America’s Cup: Orient Express takes Maiden flight

America’s Cup: Orient Express takes Maiden flight

America’s Cup: Orient Express takes Maiden flight


07/06/2024 - 19:15

Persistence and tenacity were the order of the day for Orient Express Racing Team on Thursday who were eventually rewarded by an early evening flight that radically step-changed their whole challenge for the Louis Vuitton 37th America’s Cup. It was a long day, dogged by technical issues that every boat has on a maiden voyage, but they stuck to the task and got the job done, eventually docking-in as the sun disappeared over the Montjuic mountains with smiles broader than the Champs Elysee.

It was a super-early start for the whole team with the boat being brought out of the shed at 6.45am and a scheduled 10.45am dock-out. Technical issues though plagued the morning as the complex systems were run through by the technicians and it wasn’t until 4pm that the sailors managed to get the all-clear to leave the base and head out for the maiden sail.

Once on the water, more gremlins crept in and they delayed the hoist, drifting slowly down towards Port Olímpic under tow but with the mainsail set, everything came together and with the J3-1 jib set, Quentin Delapierre gave the all-clear for Mathieu Vandame and Jason Saunders to trim on and up she went beautifully on the foils. A tack over gave Kevin Peponnet a steering chance and the boat looked balanced and lively with a beautiful set of sails that could be trimmed flat as the speeds rose. Epic first sail for the French and plenty of happy faces on the support boats.

If the team had navigation lights, there is every chance that they would have stayed out all night but a small hydraulic leak around the cunningham area at the base of the mast saw the team stop, clear the excess oil off the deck with cloths and then resolve the issue. With the light fading, the call was made to fast-track foil back to the harbour and crane the boat out.

Speaking in the evening darkness, Quentin Delapierre summed up the day saying: “A good first step for the AC75, we achieved a long day setting the sails and after that going through the first foiling tack, the first foiling straight-line also, so yeah there’s a really good feeling in the team and I think we pushed quite hard because the level of fatigue is quite high actually, but yeah it's a good day for the team.”

Talking about the issues that the team faced all day long, he added: “It was the first day of the aero package, we had many issues when we launched on the water, so all the technicians managed to fix it and after that we had also a smaller issue outside of the harbour, so we delayed a little bit the sail hoisting but after the mainsail hoisting everything went pretty well so we just go through the whole checklist there until 9:00 tonight.”

The hydraulic issue was also explained: “We had a hydraulic leak so we managed to fix it and re-fill a little bit the tank, and after that we just can back on a foiling straight-line and going back through the harbour directly because it was quite late.”

Despite the issues, Quentin couldn’t hide his delight at finally being able to sail on the AC75, and when asked how different it felt, he responded: “It's a completely different boat, the AC75 is way more complex, you've got way more logic onboard and you have also cyclists with the sailors - we have to manage the energy that the cyclors can give to us, and it's a completely different way of sailing and also I mean the AC75 is way faster, and we just love it.”

A quick word for the team, saw Quentin super-proud of what’s being achieved: “The mood of the team - I think the team is going forward and that's the most important thing, I'm really impressed about the what the guys achieved to be honest, we are a small team, quite new team, but yeah they were able to launch the AC75, a bit of a rush every time because you just build a boat quite late and you also managed to build the team with new experience inside so yeah really impressed with what the guys achieved today and yeah looking forward for more sailing time.”

Long day, great day. Orient Express Racing Team now have a hectic schedule through the rest of June as they continue commissioning the AC75 and start to push it harder to race pace. The dark horse of the Louis Vuitton 37th America’s Cup is off and running. (Magnus Wheatley)

On-Water Recon Report – Orient Express Racing Team: The French Challenger rolled out the boat at 6:15 this morning and after stepping the mast, crane in was done at 8:35.

Dock-out was expected to be at 10:45 but some unforeseen issues were found on the aero systems that delayed the dock out until 16:00.

As explained by Quentin Delapierre, interviewee after the sailing session: “It was the first day with of the aero package and we had many issues when we launched on water but technicians managed to fix them all.” We could see the technicians working on the hydraulics located around the mast.

While Orient Express Racing Team team were testing the aero systems to solve problems we could see a clear coordinated and linear movement from the mast rotation and the main sheet system, what made us conclude that they have a function link in between those two systems.

Around 14:00 a short panic situation happened when somebody opened a hatch and found smoke coming out, so a quick call for assistance with fire extinguishers was made. Fortunately, was a perception mistake and the fog seen was just water vapour from people sweating working inside the boat, as today was warm and they had been working for several hours to fix problems.

Finally, at 16:00 they managed to dock-out and then the French AC75 was towed out from the harbour by one of the chase boats. A wind of about 11-14 knots TWD 200° greeted them and once out the harbour they encountered another issue and held the sail hoist under tow until near the Port Olímpic.

With the sails up and after sailing a bit in displacement mode to check that systems, the sailing session was successful and can be summarized as per what Quentin explained: “we could go through the first foiling tack and the first foiling straight lines.” To add that they could shortly test the boat in the different sailing courses: upwind, reaching and downwind.

At some point in the middle of the sailing session they had to stop as they had a leak in one of the hydraulic pipes. that seemed to be from one of the hoses from the cunningham and spread oil on the deck. They continued sailing after fixing the problem.

At the end of the session the mood of the team was really enthusiastic and very happy after being able to achieve their first successful sailing session despite all the unforeseen problems found.

No swap of batteries and/or cyclers were done today. The French started dropping sails at 20:00 and dock-in time was at 21:00 for their new AC75. Jose Luis Piñana – OERT AC Recon


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