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Perfecting The Nose Dive In Pensacola

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  • Perfecting The Nose Dive In Pensacola

    Some days on the journey to the America’s Cup are just plain hard and for the New York Yacht Club American Magic Team, Tuesday’s session was a stop-start affair with long stints of foiling brilliance clouded by a few rare errors thrown in to remind everyone that sailing on the ragged edge of control is hard.

    Having started the day with a long systems check as the team brought new, unseen tech into the mainsail control systems, the initial foiling blast was short and in the 10-15 knot breeze, the sailors looked a little uncomfortable (at times) with the J2 jib up. It’s a classic cross-over conundrum where the J2 should be the perfect call to get flying but once up, the trimmers would happily shred the sail and drop to a J3 in a heartbeat. No such luxury as a furling headsail on an AC40 unfortunately so once set, you’re in for the ride. What was very noticeable in the glorious Florida sunshine with the rays angled on the 3DL mainsail was the trim required to keep stable. America’s mainsail was in rapid-fire trim all the way up to the head with more than just the traveller and mainsheet at play – huge cunningham tension could be seen being applied and dispensed as the team kept control upwind through the gusts.

    With Tom Slingsby swapped out just after lunch, and just after a bow stuff, as he reportedly was headed to catch a plane flight, Riley Gibbs came on for the afternoon session to accompany Paul Goodison in the helming slot and the J3 call was made with the wind reaching peak speeds with gusts of up to 18 knots. It was relatively flat water inshore in Pensacola Bay but the team didn’t look their usual uber controlled self as flight control was occasionally off kilter and take-offs looked tricky. There looked to be issues with the mainsheet or traveller control and a Chase Boat crewmember could be seen mopping up what looked to be an hydraulic leak around the aft deck.

    Whether the hydraulic issue led to what was the shot of the day with ‘America’ cavitating their rudder and going into a nosedive and capsize, is unclear but Dan Morris alluded to it in interview afterwards saying: “You lose a little mainsheet tension, have a couple of issues and next thing you know you're in the drink…but no major damage and spirits are high and the boats are just such a blast and it's a great little tool to keep the programme moving forward.”
    The capsize was expertly righted in just four minutes by the outstandingly professional American Magic Chase Boat team who were on the scene in a heartbeat and sailing continued for a short while before the sailors called it a day. Dan gave a great analogy of the capsize process in an AC40 versus the AC75 when he said: “It happens a lot quicker on this boat than it does on the AC75. You know the AC-75 is a lot faster but all that momentum and inertia just slows things down, you’re going 55 knots but the crash is slow motion. Here you go a little bit slower but everything's just nimble, quick, agile and so it makes it a little bit more exciting.”

    And talking about the delay to sailing in the morning that at one point looked like it might curtail the session before it had even started, Dan was sanguine as he said: “Yeah we're just going through some spare parts that we changed, getting valves to work properly and just getting the whole system to come together and it's a real balance that these boats depend on so many little moving parts and little lines of code, so we got to just take the time to get it all right. There's no sense in going sailing until everything's properly functioning so we just had to take it in the water and get it right and then have a good afternoon.”
    A valuable session. Lessons learned and alternate crew given more time on the AC40. The team covered a huge 60 nautical miles and put in a very respectable 32 manoeuvres with the vast majority foil-to-foil or touch & go. The team now has a scheduled maintenance break before the next sailing session starts at the weekend.

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