The two match favourites, Oracle Team USA and Emirates Team New Zealand, both gave a great demonstration of tactical smarts and top boathandling on day 2 of the America's Cup qualifiers
After a second day of racing in the America’s Cup qualifiers, a picture is beginning to form of the top teams as defenders Oracle Team USA and Emirates Team New Zealand claimed the best results of the day.
Conditions were difficult, with the wind shifting up to 30 degrees and varying between 8 and 16 knots, and teams that made mistakes in boathandling, manoeuvres or tactics were soon crushed. Looking confident and fast, defenders Oracle Team USA came out a win over Land Rover BAR and SoftBank Team Japan, but a loss to Artemis Racing, putting them at the top of the table at the end of the day.
Skipper Jimmy Spithill put it this way: “Boatspeed didn’t really matter today. It was about avoiding those minefields.”
But if Oracle Team USA looked solid, Emirates Team New Zealand if anything appeared more so. Riding high on their foils, the Kiwis were consistently making excellent manoeuvres with beautiful foiling tacks that ought to be in the textbooks – when those books are written.
In their first race of the day, eyes were on the so-called grudge match against Dean Barker’s SoftBank Team Japan – the team he once sailed for versus the breakaway faction he now represents.
It was a close contest until Emirates Team New Zealand hooked themselves into a right hand shift on the upwind leg and off they went, never to be caught. They followed that up with a scything 1m 28s victory over Land Rover BAR.
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All-nighter at Land Rover BAR
Land Rover BAR emerged late this morning after an all-nighter by the boatbuilding team. After their pre-start bash against SoftBank Team Japan yesterday, they had to cut out a large part of the port hull – almost 30 per cent of the total – before rebuilding: carbon skins over 20mm aluminium honeycomb.
This Herculean effort got Land Rover BAR back out on the course, but the team were unable to win today in their races against the two big beasts of the series, Oracle Team USA and Emirates Team New Zealand. The former race included a quite severe plant after the windward mark that turned a 10m deficit into 300m in a matter of seconds, something that typifies how severely minor mistakes are punished in this new race format.
Their performance prompted some to speculate that perhaps there were control issues, a knock-on from the damage. But afterwards Ainslie insisted not. He put it down to: “a few boat handling errors, mistakes and tactical errors round the course.”
All is far from lost for the British team, which carried two points into the qualifiers from their win in the America’s Cup World Series, and so are now lying joint 2nd with Emirates Team New Zealand in the points table. But Ainslie and the Land Rover BAR team will need to work out how to eliminate those boathandling errors they confessed to – and fast.
Turnaround performance for Groupama Team France
The big surprise of the day was the turnaround performance of Groupama Team France. Cammas and his crew went out and made a mockery of predictions and punditry by executing near perfect foiling tacks and gybes to win their first race of the day over Artemis Racing.
And another surprise: Artemis turned out with different daggerboards in each hull. Were they hedging their bets for such variable wind conditions? Whatever the reason, they could not catch Groupama Team France yet carried on to a significant win over Oracle Team USA.
What does this all mean? Well, as Jimmy Spithill said, this is not merely about raw boat speed or having the fastest boats. These shifty and puffy conditions, said to be typical in the Great Sound of Bermuda, make foil trimming and steering particularly difficult and that opens up opportunities for teams against the odds.
While we are beginning to see a suggestion of cream rising to the top, racing today saw lead changes even within a single leg, so there are almost bound to be some upsets as they finish this round robin tomorrow and head into RR2.