Emirates Team New Zealand took a short test sail in Plymouth on Thursday afternoon, in preparation for the opening fleet races of the America's Cup World Series on Saturday.
'We just went out for a quick sail, but it was good,' said wing trimmer Glenn Ashby. 'There is a lot more current and tide than what we experienced in Cascais, so I think that will play a big part in the decision-making process.'
The forecast for the opening weekend of the America's Cup World Series - Plymouth is for strong winds in the 20+ knot range, with squalls bringing gusts approaching 30 knots (35 mph, 55 kph) - right on the limit for the AC45s. The strong winds are predicted to peak on Sunday afternoon at an average of 27kts (higher gusts) before moderating later on Sunday afternoon and Monday, before kicking back in again on Tuesday.
The America's Cup World Series is a preliminary to the 34th America's Cup, being sailed in one design wingsailed catamarans, which are 45ft overall length. The teams that go on to compete in the Louis Vuitton Cup and America's Cup will need to build at least one 72ft catamaran to an open design rule. No points carry forward from the ACWS into the LVC or AC, and the courses are much shorter than will be used for the America's Cup in San Francisco. The purpose of the AC45 and ACWS is to provide a platfiorm for crews and teams to step up into the bigger 72ft America's Cup catamarans.
'Things start to get pretty exciting in anything more than 25 knots,' Ashby says. 'The boats are great, they handle well, but once you get near 30 knots, it becomes survival modes. We've sailed in 26-27 knots training in New Zealand and that was about the top end for us.
'You can get around in more than that, but it's quite hairy. If you do everything right, the boats are no problem. The boat handling side becomes more important when it gets really, really windy and the guys who do that smoothly and accurately will end up at the top of the fleet.'
Emirates Team NZ Kiwis claimed honours as the top team in Cascais, with a second place finish in the match racing and a win in the fleet racing segments of the regatta. But Ashby says he's expecting close racing up and down the fleet in Plymouth.
'At the end of the day all the teams will have improved since then,' he says. 'The racing here will be as good or better than Cascais. Some of the newer teams will have sailed more since then, so they'll be better. I think the sails will be better for some teams so I think the racing is going to be quite tight here.'
Emirates Team New Zealand wasn't alone in training on Thursday. In fact, the only team yet to take to the water in Plymouth is Oracle Racing. But both American crews are scheduled to sail on Friday.
The opening press conference for the AC World Series - Plymouth will take place at 1100 local time (GMT+1) on Friday, with all nine skipper in attendance. It will be streamed live on the AC YouTube channel?nid=88255