The challengers' first day of qualification had a surprise in store. British challenger Ineos Team UK is back in the game. Just three weeks ago, Sir Ben Ainslie's team couldn't win a single race at the Christmas Race. In the night, however, it won both opening races against American Magic and LunRoss in an impressive way.
Everything that has been seems to have been forgotten. And is also immaterial. Because only now is it important, now the results count. The PradCup has started, in which the three challengers sail out who can compete against defender Team New Zealand.
The first two races in the repetition
Ainslie's analysis after the races sounds as simple as sailing should always be: "We wanted to start well, sail fast and take advantage of the changing winds." That succeeded. The course off Auckland had winds of between 8 and 16 knots in the first race against the Americans and between 16 and 22 knots in the second race against the Italians. The right side of the course had an advantage in both encounters. With a very good start, Ainslie's team secured freedom of choice and was able to defend and exploit this right side on every leg of the track in every race. In addition, the boat was operated without any major mistakes, which left the opponents who were always early behind no opportunity to overtake.
Above all, it was impressive that the British team apparently managed to use the three-week break from racing to make the boat significantly faster. Ainslie, however, did not allow himself to be looked at: "We have changed something everywhere, on the foils, the elevator (rudder) and how we operate the systems."
Sir Ben Ainslie: Thumbs up - that's the gesture his fans want him to do
However, a few circumstantial evidence allow careful, more detailed conclusions. The British boat "BritanniII" sailed the opponents in both races with a smaller Genuals. That can be seen as a sign that overall it is very successful to build up the necessary pressure - a very good sign. The smaller the genoa, the less it contributes to propulsion, but it also has less drag. The necessary propulsion must therefore come from the mainsail.
Apparently, some changes have been made to the configuration and operation of the double-membrane mainsail. The many windbones with which the sail is equipped were striking. Normally, these sails are trimmed according to specified values that were determined during training, for which only a few strands of wind are required for control. If the British team changed a lot on this sail during the break, these values may not yet have been saved and the crew, like every sailor, must rely on the optical feedback from the windbands.
The British fans were thrilled
The significantly faster and more effective maneuvers also speak in favor of a changed mainsail configuration. Just three weeks ago it could be seen that the British had their foils in the water the longest in maneuvers and had to sail very low just after turning in order to maintain the pressure and keep the boat at flight height. Now, however, the turns not only looked much more aggressive, the windward foil also came out of the water very quickly, and the boat hardly had to be sailed any deeper.
Obviously, it is now easier to transfer the pressure from the mainsail from one bow to the other, which has a lot to do with how quickly the camber depth of the double membrane can be adjusted. Perhaps that's what Ainslie meant by "how we operate the systems".
Changes have also been made to the foils. Obviously there was a color change from red to black. But the profile has also been changed. There are no more spoilers or the like, and the trim tabs seem smaller than before.
Big advantage: The British are already back on the closewind course, while the Americans are still sailing to the Lee Gate
The team also seems to have more confidence in the boat and their own strengths. Another indication of this: In the second race, Ainslie ordered an immediate roll turn after the downwind walk when rounding the left lee mark in order to get quickly to the right side. This was completed perfectly. Tactically it was a brilliant maneuver. However, the crew could have taken a little more time for this, the lead over the Italians was big enough to first go upwind after the rounding, trim the boat and then turn it around. That this turnaround, which harbors a significantly higher potential for error, was dared, is a clear sign of great self-confidence.
However, Ainslie dampened the euphoria of the British fan base somewhat. "We love this wind range and were quick. Now the focus is on the light wind range, so we still have a lot to do." This area was also the weakest of the British in the Christmas Race.
The race against the Italians was closer, but they never got into one-on-one mode.
Nonetheless, Ainslie started the first round robin with an ideal start. Four of them will be sailed. The British team shows how important a win would be here. The winner of the Round Robin goes straight to the final of the challengers, while the two losing teams compete against each other again. For the winner, this means a three-week break from racing. And the British have shown what improvements can be made in three weeks.
Tomorrow American Magic will sail first against LunRoss and then against the British. The first race starts at 3:00 a.m. German time. A little less wind is predicted.