UPDATE: Auckland Anarchists can get the inside story tonight at Swashbucklers on the Westhaven Marina Waterfront starting around 7:30 PM. You wanna know the stuff I’m not allowed to write? Buy me a Grey Goose and we’ll chat. No swag to give away, but plenty of laughs likely.
Most of my sailing report from yesterday’s trip on ETNZ’s AC72 Aotearoa will come in video format on Monday, but based on my email, Facebook, and PM inbox blowing up today, interest is clearly pretty high. So here’s a short summary of what I learned in my day with ETNZ:
You guys came up with some excellent questions and we sat down with the heads of the various ETNZ departments and got some good answers for you; you’ll have to wait until next week for the full conversation, all on camera.
As for sailing the boat, we had 9-12 knots of sea breeze; that translated into 16-18 knots of upwind speed at 42-44 degrees of TWA (something like 13 degrees AWA) and 26-30 knots downwind at TWA of 145 or so (22 degree AWA). At these speeds, the boat is almost sedate; really forgiving, relatively easy to trim, tack, and gybe, and quite dry; in other words, there’s just no drama. Same with the crew; you hardly notice anyone, because they do their jobs quickly, quietly and with their headsets on, you hardly hear a noise beyond the constant groaning and creaking of easing sheets.
Like many of our mothies have said from the start, this Cup will be won on the foils; to that end, the one area I wasn’t allowed to shoot was the dagger board cases, though frankly there is so much going on in there that I wouldn’t even know where to begin. NZ is running two different board designs, each has a slightly different upright board profile and each sports a different angle between the horizontal and vertical arm; the more closed-off board (with a more acute angle) was the ‘easy foiling’ board; in about 22 knots the boat popped up, nearly all its weight supported by a 1.5 meter piece of carbon, the rest by the rudder elevator. On the other board, the boat struggled to foil downwind in the light air; this is maybe a less draggy, higher speed board, or the fore/aft rake position they were working on produced less lift. Note that 12 knots ain’t what this thing is designed for, but they still have to work out crossovers; there’s bound to be a case of ‘it’s not usually like this’ in San Francisco come this summer. In any event, both foils are just testers, though given the 3-month time frame to produce new ones, ETNZ’s San Francisco foils are undoubtedly being built as we speak.
Wing number 2 is another monstrous red marvel of engineering, and a quick walk around showed it to be nothing revolutionary. “It’s more about having the controls we need to deal with all the circumstances we’ll face,” Dalton said. Wing 2 will be stepped on Monday (weather permitting) and will see her first sail Tuesday or Wednesday.
ETNZ’s boat number one is in pieces, her diagonal beams and a few other bits having been scavenged to build boat number 2. But number one will indeed be on the water soon; Dalts put together the budget he needed to get the spare boat ready for racing, and she’ll be ready to go in San Francisco in case Aotearoa gets t-boned or otherwise dies.
Luna Rossa and ETNZ are no longer training together; LR is in her modification phase, and needs to stay out of ETNZ’s prying eyes. Bertelli’s team is trying some new toys out, including a pretty trick new main foil with some kind of innovative control system; unfortunately it blew up within a few moments of loading up on its first day, and they towed in after just a short time on the water.
And finally, yes – they are flying through the gybes on the foils. Not in 12 knots of breeze, but I got one team member to admit to me that, in their best fully-foiling gybe the other day, their speed came down to 29 knots before building back to 40. How’s that for ya?
Everyone wants to know if ETNZ is going to do the Volvo, and while they’re not making any big decisions right now, I can confidently report that the team will be back for the next VOR. “With the boats being one-design, there’s no real urgency to get everything done right now,” Dalts told me. But they will be back, and they’ll probably be the favorites.
For my part, I bit the bullet for a 7 AM gym session with grinders Rob Waddell and Tony Rae and main trimmer Glenn Ashby. Now I spend a lot of time in the gym, but the big boys were clearly in a league of their own; as fit as any NFL tight end: 6’4″ and taller, with arms as big around as most guys’ legs, these monsters need not only massive upper body strength, but they need the agility and endurance to bounce across the huge trampoline while the boat bucks through a gybe at 30 knots. Grinding is almost unending; in the ten minutes I spun the handles with Dalton (also a fitness animal, BTW), our longest spell with no grinding was 40 seconds. Glenn was much closer to me in strength despite being about 2 feet shorter than me, but despite his less strength-intense job aboard, he spends as much time in the gym as anyone; yet another reason he is so strongly respected by his teammates.
Shots thanks to ETNZ media master Hamish Hooper, who’s also working on the video edits. For Hoops’ help and the team’s incredibly welcoming and opening attitude toward SA and the Anarchists, we give serious thanks.