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America's Cup Rialto: August 26 - Not a day for the faint-hearted

by Richard Gladwell/ 26 Aug 2020 07:08 PDT 23 August 2020
American Magic - Waitemata Harbour - August 26, 2020 - 36th America's Cup © Richard Gladwell /

The only AC75 on the Hauraki Gulf today was New York Yacht Club's Defiant, who braved 20-30kt winds to have a two hour training session off Auckland's East Coast Bays. The sailing area was a mass of whitecaps - testimony to the wind strength.

Conditions were well in excess of the wind limits that will prevail for the Prada Cup and even the 23kts set for the America's Cup Match. Although there are no real time wind measurement stations off the Bays, at the entrance to the Waitemata Harbour, the breeze was flicking between a 20-25 kt average and gusting in the 25-30kt range.

After being shore-bound for two days because of strong winds and heavy rain squalls, today - Wednesday - offered a slight respite, but it was still a surprise to see Defiant launch at 1130hrs and dockout just before 1300hrs.

On the training area the strong offshore wind while gusty did not kick up much of a sea state, and Defiant sailed mostly in relatively flat water.

The scow hulled AC75 looked more than fully loaded, as would be expected in that windstrength and they handled the conditions well - given they have had five months without sailing the boat due to the issues spinning out of the coronavirus.

This was a session to test out the crew rather than the boat, although Defiant seems to take it all in her stride, without any apparent damage. It was certainly a reality check and confidence builder for her 11 crew.

Given that the America's Cup races are only 35 minutes long - a two hour session in the upper-limit conditions was a very good effort.

Defiant raced down the Waitemata harbour under a fast tow, stopping off Takapuna to raise the sails, and do a couple of small runs before heading up to the East Coast Bays.

One of the chase boats had three marks sitting in its cockpit, but race training was an ambitious call in the conditions.

Instead Defiant sailed a few triangular courses, before applying the hand brake with a shower of spray, and going head to wind to drop the sails and tow home.

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