I tried out your suggestion yesterday with my AI and removed the drive when I had cleared the shore obstacles. I sat the tethered drive on the front aka x-bar with the fins tucked under the hatch bungee and put the drivewell plug in.
I agree -it was like removing the brake!!
The winds were only light, around 10 knots, but it felt like I was going faster than with the drive in. I really enjoyed the true sailing experience!
I didn't have time to do a proper comparison but it makes sense. Lately I have been paddling the AI in Adventure only mode when conditions are glassy smooth. Replacing the drive with the plug and pulling up the rudder increases my cruising speed by about 1.5km/h.
I can see me sailing the AI without the drive in becoming the standard for my future trips. I have always found the fluttering of the fins on the hull at speed annoying and this solves that problem. I also liked the less cluttered footwell.
I would never go out without taking the drive though. The great benefit when launching, retrieving and returning when the wind dies would be lost.
Now I need to work out a better way to store the drive when not in use.
This adds to the versatility of the AI. Thanks for the suggestion.