Patriot in full flight

Perception and reality – the two imposters of any America’s Cup campaign were on display out in Pensacola last week at the Patriot training session.

Photography by Paul Todd/AMERICA'S CUP

20 December 2022


Headlines could scream ‘capsize’ – and with American Magic’s AC75 Patriot we’ve been there spectacularly before – but the reality is that the team had an almost perfect day in terms of manoeuvres before hitting debris in Pensacola Bay, stalling and plopping over.

Roll-overs are meat and potatoes to the crews in this America’s Cup and the low-speed, downspeed ones are more of an inconvenience than catastrophe – dramatic as they look to the outside world.

To address the dramatic first, Terry Hutchinson, Skipper and President of Sailing Operations at the New York Yacht Club American Magic syndicate explained: “They were going upwind on starboard tack and they hit a submerged board.


“As we know here in Pensacola when it rains a lot, things flow out of the rivers and they basically hit a ‘log’ in the water, it stalled the boat and the boat rolled over to windward so no harm to anybody, Patriot is upright and coming back in and we’ll haul her out and get her ready to go out again tomorrow.”

There were no breakages onboard and all crew safe and well. The superb American Magic shore crew raced in, set the tow line and performed their well-practised drill to right Patriot and she was towed back to base in displacement mode for a thorough check-over.

It was the end of a near two-hour session on the water trialling their new rudder – an old one from Auckland 2021 that was undeclared – and the numbers don’t lie.

Over the relatively short session timewise, and a distance of approximately 35 nautical miles, Tom Slingsby and Paul Goodison put in a total of 34 manoeuvres with some astonishing, sit-up-and-take-notice, success rates.

In total, 17 tacks were thrown in, with 16 fully foil-to-foil – a 94 percent success rate and just one debatable ‘touch and go’. On the gybes, the team were sublime – 17 thrown in and 17 fully foil-to-foil. You don’t need to be a mathematician to work out the success rate.

Quite rightly, Terry Hutchinson was buzzing as he stepped ashore saying: “The day was awesome!

“We had a had a bit of a hold this morning because of the weather and fortunately Chris Bedford and his team did an awesome job of getting us into a nice little spot where we could get Patriot out in some reasonably up-range conditions and do some laps round Pensacola Bay working on some of the systems inside the yacht, some of the race software and things that will help us in the future.

“All in all it was just an awesome day and it’s great to see the guys out in the top end conditions.”


With a southerly breeze blowing up the Bay at a consistent 17 to 18 knots all afternoon and a slight sea-state, it was as close to perfect conditions as Pensacola serves up and the team were very much at race pace testing out their race software.

The recon unit reported back from the water saying that: Patriot was on foil a combined total of approximately 65 minutes. Flight times ranged from 5 minutes to 23 minutes (23min, 5min, 13min, 18min, 6min).

And those are as equally impressive stats as the manoeuvres, offering the shoreside technicians and designers a wealth of captured data whilst giving the crew plenty of tweaking and learning time onboard.

One of the key components that American Magic is seemingly nailing at the moment is the crew co-ordination and as Hutchinson described after, the tacks and gybes are where communication is absolutely key.

He walked the recon unit through a manoeuvre and it’s a good insight into what the team are focussing on: “It’s pretty simple, there’s a countdown to the tack, there’s a countdown as the boat is going into the tack, then the helmsman initiates the board drop, they turn the boat, the new helmsman steps in, hits a button and the board comes up.

“I think what you see on days like today with the race laps is what you’re really working on are those communications and those handoffs in between the helmsmen.”

Patriot at race pace is a compelling sight.

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