With time of the essence, the behind-the-scenes race of the America's Cup is heating up - and one team looks to have a solid head start, writes Richard Gladwell of Sail-World.com/nz
The first significant event of the Prada Cup is the Challengers' race to get their second AC75s sailing in Auckland.
Time is now more vital than ever, and for all their hundred million dollar budgets, none of the teams can buy additional time.
American Magic, the team of the New York Yacht Club, look to have a head start with the arrival of their race boat, Patriot, currently being commissioned in Auckland.
The Italian and British teams are expected to fly their second AC75s and race boats into Auckland during September.
Predicting launch dates is a vexed exercise. The first generation boats took about four weeks from delivery to the team base to launch and first sail - that would give an early October launch date for American Magic's Patriot. Luna Rossa had talked about October 20, but maybe a little later, now.
The launch dates for all three Challengers' race boats are dependent on the state of completion as the exited from their respective building facilities. American Magic's boats have been constructed by a dedicated in-house team like Emirates Team New Zealand.
Persico constructed Luna Rossa's AC75 in Bergamo, northern Italy. Both INEOS Team UK's AC75s have been built by Carrington Boats in Hythe, Hampshire.
Unlike the first launched, none of the three new race boats has been test-sailed in their home waters.
All new AC75s will be fitted with supplied one design parts for the foil arms and also the electro-hydraulic system used to raise and lower the foils and wings weighing 1385kg apiece. The foil arms come from Persico, and will likely be flown in with both AC75s. The foil cant system is supplied from New Zealand.
Assuming the boats are all arriving in a similar state of preparation, American Magic would appear to have stolen a march on the other two Challengers.
The New York Yacht Club Challenger marked time for five months - mostly at its summer training camp in Pensacola, Florida watching the impact of Covid-19 unfold in the USA, Europe and New Zealand. They had their backs to the wall and were left with little choice but to make an early departure for Auckland. It was a bold gamble that now must look better and better each day the team sail in Auckland.
The team puts in the long training sessions on the water - up to eight hours some days, but mostly five or six.
Last Monday was a good insight into the performance of the AC75 and the two teams - training in conditions which were well above the start-time limit of 23.5kts.
Winds gusted to 33kts in rain squalls and were often recorded in the 27-30kts range, which both teams seemed to handle better than observers would have expected.
Team New Zealand's Peter Burling and crew looked extremely well controlled, and fast - and were the standout feature of the session.
Not that the Kiwis haven't had their moments - enjoying a capsize, high-speed nosedive and spectacular roll out to windward, sailing in a fresh sea breeze well out in the Hauraki Gulf last summer.
By comparison, American Magic looked to have more control issues on Monday, with a spectacular leap clear of the water and followed by a full-on nose dive an hour or so later. Defiant's rudder wing came completely clear of the water.
Both teams AC75 control issues appear to be triggered by an unintended design feature, which will be rectified in the second launched AC75s of both teams.
In Bermuda, the strongest wind was on the second day of the Challenger semifinal - memorable for Team NZ's nosedive, sailing at 32.8kts in a shower of carbon at the start of Race 4.
In the other two races, American Magic's helmsman Dean Barker, then at the helm of Softbank Team Japan, gave a heavy-air masterclass - driving hard and fast and always looking to be in control. The Japanese won both races over eventual Challenger finalist Artemis Racing.
While the control seems to be an occasional issue for all teams, in the AC75 foiling monohull, if you don't push, you don't learn.
Every out of control moment on the water is a valuable data-gathering exercise for the performance and design teams ashore. Pushing the boats hard also provides valuable structural strain data for the design teams to ensure designed safety limits for the foiling monohull are realistic.
On Monday, the AC75s were in race mode in winds that were recorded at the top of the course as averaging 20kts, gusting 25kts and with one rain squall gusting 33kts. When Team New Zealand nosedived in Bermuda, the wind was officially recorded at the start at 21.5kts.
Team New Zealand knew that big 33kt rain squall was coming. The home team packed away and towed home foil borne through the short-lived rain squall.
Defiant hitched alongside her chase boat for 20 minutes, with the mainsail fully hoisted and impressively rode out the squall.
The day underlined the resilience and forgiving nature of the AC75.
After both Defiant's incidents, the AC75 popped back upright and waited for the crew to gather their wits. In every capsize, the AC75 came upright in a few minutes and continued race training.
After an earlier high-speed nose dive at 50kts, the AC75 involved continued race training. An AC50 or AC72 wingsailed catamaran used in the previous two Cups would have been demolished, with likely crew injuries as well.
The appointment of four-time America's Cup winner, Brad Butterworth to a liaison role with the COR36 challenger administration will bring more colour to the America's Cup scene.
Never short of a quick quip, Butterworth and Luna Rossa's helmsman Jimmy Spithill are masters at having a bit of fun with the Kiwi media, as happened in Bermuda and San Francisco. Expect the first salvos to come from within quarantine in Auckland over the next few weeks.
Once again, the America's Cup mind games are about to begin.