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America's Cup: Emirates Team New Zealand puts down a marker on wind limits

by Richard Gladwell/Sail-World.com 22 Nov 23:32 NZDT 22 November 2019
Te Aihe reaching in the 20-25kt SW breeze, passing Motuihe Island - Emirates Team New Zealand - Waitemata Harbour - November 22, 2019 © Richard Gladwell / Sail-World.com

The unanswered questions on an upper end wind limit for the 36th America's Cup got a partial response from the Defender, Emirates Team New Zealand in a training session east of Browns Island, today.

Sailing in SW winds blowing 20-25kts, Sail-World caught the AC75 Te Aihe as she had finished the session and made her way back to her Auckland base, 12nm away.

Her training area, usually well away from prying eyes is known as "The Paddock" and was used extensively in the buildup to the 2017 America's Cup in Bermuda, as offered moderately sheltered flat water, reminiscent of Bermuda. The area is designated as one of two heavy air course areas for the 36th America's Cup. The amount of white water in the course was significant - a sea condition known locally as there being "plenty of [white] sheep in the paddock". (A paddock is a NZ farming euphemism for a field.)

The Paddock is quite tide affected in places, and a wind against tide condition can create a lot more white water than just "wind waves".

Initially Te Aihe sailed in non-foiling mode - heeling as would be expected of a rather tender boat, with her windward wing well above the crew. Surprisingly, given that the AC75 doesn't have a daggerboard, the AC75 seemed to sail better than expected, with sails sheeted wider in the fresh breeze. There was no sign of her staggering in the breeze or likely to capsize as some trolls and pundits had predicted would happen with the AC75.

After she got on her course for Auckland, Te Aihe set up in foiling mode and took off at reasonable speed. A few minutes later she did one splashdown, losing minimal momentum before getting back onto her foils.

A team spokesman said afterwards that the session was an "extremely successful day with wind rising to top end - no issues and some good laps".

One could take from that comment that the Defender would be looking to race in that windstrength on that course - however from other observation points around the five America's Cup course areas, there did not appear to be much difference in windstrength, and several courses would have been suitable without the need to resort to one of the two string wind courses.

Previously the team response was that the upper wind limit would only be addressed after the AC75 had been sailed in a variety of conditions.

(Apologies for the quality of some of the images with this story - shot from a distance of 2.5nm - 5nm - and testing various camera modes.)

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