Louis Vuitton skippers were left scratching their heads yesterday as the Hauraki Gulf's notorious windshifts dominated the first day's racing

Louis Vuitton skippers were left scratching their heads yesterday as the Hauraki Gulf’s notorious windshifts dominated the first day’s racing in the challenger yachting series for the America’s Cup.

The pre-race favoured syndicates of Prada, Young America and America One showed they deserved their status.

The boats of all three won both their races on the first day.

As well, the less favoured syndicates showed they would have problems keeping up with the quicker boats.

Switzerland’s entry Be Happy was sporting two keels, expected to be used as rudders to turn the boat. But they were left well behind their opponents, Luna Rossa of Prada, and Abracadabra 2000 from Hawaii, the latter of which beat the Swiss by more than 10 minutes. But Abracadabra skipper John Kolius was gracious in victory, putting the hefty win down to luck with the wind.

The Spanish were sporting a winged keel on Bravo Espana, and while they battled well, they were outsailed by both America One and Young America.

The mixed crew of America True were aboard perhaps the unlucky boat of the first day.

A likely semifinal contender, the United States entry finished the day without a point after striking America One and Young America in racing.

The boat was clearly quick downwind, but an early cross over the startline cost the team dearly against the Paul Cayard-skippered America One.

“We seem to go okay downwind, but at times we seem to struggle a bit upwind. We gave away America One a bit of a head start in the second race, we’ll try not to do that again,” America True skipper John Cutler said.

America One tactician John Kostecki said the wind changes had been as difficult as expected.

“Everybody said that this place is very shifty, and obviously it was quite a tricky day where on some of the spinnaker runs people had to put gibs up to get down to the bottom mark.

“It wasn’t a real straight-forward day, but I think that’s what we can expect here with more races to come.”

The wind was the last of Luna Rossa’s problems in the second race, when the crew failed to haul in the spinnaker quickly enough, losing it and mastman Simone de Mari overboard.

While de Mari was hauled back on board, the spinnaker had to be cut free. Luna Rossa rounded the second mark with no option but to turn right, and unluckily for their opponents Asura, of Japan, that proved to be the best side of the course.

A wind change picked up the Italians, and they cleared away for the rest of the race.

Today’s racing promised some interesting matchups.

Stars ‘n Stripes were to meet Abracadabra in what should be an interesting tussle with both teams likely to be battling for a semifinal berth, while Asura were to meet two of the big guns in Young America and America One.