Emirates Team New Zealand have powered through to become the challengers for the 35th America’s Cup match against Oracle Team USA.
Emirates Team New Zealand have powered through to become the challengers for the 35th America’s Cup match against Oracle Team USA. If the fastest boat always wins, is this what we have just seen in the playoffs?
After a first race today in such light winds that the two boats were unable to foil and ran out of time, the wind picked up and allowed the two teams to match up. Artemis Racing started at 4-2 down, their backs to the wall.
Peter Burling, helmsman of Emirates Team New Zealand was more aggressive in the pre-start today and managed to start to leeward of Artemis and push them above the first mark to give them the advantage on the bearaway.
After that it was a distinctly one-sided affair. Today, with both boats using their light winds foil configurations, there was none of the close quarters tactics or excitement of the earlier races. Emirates Team New Zealand were simply faster and extended right to the finish.
Apart from the pre-start, there were just no passing opportunities for Artemis.
There is no way round the fact that the New Zealand team have a rocketship, one that has been faster, more consistently than any other in the qualifiers or playoffs, and especially so upwind in breezes over 12 knots.
Bowing out of the competition, team patron Törbjorn Törnqvist confirmed that that the Artemis team would return to the America’s Cup and “come back even sharper”, while Iain Percy also said that Nathan Outteridge would again skipper the boat.
He left in doubt his own place on the sailing team (though not the management of it) saying: “Age definitely catches up with you I can tell you. It’ll be Nathan’s call about the best sailors but for me personally it’s not something I’m particularly attached to. I can assure you that, at 41, spinning those handles gets tough.”
Reflecting on the advantage that Emirates Team New Zealand had over them, Nathan Outteridge suggested a big part of it was the foil control systems on Emirates Team New Zealand.
Asked about the bikes New Zealand were using, Outteridge commented: “To be honest I think the bikes gave them an avenue to do things the other teams couldn’t do in hydraulic capabilities especially for adjusting their wing but I don’t think that’s the thing that won it for them.”
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Using pedal power not only gives Emirates Team New Zealand extra power for hydraulic systems, but is part of a set up that puts foil control in the hands of Blair Tuke and leaves Peter Burling free to think about tactics, whereas on Artemis (and indeed Oracle Team USA) foil rake is controlled by the helmsman using buttons or twist grips on the wheel.
Watch our video (below) from earlier in the series of Andy Claughton, chief technology officer of Land Rover BAR, explaining what the arrangement on Emirates Team New Zealand is believed to be.
Can Emirates Team New Zealand win the Cup?
Can Emirates Team New Zealand go on to beat Oracle Team USA in the Cup match, which will be played out over the next two weekends?
Rumours abound in the America’s Cup village in Bermuda. Many are saying that if the winds are stronger the Kiwi boat may be unbeatable.
Some believe the fact that Peter Burling is doing most of the tactics single-handedly is a disadvantage, but if it is one that Emirates Team New Zealand does suffer, it is always open to them to split that role. Today, for example, it looked as if there was a bit more chat between Burling and wing trimmer Glenn Ashby; up until now there has been remarkably little communication on board when compared with other teams’ conventional helmsman/tactician arrangement.
A new set of foil tips is also on the way to Emirates Team New Zealand, one their design team presumably think will be quicker in a key wind range.
Meanwhile, Oracle Team USA has been out doing starting practice with sister team SoftBank team Japan. Pre-start tactics have been regarded as one of Peter Burling’s weaknesses; this is a very public display of intent by Spithill.
But if Jimmy Spithill is going to try to psych out Peter Burling, as he did Dean Barker during the last America’s Cup, that may be more difficult to mess. Peter Burling is quite a phenomenon: a strange, impassive, unflappable genius.