The only team that elected to sail today, American Magic launched into once again near-perfect conditions of 12-15 knots on the dedicated racecourse area for the 37th America’s Cup and went through a fine series of two-boat pre-starts and short lap races with both boats notably nose-diving and ventilating on the downwind legs – in total between them the Recon Team counted 18 crashes. It was donkey-derby at times but hugely entertaining to watch and the sailors took a lot away from the session.
Andrew Campbell commented on the day as he saw it from onboard ‘America’ saying: “Today was awesome, you know this is shaping up to be a really great venue in terms of breeze, the last week or 10 days it’s been fantastic sea breezes, I think all the teams have kind of stretched the boats to the limit, probably stressed the shore crews to the limit as we’ve had a lot of days in a row and it’s been really, really, great so we have nice breeze in the teens and it’s always a little bumpier than we expect and the waves are coming from a different direction than maybe we always think but it’s a really challenging and fun place to sail.”
The team’s modified AC40s that each feature a test foil on the starboard arm and one design foils on port are getting attention and there’s plenty of recon photos looking specifically at the join area on the starboard foil arm between the back of the bulb and the foils theselves on ‘America’ – the first AC40 that the team modified. That join area could be explained in various ways with the most likely being that the team beefed up the bulb area and adjusted the position of the foils to counteract leeway – thoughts of any articulation are more than likely wide of the mark – but it’s an interesting point of difference and something that the recon photographers will be paying attention to going forward.
Out on the racetrack today, ‘Magic’ with Tom Slingsby and Harry Melges IV on the carbon wheels looked to have Paul Goodison and Lucas Calbrese’s number time and again on some of the best pre-start action we’ve seen in the AC40 fleet, but the outcome of the races seemed to be decided by who ventilated or avoided nose-dives the best. Tricky in the easterly swell and chop but both boats were dialled into autopilot today and it was interesting that even in the considerable sea state, they elected to ride super-low to the surface upwind, completely unafraid to punch through waves as we’ve seen with other teams. Occasionally either boat would get stalled in those waves, but what’s becoming abundantly clear in the AC40 is that you have to keep the pace on and flying to keep position.
With so many variables between aero and hydro in Barcelona, Andrew Campbell summed it up beautifully after sailing, saying: “The conditions are bumpy, you know the autopilot’s doing a hard job to keep up with all the different sea states and the chop and the swell underneath going in different directions. We were finding one tack to be much harder than the other today and yeah at the end of the day you know you’re racing against yourself a lot of the time. You’re trying to make sure that your boat is actually getting around the track in a decent way rather than trying to beat the other guy all the time because if you can’t execute your manoeuvres yeah, you’re going to be out the back.”
The AC40 has proven with all the teams to be a simple boat to sail but a fiendishly difficult conundrum to work out how to sail really fast but American Magic are slowly cracking the code and as Andrew says: “I’m learning everything new every day you know on these boats, trying to figure out a new pieces of new puzzles and you know we’ve got a lot of personnel that we’re moving around in different positions so I’m learning how to interact with different people and how those personalities work and learning how to do new jobs every day, so I’m really excited by how these boats are challenging us even though you know the autopilot and all the one design packages that we have here there’s a lot to learn in there still, so we’re trying to figure that out and trying to understand how to make it better, you know, how to use it better.”
NYYC American Magic had drones launched to monitor sail shape and wing wash with the superb chase team putting marker buoys into the deep crystal waters and the sailors didn’t disappoint with a marked bite to the training and close quarter action. Andrew summed up the change in pace when reviewing the day saying: “We were going through a number of drills trying to figure out how to line the boats up nicely, basically to get a good line up you know. We’re still kind of checking our foils partway through the racing conditions so we want to be doing some of the race patterns and some of them are pre-set where we’re going to be, but yeah it was a fun little racetrack today and we kind of are getting at taking the gloves off a little bit and having some fun.”
Andrew also made a super team-oriented comment when he was asked about what was potentially giving NYYC American Magic an edge in this America’s Cup cycle as he responded: “I think that the fact that we’re here, that we’re getting set up, you know, shows that we want to be ready for this venue and that’s a huge step forward. What do we have that’s different from the other teams? You know we’ve got a strong team that’s in the shed making sure that we can get on the water as many days as we want so I put our strength in our crowd that’s in that shed making sure these boats get on the water every day.”
And that’s the ‘belief’ right there. NYYC American Magic looked fantastic on the water today combining real generational foiling talent and a first-class development programme off the water. Many people’s pick to do very well in the Challenger Selection Series, the Americans look better and better every day.