.”
And that’s a sentiment echoed around the world at the moment. The Swiss really are doing ‘a very good job’ but with a humility that’s endearing and are keen to learn – the narrative remains resolutely that are still the ‘new team’ and firmly on the learning curve, but what we’re seeing when a racecourse is laid, is next level stuff. Maxime played it cool however, saying: “It’s good with a racecourse…we can practise the bear-away, the round ups and yeah the communication was improving a lot about the layline and all the stuff like this so I think we will keep improving on the laps and do this more often.”
On a day where feel and dinghy skills were highly prized, the Swiss put in a massive 75 tacks and gybes combined with a solid 84% on the tacks and 94% on the gybes being either foil-to-foil or touch & go. They also covered some 75 nautical miles – the most to date for the Swiss. As Maxime commented: “It's good that this boat is a bit smaller as you feel a bit more the small movements and the yeah, it's really more like a dinghy… It was a pretty good day for us. It was a long day on the water, but very nice sea state and wind and we managed to do a lot of laps, so it was a great day for the team.”
‘Another’ great day– it’s becoming a habit - and the sense all around Alinghi Red Bull Racing is super-positive. The team look incredibly fit, highly engaged in the process, clear in their roles and, perhaps most importantly, emanating an air of thoroughly enjoying their time in Barcelona as a team.
Onwards and upwards for the team of the moment.