Emirates Team New Zealand is quickly becoming the star of the show at the America’s Cup World Series – Cascais, Portugal. For the second consecutive day, the New Zealanders earned maximum points, after beating Artemis Racing in a match racing duel for first place to conclude a full day of racing.
The Emirates team picked up where they left off yesterday, winning two of the three fleet races to qualify at the top of the pile for the match racing final. Then, they beat the Artemis Racing crew handily, when the Swedish team accumulated a series of penalties around the race course.
'It’s very satisfying for us to feel like we are really improving and starting to get more and more to grips with the multihulls,' said a very understated Dean Barker, the New Zealand skipper, when he returned to the dock.
The battle for third and fourth on the day was between ORACLE Racing stable mates Russell Coutts and James Spithill. But the highly anticipated match was nearly over before it began, as Coutts was forced to restart after he jumped the line ahead of the starting gun, handing an insurmountable lead to Spithill.
There were also flashes of brilliance from many of the teams further down the table, as Team Korea, Energy Team and China Team all performed well at various times during the day. The Koreans beat Energy Team for fifth place, while China Team led for much of the third fleet race before it all unraveled during the second lap of the course.
'It’s been a difficult day,' admitted China Team skipper Mitch Booth. 'We sort of saw glory and ran the other way… In the last race we were leading for the first lap but then we had a crew handling error and that cost us from qualifying for the match racing. But we are happy with the team’s performance and the improvement. We are racing against the best teams in the world, so we are relatively happy.'
Among the guest racers on Thursday was America’s Cup legend John Bertrand, the skipper of Australia II, the first challenger to win the Cup in 1983. In the previous 132-years of America’s Cup competition, no visiting team had been able to pry the trophy from the defending teams of the New York Yacht Club. Bertrand’s team won a thrilling come-from-behind victory that changed the course of sporting history. He sailed in the Cup as recently as 1995, and has been a keen observer ever since.
'This was my first race on an AC45,' he said. 'The boats are extremely physical and the racing puts the crews under tremendous pressure to make the right decision at the right time. There is no margin for error… We haven’t seen anything yet!'
The daily seeding points from yesterday and today’s races will be added to points earned on Friday to determine Saturday’s finalists for the AC Match Race Championship. Only the top six teams will advance to race on Saturday.
The event concludes on Sunday with the AC World Series – Cascais Championship, a 'winner takes all' fleet race that will determine the winner of the first stage on this new global professional circuit. The AC World Series continues with events in Plymouth, England in September and San Diego, California in November.