Headsails - who needs them?

Emirates Team New Zealand's maintains her unbeaten record in the Louis Vuitton Cup

Sunday July 21st 2013, Author: James Boyd, Location: United States

Emirates Team New Zealand maintained its perfect scoreline in this Louis Vuitton Cup, despite her round robin 3 match against Luna Rossa today being marred by equipment failure.

Racing was held in 13.8 knots of southwesterly breeze, with top gust of 20.5 knots and a flat sea, the flood tide running at 2 knots. 

On board the Kiwi AC72 today were Dean Barker (helm), Ray Davies (Tactician), Glenn Ashby (Trimmer), Chris Ward (Grinder), Rob Waddell (Grinder), Derek Saward (Floater grinder), James Dagg (Trimmer), Grant Dalton (Grinder), Chris McAsey (Grinder), Jeremy Lomas (Pit) and Adam Beashel (Bow). They were up against the Italian crew comprising Max Sirena (skipper and pitman), Francesco Bruni (tactician), David Carr (pitman/grinder), Pierluigi de Felice (trimmer), Simone de Mari (primary grinder), Chris Draper (helmsman), Xabi Fernandez (wing trimmer), Nick Hutton (bowman), Lele Marino (wing grinder), Marco Montis (freestyler) and Giles Scott (hydraulic grinder).

Unlike their last race against the Kiwis, Luna Rossa today entered from the starboard end with the theoretical advantage. They gybed heading deep into the box ready to ensnare the Kiwis by remaining to weather - how the Kiwi had nailed them in their previous race. On this occasion Luna Rossa didn't manage to pin the Kiwis out, however both boats were early on their return to the line and despite the Kiwis having to duck the Italian transom and taking up position to leeward before turning up to start, the two boats crossed the line neck and neck. However the Kiwis were able to stamp on the gas faster getting them the inside berth and the lead at the first reaching mark.

On the first run Emirates Team New Zealand edged away, sailing around 2 knots faster compared to the the Italian AC72, to lead by 25 seconds at the leeward gate. Luna Rossa was showing better upwind pace today and procedings appeared to be playing into her hands half way up the beat when there was an issue with the jib halyard on the Emirates Team New Zealand boat. Unable to fix this and rehoist the jib, Adam Beashel worked to clear the sail from the stay, but once the sail was free it caught inside the starboard shroud with its head in the water making it difficult to clear. Finally after three minutes from the start of the incident the Kiwis finally succeeded in performing a 'chase boat drop', dumping the sail in the water.

In theory this might have been an opportunity for Luna Rossa, however the Kiwi AC72, now in her una-rigged C-Class style configuration, showed no difference in speed in a straight line upwind without their jib, and while she may have been a little more tentative through tacks, her delta at the top mark had still increased to 42 seconds.

Would the lack of headsail make any difference downwind? Absolutely not, further proving the vestigal nature of these tiny sails. In fact if anything Luna Rossa looked slow on the run and rounded the leeward gate for a second time her deficit now up to 1:17 on the Kiwis. They continued to lose on the next beat, the Italians not helped by another boundary line infringement with the delta up to 1:56 for the last top mark rounding. On to the finish Luna Rossa came home 2:19 behind Emirates Team New Zealand. 

If accurate, the stats produced post-race were interesting. While the course was 15.43 nautical miles long it appeared that Emirates Team New Zealand sailed 0.5 mile less than their Italian rivals - 19.4 miles compared to the Italians 19.99. Today,the Kiwi's speed was 24.19 knots average and 38.72 knots peak, compared to Luna Rossa's 23.77 knot average and 37.33 peak. 

It later transpired it was the clip attaching the halyard to the head of the jib that had failed on the New Zealand team's Aotearoa. “It’s one of those frustrating, annoying things,” said Kiwi skipper Dean Barker. “We’ve never ever had an issue with the attachment of the jib before, but as is normal, when you start racing things like this happen. The encouraging thing is the guys did a very good job to address the situation and deal with it. The way the guys responded and settled into it was good.”
Barker added that they need the headsail to balance the 72-foot long catamaran. “It’s very hard to get the boat hooked up in gybes - we didn’t jibe as well without the jib. If you were going to sail with the jib only you’d have different board and rudder positions to balance out the boat better.”

Emirates Team New Zealand CEO Grant Dalton was once again sailing on board today commented: “I was impressed with the composure on board. We have sailed together for a long time – through the Louis Vuitton Cup and the America’s Cup match in 2007 and since then. We have sailed a bit without a jib, so we knew it could be done. Ray Davies did a beautiful job of picking shifts on the second beat so we managed pretty well.” 

The Italian crew reduced their finish delta compared to their first race against the Kiwis, but were unable to capitalize on the New Zealanders’ breakdown. “We made a few changes on the boat, increased the aero package and a few changes in the systems to the boards,” said Luna Rossa skipper Max Sirena. “Today the Kiwis showed really good speed around the course. We sailed well around the course, which was the main goal, but we need to try and improve as a crew and our boatspeed in the next few weeks.

“The fact that Emirates Team New Zealand sailed pretty fast with no jib was not surprising for us. We already knew that it is the wing that generates the speed on AC72s. In certain conditions when sailing upwind the jib only helps in the tacks and gives some little additional lift, but it is also a drag. Obviously we have lots of ground to make up on the Kiwis, but this week we reduced the gap introducing some new technical developments and focusing on both handling and crew work. Each time we sail we feel more confident and hopefully we’ll have bridged the gap by the Louis Vuitton semi-final. We are taking advantage of the Round Robins to improve our performances; that’s how we planned our America’s Cup campaign, which started more then one year after the other teams.”

The Italians claim they were forced to tack and to sail into a lighter wind patch when the Kiwis chase boat came in their way to pick up the head sail they'd dumped in the water. 

Luna Rossa Challenge and Emirates Team New Zealand will be racing each other again on Tuesday in the first match of round robin four. 




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