Emirates Team New Zealand wing trimmer Glenn Ashby spent a day on the chase boat on Thursday, watching his team go around the race course unopposed, and setting a new speed record - 44.15 knots - in the process. With his job secure, despite the record-setting performance without him, he says it was instructive to watch the action from alongside, rather than in the middle of it, and to see the AC72 reach a peak performance.
"The overall trim and the way the wing and jib sets up is something that I can see better from off the boat, globally. When you're on the boat, you're in a cocoon in your own environment and looking after what you need to look after. So it's fantastic to take that global view from a standpoint of overall performance development," Ashby said after racing Thursday.
"The boys sailed well. It's nice to see it from off the boat. The package looks really nice and Beasho (his replacement on board, Adam Beashel) did really well today. I'll have to step up my game or I might not get back on!"
And spending time on these boats is what it's all about. Ashby, like the other America's Cup sailors, is having the time of his life sailing the AC72.
"By far this is the coolest, most fun boat I've ever sailed on," he said. "Doing 40-plus knots when reaching and sailing downwind and hitting the low to mid-20s upwind, there's no other boat you'd wish to be sailing on. The development of the boat has been amazing; we're just getting faster and faster and faster… The feeling sailing downwind is pretty surreal when you're covering the ground that quickly."
For sailors on the outside looking in at this America's Cup, Ashby says what they're seeing must be motivating.
"For the young guys coming through right now, to look at the AC72s must be inspiring. The AC45s were pretty cool but then you see what you can do with the 72s and how well they go around the track, the young guys have a lot to look forward to."
One younger sailor who has already transitioned from the world of dinghy sailing to catching on with an America's Cup team is ORACLE TEAM USA rookie Kyle Langford.
Although he doesn't celebrate his 24th birthday until the end of July, Langford sails with ORACLE TEAM USA as a trimmer/grinder. A former multihull youth World Champion, he says the AC72 is beyond comparison.
"The 72s are simply awesome," he says. "Nothing really compares to them. We're pushing the limit of what boats like this can do… This is definitely more exciting than the traditional, slower monohull used in the Cup in the past."
Ashby and Langford may already be sailing on a collision course, destined to meet in the America's Cup Finals come September. ORACLE TEAM USA, as defender, already has its ticket booked to the final. Meanwhile, Ashby and Emirates Team New Zealand have impressed in the early stages of the Louis Vuitton Cup, America's Cup Challenger Series.
"The two boats are totally different design packages. It's amazing to see how different they are on the water," Ashby says, comparing the Kiwi and American boats. "Both boats at times look very nice but we certainly set our boat up much differently than they do. Someone will be right and someone will be wrong. Hopefully we're the ones who are right!"