The trading of blows in the America's Cup stopped today as Emirates Team New Zealand took both wins in a dominant performance
A crazy day on the waters of the Hauraki Gulf saw Emirates Team New Zealand the first boat to take both wins in a race day of this America’s Cup and now lead Italians, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli by five points to three in the first-to-seven-wins series.
Until now the racing in this America’s Cup has all come down to the starts with each boat looking fairly evenly matched. Today, however, things changed.
The forecast was for light and patchy winds and though the first race of the day saw the breeze around 10 and occasionally touching 12 knots, the wind fell way as racing progressed.
Jib selection was the key deciding factor. In race one the Kiwis selected a much smaller jib than the Italian team.
In the first pre-start the Italian helmsmen, Jimmy Spthill and Francesco Bruni, got the better of Peter Burling’s New Zealand team with the former much quicker and to windward crossing the startline. We have seen how hard it can be to make a pass in this series so far and it looked as though Emirates Team New Zealand might well struggle to get back into it.
As the race progressed, the wind started to build a touch and the kiwis, with their smaller jib started to look very fast indeed. By the first leeward gate, Burling and his team were in striking distance and a rounding and immediate tack at the leeward mark gave them a little split.
Using their clear boatspeed advantage the kiwis managed to overhaul the Italian team and take the lead. From here they never really looked back and extended in a style that would be depressing for Italian fans. Throughout the race New Zealand were consistently faster than the Italians, ending the race with a 2-3 knot speed advantage both upwind and down.
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Race one was different to what has come before in this regatta, seeing a pass and a clear boatspeed advantage for one of the teams. Race two of today’s America’s Cup compeition, however, was a case of wacky races as a decreasing wind saw both teams off their foils at various points.
Emirates Team New Zealand elected to keep their smaller jib for the second race and Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli chose to keep their bigger jib.
The start was another win for the Italian team who managed to keep close to leeward of New Zealand, forcing the Kiwis to tack off early. The pair kept it close up the first leg and, on the downwind, New Zealand were closing the gap and looked set to pass the Italians.
The Kiwis, could choose one of two options: roll over the top of the Italian team or gybe to allow their superior boatspeed to take the win when they next crossed. They chose the latter but in the light winds, they dropped off their foil after the gybe.
Watching the racing it looked as though Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli now had the race in the bag and, as the Kiwis struggled to get foiling again, the Italian team legged out to a 1000m lead.
The wind at the top marks had consistently been lighter all day and it was this light weather the Italians were sailing into as they approached the top gate. On their final tack back into the mark, the Italian team dropped off their foils and rounded the mark in displacement mode.
It’s hard to imaging what the sailors onboard Luna Rossa must have felt as they sailed back and forth at the windward gate trying desperately to get the boat foiling again as all the while, Burling and his team came rushing towards them. I imagine the thoughts would be unprintable.
The Italians had rounded the windward gate fully 4 minutes 27 seconds before the New Zealanders, but by the time the Kiwis rounded they top gate still foiling the Italian outfit had gone nowhere.
Burling and co. roared around the top marks and set off downwind with barely a glance back. By the finish, they were a full leg ahead of the struggling Italian team.
So what to make of the day’s racing? The second race of the day was a crazy spectacle but either team could have taken the win. The Kiwis did well to stay on their foils, even with a smaller jib, but we did not learn all that much.
The opening race of the day showed us a lot, and if you are an Italian fan, it is pretty ominous. In those 10-12 knot conditions with that sailplan the Kiwis were vastly quicker than their competition. Passing may be hard in this latest America’s Cup class, but there is no way of keeping a boat that is 2-3 knots quicker than you behind.
We close the day with Emirates Team New Zealand as the first team to win two races in the same day and it’s hard to imagine this is not the start of a trend…
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