Louis Vuitton Cup enters new phase
The Louis Vuitton Cup takes on a new twist on Tuesday when the Semifinal round begins. This will mark the debut in the competition of the the Swedish challenge Artemis Racing and Italy’s Luna Rossa Challenge, the race being on to determine which team will go up against Emirates Team New Zealand which has already fast-tracked itself to the Final of the Louis Vuitton Cup, starting on 17 August.
The Swedish team has been fighting the clock to be ready to race in time. Launching their second AC72 so late, Artemis Racing to date has only managed six days of training on their new boat. And at present their helmsman Nathan Outteridge says they are still on a steep learning curve in terms of how hard they can safely push their boat, noting how difficult it is to sail cautiously: "The only way to sail these boats is hard and fast. The moment you take your foot off the throttle is when it's going to bite."
Both teams are planning to get more training in over the weekend ahead of Tuesday’s first race.
Iain Percy, Artemis Racing skipper, Iain Percy commented on how it is going: “Personally, it’s been one of my most enjoyable weeks of sailing. We’ve learned so many things at such a fast rate. But to say that we’re ready to go would absolutely not be the case… Our competitors launched their boat nine months ago. We launched our boat nine days ago. Obviously if we had nine more months we would progress a lot more. That’s not an excuse. It’s our fault we are in this position. But those are the facts. We’ve had our foiling 72ft cat for nine days and the event starts on Tuesday.”
His opposite number at Luna Rossa, Max Sirena, added of the Italian campaign: “We will make a few changes to the aero package, put new tips on the daggerboards, and look at new rudder elevators. After the next couple of sailing days we will decide which configuration to use for semifinals. Chris [Draper] will choose what combination feels the best. We will be ready to go. We want to use the next two days to get around marks and do crew training, and we are looking forward to starting on Tuesday.”
Nathan Outteridge added on sailing the AC72, compared to the AC45: “Everything that happens on the AC72 is a scaled up version of the AC45. Because the AC45 is smaller, it’s more unstable and harder to sail than the AC72. The AC45 is a tiller, bumpy and jerky on the hand. The AC72, because it’s heavier and more powered up it glides along nicely. Above 20 knots of wind the power starts working against you, but in the 13- to 18-knot wind range, so far everything we’ve learned on the AC45 has scaled nicely to the AC72.
“The AC72 is an easy boat to sail upwind, but a hard boat to sail fast. Downwind, it’s a hard boat to sail, and a harder boat to sail fast. We tried to take on the harder things earlier. You’d be surprised how much analysis we do of other teams. We’ve done lots of research watching what the other teams do.”
Luna Rossa helmsman Chris Draper said of the damage suffered to the wing sail during practice this week: “We had a bit of damage on Wing 2, the most recent wing we have. We managed to de-load the rig quickly so it wasn’t an issue. It’s getting worked on now. Unfortunately, there’s quite a lot of work going on right now so it’s going to take a few more days than we thought.
“We have our other wing on standby and ready to go. We’d like to use Wing 2 because it’s more refined, but Wing 1 is just as good and we’ve spent a lot of time working on it, making it good and reliable. We’d like to use Wing 2, but Wing 1 is just as fine.”
The legend that is Adam May, Artemis Racing's Foiling Adviser and part of the Swedish team's Performance and Analysis team added on the design differences between Artemis Racing and Luna Rossa: “I think Luna Rossa has a slightly higher-volume hull shape with more rocker profile through the mid-section. We’re probably a slightly lower volume, slightly lower freeboard shape. That’s probably the main differences between the two.
“Off the wind you’re hopefully foiling, so hull shapes are less relevant for that. I think they may have a shape that benefits maneuvering, as the rocker profile and volume are helpful for manoeuvres and tacking well. Our boat is probably happier in a straight line, and for top end speeds. The contribution of the hull shape is quite a small factor now relative to the foils. That’s the biggest difference. If you want to change the mode of the boat in any way, the foils are the big ticket item.”
Luna Rossa's equivalent to May, Giorgio Provinciali, assessed the new Artemis Racing AC72's performance: “We’re really impressed with the reliability level they have achieved. These boats are really difficult with a lot of systems that can fail in some way, but they've appeared to be very reliable. It's also impressive how stable their foiling is and how in control the boat seems to be downwind.”
Artemis Racing joining the party is most welcome. Looking at the strengths and weaknesses of the campaigns going into this Semi Final competition: Luna Rossa has much more time on the water on their side, but the slower boat, while Artemis Racing's new AC72 appears to have a more modern design, but the crew lacks time in the boat. Both boats have ex-Olympic 49er medallist as their helmsman (and effectively skipper).
We suspect the outcome will be a tortoise and hare one (in AC72 terms at least), with Luna Rossa capitalising on Artemis Racing's errors on the race course and claiming early points, with Artemis Racing earning points later in the series. Our money's on Artemis. Yours?