The first race of the Summer of Sailing got underway on time today in San Francisco, with Emirates Team New Zealand sailing an uncontested race.
Despite the no-show of Italian Challenger, Luna Rossa, the New Zealand team took the race as full on practice, entering the pre-start area at full pace ahead of the race set to be sailed over the 40 minute course.
After cantering around in the start box at speeds of around seven or eight kts, before accelerating in the final eight seconds to hit speed of 30kts as she crossed the startline.
The remainder of the race then evolved into the expected exhibition of high speed sailing against the backdrop of the San Francisco waterfront, executing several foiling gybes, in winds that were being called at 15kts before the start.
Upwind, sailing into the incoming tide, Emirates Team NZ hugged the san Francisco shore, dodging the tide, and providing the bayside spectators with a real spectacle as the 72ft wingsailed catamaran hit speeds estimated at 21kts, dropping down to 14kts in a tack.
Winds increased slightly on the second downwind leg with one spectacular moment as the weather hull lifted higher than usual, before the AC72 lifted onto her foils and took off at speeds of over 35kts in the puff.
Interesting point to note was how little variation there was in sheeting angle up and downwind, as the boatspeed climbed into the high 30kts average as they scooted downwind and the apparent wind came well forward.
Although the race lacked a second competitor, from a technical perspective the race provided a unique and sustained view of an AC72 sailing, including plenty of overhead helicopter shots, showing deck detail and crew manoeuvres during gybes and tacks.
In the latter stages of the race the wind increased to 16-18kts, with the AC72 doing in excess of the windspeed upwind - sitting on 20-22kts, going at 25kts as she neared the top end of the race course for the final time.
Given all the talk there has been over the past few weeks over safety, and also noting that this race was sailed in just under the new wind limit of 20kts for the Round Robin phase of the Louis Vuitton Cup, there was never the slightest suggestion of an untoward moment
Hitting speeds of over 40kts on the final reach to the finish and crossing the line at a speed of 37kts.
Despite having reduced camera coverage compared to the final races for the America's Cup, visually this was a spectacular demonstration of high speed sailing. The LiveLine graphics were not intrusive, as they are in the America's Cup World Series, and showed up well on the course and its backdrops.
Probably the shot of the day was seeing the AC72 foiling at speeds of over 30knots while in the background fans dressed in shorts stood on the grass banks of Chrissie Field just a few metres away. Nvere seen that before in an America's Cup Regatta - and there were a lot of things in even this one-boat race that have never been seen before.
The next race is scheduled for July 13 between Luna Rossa and Emirates Team New Zealand, with the Jury Hearing on applications by both teams set down for tomorrow.
by Richard Gladwell and John Navas
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11:35 PM Sun 7 Jul 2013GMT
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