First America's Cup outing yesterday, first win today
Yesterday saw China’s first ever participation in America’s Cup racing, today saw the country’s first ever win in this league as they ran circles around the South African Shosholoza team. In fact, the South African’s were lucky to escape with a simple loss, in four of the five minutes before the start the brand new version five boat RSA 8* sat dead in the water, stalled and a sitting duck while the Chinese team prowled around the start box area eyeing up the South Africans up for a port and starboard penalty.
The South African’s went nowhere for most of the pre-start period while the China Team made three attempts to stick a penalty on their opponents. Each time the South African’s just managed to wriggle out of trouble by trimming the main to swing themselves out of the way.
“Unfortunately it was the first proper dial up we have tried in this boat and Iain [Ainslie] didn’t get a feel for the steering. We dialled up and then were sitting there like a duck in the water with the Chinese shooting at us,” said Tim Kreuger of Shosholoza. “The boat is a lot different to 48, but we’ve got to get used to it. That is something we do step by step every day, it’s a hard and harsh climb for us, but we are going to get there.”
Their problems were compounded by the failure of some of their hydraulics and the loss of masthead instruments, all of which made life difficult even after they had recovered from their scare in the box.
Meanwhile the Chinese team made up largely of French Le Defi members, steamed off the line and led the way around the course to take victory by a decent margin.
“It was a great day to get our first point for China in the America’s Cup. We had a super match against the South Africans,” said Philippe Mourniac, tactician aboard the China Team boat. “In performance, I think they were a little bit better than us. But we had a great start. It was tough though because they were always pushing from behind.”
In the second race they were not quite so lucky and were themselves led by the nose by the Swedish Victory team who appear to have got back into the groove they stepped out of in Auckland with ease. Of the middle group teams, this will be one to watch out for this season. A quick boat, a dedicated team will be taken seriously by the big boys.
But while the South African’s had endured a humiliating start to their first ever dial up, they proved in the second race that they’re not here to whinge and whimper and that learning is the key to success. In a straight line this boat looks good, turning the corners is nowhere near the nightmare that it was last season, but with so much broken tackle on board and a rig that was never meant to be, changing gear in a race is nigh on impossible.
Elsewhere, among the other interesting matches in the lower divisions, Iain Percy’s team aboard 39 showed that they too have learned plenty since last season displaying a confident approach to the pre-start against BMW Oracle. Naturally, the result was a win to the big boys but the chase was fun to watch while it lasted.
At the top end, the big four all ended the day unbeaten over the last two, but tomorrow things will be different.
Decent pairings between the big boys will add some spice to the racing and guarantee that a few of them will come home with their tails between their legs. In the lower ranks there are some interesting matches too, not least the race between Mascalzone Latino in their new boat, the former Stars and Stripes, against their old boat now owned by the German team which is known to be good in light airs.
Having yet to score a point the most recent of the Italian teams to enter the event will be feeling the pressure, but I can’t imagine that being beaten by the boat you sold on will go down well either.
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