Ben Ainslie's Land Rover BAR team score two 1sts and a 5th to top out leaderboard on first day of racing at the Louis Vuitton America's Cup World Series Portsmouth
Ben Ainslie’s Land Rover BAR team stamped the ‘bring the Cup home’ message on the first day of racing at Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series Portsmouth today by tying with French team Groupama at the top of today’s leaderboard. They scored a photo finish 5th place and two 1sts, delighting a huge home crowd gathered on the Southsea seafront.
A light breeze allowed only the briefest moments of foiling, but the slower racing threw up some exciting and occasionally farcical moments of drama: numerous position changes; three-boat raft-ups at the leeward mark; a few minor collisions and several protests. The incoming tide added another ingredient to a mix that shuffled the fleet repeatedly.
Land Rover BAR was outmanoeuvred by French team Groupama on the first leg of race one and never recovered their position in that race. But they left themselves able to find clear air and exploit the stronger breeze on the right hand side of the course on races two and three to build a decisive lead.
“In the first race we sailed with the other boats far too long and we ended up going backwards,” commented wing trimmer Paul Campbell James. “From that, the coaching team and the boys on board identified it was something we didn’t want to do and Ben and Ed [Powys, tactician], managed to get us away from the other boats and we could sail clean and fast.”
Franck Cammas’s team on Groupama showed today that they are perhaps the most improved in the series. They have been training hard, including a lot of time on two GC32 foiling catamarans, smaller but similar in style. Since January the sailing crew has included champion match racer Adam Minoprio, who was on board today as wing trimmer and tactician.
“The training we’ve put in on our starting paid off today and I’ve been trying to push Franck as hard as I could. I got a chance this week and it’s fantastic to get a good result.”
Emirates Team New Zealand and Artemis did not have such a good day. Team NZ had several stutters when their Code 0 gennaker did not furl smoothly through the tacks, losing them crucial momentum. The gennakers used upwind today were right on the limit and are physically very demanding. The team have also had a number of crew changes. Glenn Ashby is helming as Peter Burling and Blair Tuke are concentrating on preparations for the Olympics, and this new line-up seemed to be penalising them.
Artemis also had a crew change around, with Francesco Bruni on the helm. His first race on board the AC45 was during practice racing yesterday and his relative inexperience showed.
Attention will be focussed on Land Rover BAR again tomorrow. If Ainslie’s team is feeling any pressure, they aren’t showing it; they seem more excited than nervous.
We feel that we are sailing well. Ben’s getting amazing starts which is giving us a little jump. We seemed to have a mode upwind with the Code 0 that is moving us forward,” says Campbell James The French had a fantastic day and they are going to be hard to beat, but we are going to pull out all the stops for the home crowd tomorrow.”