Five teams crowded the podium on Sunday at the for the first round of the America’s Cup World Series – Cascais.
The opening weekend ended with some champagne sailing across the two events. On Sunday, large crowds on the beach and in the spectator fleet enjoyed front row seats with the racing just meters from the shore.
Emirates Team New Zealand were double winners on the day, claiming top spot in the AC Cascais Preliminaries after four fleet races and then going on to record the fastest run in the AC 500 Speed Trial.
'We are happy how it went,' said skipper Dean Barker. 'But we know we have a lot to keep up with. It’s nice; a good feeling to start the week, but there is a lot we need to improve on.'
OracleE Racing Coutts won today’s long fleet race, stealing victory from Emirates Team New Zealand after a member of the crew fell overboard. The Kiwis did their best to hang on, but Coutts managed to grind down the shorthanded New Zealand crew just a few hundred meters from the finish, giving the American team victory in the race and second place overall, with Sweden’s Artemis Racing in third spot.
In the AC500 Speed Trial, the top three teams needed their third and final runs to record their fastest speeds. The Kiwis, after a disappointing first two tries, had a perfect set-up for their final attempt, screaming down the track at an average speed of 42.35 kph.
They were followed closely by Team Korea (39.28) and China Team (37.43), two of the newer, less-practiced teams in the AC45 catamaran. Despite a relative lack of time on the boats, China Team’s skipper shared his philosophy for recording a fast run: 'There are only two speeds to these boats,' said Mitch Booth. 'Flat out, and stopped!'
But the headline incident on the day was the man overboard on Emirates Team New Zealand.
Winston Macfarlane, one of the big grinders on board, was washed overboard during a fast maneuver at a turning mark halfway through the race. Macfarlane was grinding a winch when the winch handle snapped, meaning he lost his balance as the boat accelerated out of the turn. While Macfarlane swam to safety and hauled himself on to the nearby mark-boat, Barker’s crew was obliged to sail the rest of the course short-handed.
Sailing the second half of the race with just four men meant their crew work was slower and they had less weight on the side of the boat to balance the power of the wing rig. Oracle Racing Coutts could smell blood and attacked the vulnerable Kiwi crew on the final beat to the finish, finally stealing victory in the final moments of the race.
Despite the loss in the race, Emirates Team New Zealand could claim an historic double win on the day, launching their campaign for the 34th America’s Cup in style.