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America's Cup: First impressions of Regatta and Media Trials

'Day 2 - America’s Cup Trials'    ACEA - Photo Gilles Martin-Raget ©    Click Here to view large photo

Two days of testing in the America's Cup Regatta and Media Trials have concluded.

Conditions for both days have been quite different - with breezes at the top end of the scale on Tuesday and more moderate winds today, Wednesday.

Today winds lightened from 16-17 kts at the start of the test round to 4-5kts at the end.

America’s Cup Trials, the view from afar -  © Richard Gladwell?nid=82899   Click Here to view large photo

From our vantage point on the top of North Head, overlooking the race course, it was hard to get enthused about the racing, albeit in light winds. Surprisingly there was some hull flying in the light airs for the final race, however at a distance the sailing was pedestrian, and not significantly different from what has been seen from the same vantage point with monohulls.

However this was not a fair test from which to draw any conclusions, conducted in the lee of Rangitoto Island, with some shifts and obvious differences in pressure.


When considering first impressions, one has to include the fact that these are 45fters with 21metre tall wingsails. The real thing will be almost double in length, double in beam and with a 38metre tall wingsail.

To compare apples with apples, one has to visualise a fleet of five 45ft long AC style monohulls - and that would be seriously dull - and nothing like their multihull equivalents which are on show/under test this week.

What we did see in the last race today, and probably the tamest to date, was typical catamaran racing, with margins and angles changing quite dramatically.

Maybe some see this as being exciting, with the result in doubt until the end.

The reality is that positioning on the course and picking up more pressure or a better angle will make a lot more difference to the margin, within reason, than a difference in hull shape or wingsail design.


Of course it is still one matter to catch up a competitor, but another to pass.

The other issue that fans will have to come to grips with is the issue of stadium racing. Fascinating it might be, but is it the America's Cup.

For many the concept of the America's Cup is two boats going head to head, sorting out who is really the best over 20 minute legs on an open sea course in even breeze, or relatively constant direction.

That is a long way different from six minute beats - which might make for spectacular television viewing, and great entertainment - but is it the America's Cup, or exhibition racing?

Time will tell how the fans react, and whether the format is sufficiently exciting to pull new punters.


Here's how the America's Cup.com blog saw the first two days of the Trials:

It's been a good week for Emirates Team New Zealand. A few days ago, the Kiwi team announced it had secured its funding to see it through this challenge for the Cup. And this week, the team is showing good pace during the test sessions off Auckland.

According to tactician Ray Davies, the team is over the steep part of the learning curve and is more comfortable with each day on the water.


'I think we're doing really well to be honest,' he said following the second day's session. 'We feel we're up there with ORACLE sailing on these boats. They've probably still got a slight edge, but it's pretty small. A few things go their way or your way and you're going to be in front.

'A lot of it is starting and Dean does a really good job there. Speed wise we're fine, so a lot of it is boat handling and we're doing alright there. It almost feels already like we're not looking for massive gains anymore, we're looking for the little details of getting better.'







And Day 1:

On a day of testing the limits, ORACLE Racing capsized and Emirates Team New Zealand grabbed a start mark. And that's just two of among dozens of near misses and thrills and spills. Not a bad way to start the week.

Day 1 of the New Zealand test event showed the promise and potential of the upcoming America's Cup World Series as five AC45s braved gusty, blustery and variable conditions on the waters off Auckland on Tuesday.


ACRM's Race Committee team was able to test several race course configurations as well as the new Umpire system in conditions that ranged from 22-25 knots to a period when the wind dropped below 5 knots, with everything in between.

The strongest conditions came at the beginning and end of the day, and it was during and after the final start sequence of the afternoon when most of the action came.

See video from the day here.

First, the ACRM AC45 nearly capsized moments before the start, but made a remarkable recovery near the pin end.

Moments later, Emirates Team New Zealand had the misfortune of getting the start mark entangled on their leeward rudder. As the boat slowed, the Kiwis too nearly capsized, before eventually freeing themselves.

All of this foreshadowed the main event - ORACLE Racing, skippered by Jimmy Spithill, and fighting hard for position on the downwind leg, buried its bows and rolled into a capsize.


'We were pushing really, really hard,' Spithill explained. 'We ended up having a capsize, we just weren't quite set up right for that run. But it was a good experience. I think everyone will go through this... I don't think it will be the last time.'

No one was injured in any of the incidents today and the ORACLE Racing boat suffered minor damage to the wing. But Spithill expects to be sailing again on Wednesday.

On the race management side, Regatta Director Iain Murray also declared the day a success.

'I think it's fair to say we tested a lot of things and found some we need to work on further, but at the end of the day we've brought together a bunch of teams as well as a whole lot of new systems and that's what it's all about. Generally our equipment worked and everyone is now getting familiar with it,' Murray said.

'I think the teams learned a lot as well. The teams pushed it about as far as they need to push it today but everyone lives to sail another day and we'll be out there again tomorrow.

'All in all a good day.'






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by Richard Gladwell and Event Media

  

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9:47 AM Wed 27 Apr 2011 GMT






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