AMERICA’S CUP STRATEGIES COME TO LIGHT
Image: ©Paul Todd/AMERICA’S CUP
The notification to the Recon Panel, under Technical Regulation 10.6 (a), yesterday of Emirates Team New Zealand and Alinghi Red Bull Racing and today with Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, all giving the required 2-month notification of intention to launch their respective new AC75s, is a revealing look into the strategies of these America's Cup teams and firmly puts the ball in the courts of the others.
By dint of sheer geography, and the constructed-in-country rule, it is in hindsight perhaps no surprise that Emirates Team New Zealand was the first to declare their intention and go for launch early. However, it certainly caught Cup commentators by surprise with none of the sailors or team members interviewed in recent days seeing or predicting that they would be the ones to break cover first.
The Defenders of the Louis Vuitton 37th America’s Cup are now fully into their antipodean summer training schedule on their LEQ12 moded AC40 and have always said that they are keen to get some useful hours on the water down in Auckland on their new AC75, with all their North Shore and Wynyard Dock facilities on-hand in case of any issues, before loading the new boat and shipping to Barcelona. Shipping times are around 47 days from Auckland to Barcelona, so the Kiwi announcement will certainly have factored this well into the overall equation of the campaign. The sailing team begins racing at the end of August in the final Preliminary Regatta and into the round robins but then sit out until the America’s Cup Match itself from the 12-27th October 2024. They have therefore, a relative luxury of time.
For Alinghi Red Bull Racing it’s a very different strategy and one that is admirably super-aggressive as the Swiss look to extract maximum time on the water through a launch in April until racing begins on the 22ndAugust 2024. A young team of sailors, fused with Cup winning experienced hands all over and down through the ranks, what the Swiss are perhaps gambling on is that design is done, and development is key. Launching early gives the Swiss time to develop the crucial control systems and pre-sets that could be the key to winning through what is looking like a desperately close Louis Vuitton Cup to select the Challenger.
Time on the water, time in the boat, time in the shed are all in the matrix of the Alinghi Red Bull Racing announcement and it’s one of the great calculated gambles by a team loaded with some of the wiliest Cup campaigners in the history of the event. What it may also do is force the hand quickly of the other Challengers who are expected to announce very shortly their intentions to launch. What the Swiss have done is ramp up the pressure safe in the knowledge that in terms of sheer hull design, there is very little that other teams can do to alter at this stage – and equally vice versa. What it perhaps shows is a real confidence in their design team led by Marcelino Botin and certainly, a confidence in their Decision S.A build team up in Ecublens, near Lausanne.
Sir Ben Ainslie announced at the launch of the Athena Pathway Team for the Youth and Puig Women’s America’s Cup on Monday that the INEOS Britannia AC75 had been taken out of the Jason Carrington build shed over in Hythe, Southampton that morning. Assuming that the AC75 is now en route to Barcelona, we could well see an announcement from them shortly of a launch date. Again, for the Challenger of Record, they will be keen to start the development process at full scale with all the technical might of Mercedes Applied Science at their disposal to measure accurately every output and begin the long process of what the sailors call: “working the boat up.”
Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli team members have already intimated in interview that their boat will be ‘radical’ and they were next to declare their launch intentions on Tuesday 6th February with Max Sirena speaking after an afternoon of two-boat sailing in Cagliari saying: “I think we can expect that in the next couple of hours.”
A launch in Sardinia will be a wonderful spectacle and Max gave a good quote on the launch programme saying: “I think at the end everyone is more or less on the same schedule because the only thing you cannot change is the starting date of the event, so everyone at the beginning of the campaign is making his own best programme but at some stage you have to put the boat in the water so more or less it’s a kind of a corner and I think between weeks you will see all the boats in the water. There will be some which are probably launching later than another one, but I think at the end more or less we're going to be in the same window.”
Meanwhile for the Orient Express Racing Team, who were some people’s pick to launch first having secured an Emirates Team New Zealand design package to save time, their boat is in-build at the Multiplast yard in Vannes and an announcement of their launch date is imminent.
For NYYC American Magic, they like the Kiwis, have a shipping timeframe to consider with their AC75 in build over in Portsmouth, Rhode Island on the Eastern seaboard of the United States. No word yet on schedule but the team is known to have put systems on their legacy AC75 ‘Patriot’ that will be transferred straight onto the new AC75 when it arrives in Barcelona – a wise move to foreshorten the bedding-in and working up timeframes for those systems.
It's America’s Cup strategy at play and, as always, raises more questions than answers. What we know for sure though is that the race for the Louis Vuitton 37th America’s Cup is well and truly on. (Magnus Wheatley)