The team was confident enough to put the AC45 catamaran through its paces in 25 knots of wind, with spectacular results
Images courtesy of Gilles Martin-Raget.
With squirrely strong puffs gusting over 22 knots blowing through the Viaduct, the toughest part of the day was always going to be lifting the wing and getting it safely into the platform to launch the boat.
In the ideal world, the AC 45 test team would have had a few more days of wing maneuvers under their belt before doing it at the top-end of the wind range: “I wouldn’t have pulled out an ACC V5 rig (the monohull class used in the Cup from 1992 through 2007) in today’s conditions,” said Martin ‘Toon’ McElwee, a rig designer at Southern Spars.
But already, everyone was ready to test the limits.
They decided to “go for it” at midday even with the breeze still blowing at 18-20 knots in the hoisting area. The hoisting was successful and although a few issues, it provided valuable lessons and it appears that handling these wings in this wind speed is quite viable.
There were a few eye-popping moments where the wing wanted to take flight on its own, but the team did a great job in keeping it under control in extremely challenging conditions.
“Dropping it into the boat and the boat into the water was achieved but hanging onto the boat is a challenge. The moment the rig is in – it wants to go,” said Matt Mason.
When the test crew headed out for Day Two of sea trials, skipper Jimmy Spithill sailed off the dock and downwind through the chicane out of the Viaduct. With three gybes, it was like threading a needle. Once out of the Viaduct, then it was time to power up.
From all reports, it was a great day at the office. “The boat performed amazingly well,” said Matt. “It was an exceptionally successful day.”
Murray Jones, after his second day ever of wing sailing, is still in awe with the ease of the wing. “We were doing 25 comfortably. The boat performed really well. We continue fine-tuning a few things as we settle in.”
While still in a testing phase, the crew is discovering the nuances of the new AC 45. “It’s actually easier downwind with the gennaker than with the wing alone. When the gennaker is up, it’s really comfortable. This was our first day out in any breeze. We had gusts of 25 out at Bean Rock.”
At the end of the day, everyone gathered back at the base around the laptops of photographer Gilles Martin-Raget and videographer George Johns to see the amazing results of Day Two on the water.
The wing and platform are back in the shed and plans are to launch the boat tomorrow afternoon for another session.