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America's Cup Rialto: Oct 5 - Code Zero gets some solid work on Stadium Course

by Richard Gladwell Sail-World NZ 6 Oct 18:08 NZDT 6 October 2020
Te Aihe, Emirates Team New Zealand - October 05, 2020 - Waitemata Harbour - America's Cup 36 © Richard Gladwell /

Light winds were forecast for Monday, with Emirates Team New Zealand slipping away almost unnoticed around noon.

The day dawned with The New York Yacht Club's team, American Magic rolling their second AC75, Patriot, out of its hangar on Wynyard Point. For the whole day, rigging and commissioning tasks were undertaken - largely hidden behind some strategically placed containers and the decommissioned first AC75, Defiant.

Ironically the best view of the new boat came from Emirates Team NZ's base directly opposite the American Magic bases.

The secrecy is a little hard to understand - given the strict rules prohibiting hull shrouding, the ability of reconnaissance teams to venture as close as they dare to the other AC75's on the water - and with whatever camera gear they wish. In the time available, the opportunity for other teams to make significant changes to a hull shape is very limited.

Around noon, Te Aihe towed down the harbour and out to the chosen sailing area off the northern side of Rangitoto Island - close to the old America's Cup course area.

Even though the breeze was light, and recorded at well under the racing minimum of 6.5kts, Te Aihe had a Code Zero set and was able to get foiling. Although we were shooting long-range - there was the hint of a towrope involved. They were able to tack Te Aihe without the assistance of a tender or tow rope, before heading out further into the Hauraki Gulf in search of a stronger breeze.

Around 2.30pm the wind shifted 180 degrees from the north to the south and built into an acceptable sailing breeze of just under 15kts - which eased back to 12kts for the rest of the day.

Te Aihe relocated onto the Stadium Course for the America's Cup and sailed for another hour or so under her Code Zero including tacking.

She sailed upward in this configuration, tacking and gybing almost imperceptibly however a media review showed that despite having able to get through the tack while foiling in a breeze of around 8kts. As so often happens, the AC75 seem to have a bit of a soft spot at the time after a tack or gybe, in lighter winds, when the new windward wing is raised - losing its lift and some pressure from the apparent wind - which usually results in a touchdown.

How quickly an AC75 recovers from this situation, or avoids it completely, will be one of the determining factors in the Prada and America's Cups.

Being off its feet and with foils completely immersed is a very slow and draggy situation for an AC75. If your competitor has managed to get through this phase by doing a dry tack or gybe then they will steal what could be a race winning margin.

It was a little surprising to see how far up the wind range the Code Zero was being used.

On the Stadium Course it may be best to carry sail up its range, and being assured of having its grunt when required, rather than be caught wanting on an accidental touchdown. That strategy could be the solution to the question as to whether teams try and flip flop between using the #1 jib and setting the Code Zero as required, and carrying the drag of a furled Code Zero between times.

Maybe the Kiwis revealed their hand later in the session, when the Code Zero came off and the #1 jib was set as the SSW breeze increased slightly, and they repeated their windward leeward course sequences.

That little routine will have given them some good insights into strategies between the #1 and Code Zero. As well they will have gained some valuable insights into the nuances of the Stadium Course which has hazards aplenty including multiple volcanic cones, lighthouses, wharves, reefs, moored boats and a breakwater down most of its length - known as the "Picket Fence".

While a hazard in one context, 18ft and 12ft skiff sailors know that reaching down the Picket Fence usually carries the bonus of a stronger breeze.

In the Prada and America's Cup, if the windward mark is laid that far up the Waitemata harbour, the hazard of the Picket Fence, and its breeze bonus is another race winning opportunity.

What will be interesting when the other two Challengers start sailing in Auckland is whether they put in the amount of time that ETNZ does on the Stadium course, or if the Challengers just tow through it.

There was no sailing on Tuesday for ETNZ, due to a forecast of light winds. American Magic currently don't have a boat in commission.

The forecast for Wednesday is for a good sailing breeze. Next stage for American Magic's second AC75, Patriot will be a foiling test and general systems checkout while under tow. If they don't get sailing on Wednesday, the next opportunity is Thursday morning, with fresh winds forecast for Thursday afternoon and Friday, easing back in the weekend.

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