SAN FRANCISCO (#1241) – Thanks to one of our FOSI ("Friends of Sailing Illustrated"), we've received these photos from Cagliari (Sardinia, ITA) where the AC36 Challenger of Record, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, is based. As we revealed on TFE LIVE a week ago, it was only a matter of time before Luna Rossa splashed a test boat a la Terry Hutchinson's NYYC American Magic "The Mule", and Sir Ben Ainslie's INEOS Team UK (GBR, Royal Yacht Squadron) "T5".
So now there are three such test boats. The Mule is the largest at 38' (a modified McConaghy 38), T5 is 28' (a modified Quant 28), and the newly launched LRPP yacht appears to be similar in size to T5. One also hears that the Defender, Emirates Team New Zealand, is about to splash one, too – reportedly also a modified McConaghy 38.
Why nothing larger than 38'? The AC36 Protocol prohibits test boats larger than 12m (39.37 feet). Anything larger becomes, under the rules, a "surrogate yacht" and counts, for AC36, as an AC75 yacht – giving effect to the two-boat limit that applies to each team for AC36.
All this only serves to further emphasize how far the remaining two "late entries" – DutchSail (NED) and Stars+Stripes Team USA – are behind these three super challengers and, presumably, ETNZ, notwithsatnding the interview today on Sail-World.com of S+S co-founder Mike Buckley (USA). Mr Buckley, interviewed by our good friend Richard Gladwell (NZL, and, no surprise, a fanboy of ETNZ and AC36), paints a rather rosier picture for his team's status than does your Ed. and most every other keen observer of the Cup scene. As much as I would like to see Mike, co-founder Taylor Canfield (USA/USVI) and their Long Beach Yacht Club team succeed, it's a long shot at best. Simeon Tienpont's DutchSail? Since their crowd-funding appeal was announced, ironically, on April 1, it's been crickets.
For the record, sources close to LRPP say that the first test of their new boat "went well." And as another FOSI and former winning Cup crewmembre said, "If Stars+Stripes thinks they are going to go straight to their AC75 having only practiced on a simulator, this [photos below] is going to happen, same as it has with the Mule and Ben's boat, only worse."