The same but different as both Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli take another win each in the 36th America's Cup

Another day of racing, another win each for the two teams competing in this 36th America’s Cup. Those are the headlines from the third day of racing in Auckland, which sees Emirates Team New Zealand attempting to defend the Cup from Challenger, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli. 

The late sailing writer, Bob Fisher, who passed away earlier this year, left us with a seminal work on the subject of the America’s Cup entitled An Absorbing Interest. We can’t say what Fisher would have made of this event but ‘absorbing’ certainly seems an apt adjective for the racing we are seeing on the waters of the Hauraki Gulf in Auckland, New Zealand. 

There might be those who had hoped for more passing in these races, that typically see the boat leading out of the start holding onto their lead to the finish, but the contest continues to be on a knife edge and this may yet become one of the closest Cups in the history of the event. 

Photo: ACE / Studio Borlenghi

The third day of racing in the 2021 America’s Cup took place in the lightest winds we have seen to date in the regatta, with 9 knots of breeze in the opening race of the day dropping away to 7-8 knots in the second.

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With Covid restrictions now reduced in Auckland, spectators could finally get into the America’s Cup race village to watch the racing, but still hundreds took to the water in all manner of vessels to watch the home team take on the Italians in this close fight for one of the oldest trophies in sport. 

After the first two days of racing, many had picked up on the theme of the victory always going to the boat who had port (and so first) entry to the start box. When asked if this was as significant an advantage as it appeared after yesterday’s racing, both Peter Burling – helm of Emirates Team New Zealand – and Jimmy Spithill – one of the helms of Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli – dismissed the notion, claiming it to be more a case of correlation than causation.  

Photo: ACE / Studio Borlenghi

The first race of the day went some way to expelling that myth as Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, with the starboard entry, gybed and sailed low, putting themselves beneath Emirates Team New Zealand. 

As both boats turned back for the line, it was quickly clear they were both early and would have to kill speed. We’ve seen throughout the event that the Italian boat has a very useful down speed mode and they used it in these circumstances to full effect, killing speed on the return to the line. 

Emirates Team New Zealand, however, dropped off their foils in the process of trying to slow and by the time the start gun fired, the kiwis where still trying to rebuild speed on their return to the line. 

From this point on, we once again saw Luna Rossa controlling the New Zealand boat, tacking on top of them at every opportunity on the upwinds legs, and leading across the finish line. 

Whether or not there is an advantage to the port tack entry, this win went against the grain of a series that has seen the two teams trading wins in each race. Perhaps this was the moment the Italian team could start to build some sort of momentum in the first-to-seven-wins series. 

With the Italians getting port entry on the second race, they had the chance to enter the startbox first. When they gybed back, Burling and his crew decided to tack giving themselves plenty of separation from the Italian team. 

The wind had been patchy all day and as the breeze dropped it was only becoming patchier. Now a touch lower in the startbox than they would have liked to be, the Italians found themselves in one of the big patches of light wind and going very slowly back to the line. 

Photo: ACE / Studio Borlenghi

It was easy work for the kiwis to bear off, build speed and shoot across the startline at the gun fired fully 150m to the good. 

The kiwis never looked back. Their boat might not point as high as Luna Rossa, it might not tack quite as well, but given space to sail their own race, the kiwi boat can be wicked-fast. They bolted away from the Italian team and crossed the line with a significant margin to make the series all square again. 

We return for yet more racing tomorrow and the forecast is for similar winds once more. These races might lack something of the street brawl cut-and-thrust we were expecting, there may not be passes aplenty, but the regatta itself? You’d have to say it’s an absorbing interest. 

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