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Prada Cup: Getting around the course

Published on January 27th, 2021

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt Sailing News
While there is little about the remarkable AC75 which resembles what most sailing enthusiasts have experienced, one of the subplots of the 36th America’s Cup is something we are all familiar with, which is to answer the question… Who does what?

One of the mysteries of the AC75 was how much power would be needed to operate the systems. While batteries control what’s below the waterline, sailor strength would be needed to control everything above. With 11 crew, the presumption was that most would be on the grinders, but what about other jobs?

Each of the challengers have answered the question differently, and it was on an onboard video with INEOS Team UK in a race against Luna Rossa that highlighted the importance of this issue. With the bottom of the mainsail flush with the deck, visibility is a problem, and how roles get handled is vital for getting the boat around the course.

American Magic (USA):
The key to their plan is communication because they have a lot of people contributing to tactics. Terry Hutchinson is called the tactician, but he is on the port side grinder, so he can only see half the course while huffing and puffing. Flight controller Andrew Campbell is offering input from the starboard side while mainsail trimmer Paul Goodison is also in the loop, and it is him and helm Dean Barker as the only two people moving from side to side, with Goodison holding the helm for Barker when he crosses over. While all four are World Champion titlists, Barker must filter the information to make the best decision.

Luna Rossa (ITA):
With Francesco Bruni and Jimmy Spithill, the team had two people that could be either helm or tactician, so the call was made for them to share the role, with Bruni staying on the port side and Spithill on the starboard side. But when one isn’t steering, he becomes the flight controller and tactician. That’s a lot of multitasking, and knowing each only sees half the course while juggling other duties, their comms are crucial for seamless decisions. But the team always has their best helmsman on the wheel, so there is no moment when the opponent can pounce.

This team broke the code on power management as they have the fewest grinders, which allows them to be the only boat with two flight controllers (port and starboard) and a dedicated tactician in Giles Scott. What’s unique is Scott can move freely from side to side, with no other distraction other than taking the wheel so helmsman Ben Ainslie can switch sides. But this is a dangerous moment as it has both on the same side, and blinded by what is behind the mainsail as this video revealed.

Racing begins again in New Zealand on January 29 (Jan. 28 in North America). For more information:

• Prada Cup format, standings, and how to watch online: click here.
• Complete America’s Cup coverage: click here
• Additional America’s Cup information: click here

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