When Barcelona was announced as the venue for the next America’s Cup, the discourse in regard to the racing quickly became about the unusual conditions the teams would be faced with.
Unlike the racing in Auckland during the last edition of the Cup, the sea in Barcelona promised a more challenging environment for some of the world’s top sailors to navigate.
It saw most of the syndicates head out in search of bumpy seas to test themselves in and learn just how different it would be sailing a foiling monohull in waves opposed to flat water.
But simulating the real thing can only get you so far.
For the past few weeks, the teams have had their first opportunity to take to the waters off Barcelona to get a first-hand idea of what they will have to sail in late next year.
Team New Zealand chief operating officer Kevin Shoebridge told the Herald it had been a good stretch for the team with the boat building group now hard at work on the construction of their new AC75, and the indications were that the fleet was never going to be limited by the conditions.
“I’ll put it this way; I’m really glad we did all that big wave sailing in Auckland in the nor’easter. We’ve had a real mix of conditions here from very flat water to pretty challenging, rough conditions as well. We came up here to prepare, which was a good thing. You get a very unusual swell and wave set here, and quite often it’s off-axis to where the wind is.
“Because of the local wind effects, you might be getting a swell and waves that don’t match the wind direction, which is another challenge in itself. But, for sure, we’re super happy that we’re up there sailing in the conditions and also to be able to get our AC75 out there, which makes it real pretty quickly.
“The good news is I think it’s going to be great. I don’t think we’re ever going to be limited by sea conditions. It’s going to be a little bit more challenging and different than Auckland, but it’s a great course area.”
Since setting up camp in Barcelona last month, Team New Zealand have mixed time on the water between their AC40 – in preparation for next month’s preliminary regatta in Vilanova i la Geltrú – and their testing AC75 Te Rehutai – the vessel with which they defended the Auld Mug in Auckland in 2021.
With teams only allowed to build one new AC75 for this edition, time on the water in the existing model is a vital part of the development process and Shoebridge said that didn’t change even with the new boat already under construction.
“We’ve got all the analysis people up here and a few others, but the main design group is still based in Auckland even though they’re doing trips backward and forwards,” Shoebridge said.
“The design phase doesn’t stop until we’ve stopped building, so there’s a lot going on back there. We’ve got 45 to 50 boat builders working in our yard in the construction phase and it’s all going well.”
Team New Zealand have had the added responsibility of running test with the race management systems that will be in used for next month’s preliminary regatta but, as the defender, it was simply something that came with the territory.
They were out on the water alongside Challenger of Record Ineos Britannia last week test camera, boundary, start and other race management systems, all of which will be in use with the six crews hit the water in the AC40s for the opening fleet race in Vilanova I la Geltru.
“It’s not an advantage to us, but it’s not dead time either because we’re still out there sailing, we’re working on stuff that we’ll all end up using,” Shoebridge said of having to factor in time to test systems outside of their own operation.
“So, we’ve got a lot of interest in it, and we’ll probably do a little bit more racing as a group of all the AC40 teams with all the challengers in the next couple of weeks. Very unofficial, but just to make sure that for the first regatta in Vilanova that we’ve had some good practice with sailing with six of those boats on the course at the same time.”
Christopher Reive joined the Herald sports team in 2017, bringing the same versatility to his coverage as he does to his sports viewing habits.