America’s Cup: Alinghi Red Bull Racing’s tough test on its first sail – awesome new video
by Pietro Sibello, Alinghi Red Bull Racing Sep 4 11:17 PM PDT
The Alinghi Red Bull Racing crew prepare for their first sailing session on August 31 in Barcelona, Spain © Xaume Olleros – Red Bull Content Pool
Swiss team coach/consultant and experienced AC75 sailor Pietro Sibello, former mainsail trimmer for Italian team Luna Rossa, describes a dramatic first day of sailing for the new Alinghi Red Bull Racing team, after being hit by a hailstorm which knocked the AC75 over twice on her beam ends.
Last Wednesday was just another day in Barcelona. The only difference was the excitement: we’re going to sail, finally!
I woke up at 6:30, had breakfast and rode down to base on my bike. The advantage of commuting early in the morning is that I avoid the busy streets of Barcelona. That said, I still encountered a few groups returning from their late nights.
The morning meeting with the shore team confirmed the plan for the day: we are going out, hoist the sails and sail! This is such an important moment for us, for the shore team and for everyone involved in this campaign.
Preparing an AC75 to sail takes a lot of time, especially for a new team. Everything and everyone must come together perfectly to make things happen.
Dean [Barker] and I gave them input, sharing our past experience of the America’s Cup, among other things, establishing good communication between them and the designers to enable the correct configuration of the boat.
And it all started with the simulator, helping them get to grips with handling the boat, no matter how much preparation you do ashore, nothing compares to what we’re about to experience today: getting wet – literally – on the boat.
Back to the daily routine: we’re going sailing today, we have a day off from the gym. After the morning meeting, I head for my second coffee of the day, an important moment for an Italian like me.
The vibe was quite emotional at the base and on the water. The chase boats were packed, with everyone wanting to be part of this milestone! The reconnaissance unit followed our every move.
Even though this boat has sailed before, it was like launching a new boat, in the colors of Alinghi Red Bull Racing.
We hoisted the sails for the first time and then could feel a strong team spirit as the boat started to sail.
We kind of accomplished the first real milestone for sailing operations: the sailing team was on the boat, experiencing the real sensations of the AC75 for the first time.
It was also a very special moment to be on the future racetrack, to see our logos in our sails with the host city of the 37th America’s Cup in the background.
Once we checked off all the boxes we had planned for day one, we ended the session and started the debriefing, with a good sense of accomplishment. We set sail and began to be towed to shore just before the rain set in.
Visibility dropped to almost nothing in a flash. Our emotions also changed from sun to rain, the excitement of the first sail was replaced by the urgency to bring the boat home. The wind picks up very quickly, the boat is difficult to control and capsizes.
I think it was the first time an AC75 was in such a storm, it was a new situation for everyone.
Although we didn’t have everything answered, there was very good management from the navigation and support teams. We were prepared and ready to face this kind of situation, we remained calm to face it as best we could.
The organization was clear and efficient, the men overboard were picked up very quickly.
But no matter how prepared you are, there is nothing you can do against a gust of wind of this intensity.
We had in mind that these storms leave as quickly as they arrive; it was about damage limitation.
As soon as the boat was refloated, the technicians jumped on board and we had the first assessment of the boat.
These things happen, sooner or later. That’s just six months of team building in a few minutes: the team spirit was strong, we all helped each other.
After sharing such strong emotions as we did on Wednesday, it brings the team together stronger.
It was a late arrival in the hangar, with the team meeting to assess the situation and next steps. I returned home, like the other sailors, while the shore team had a long night ahead of them.
As I rode my bike, I was thinking about that roller coaster day.
I went to bed with lots of things on my mind but the main one was that I could go to sleep knowing that I could trust my team!
Alinghi Red Bull Racing foil testing ahead of Day 1