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America's Cup Rialto: August 30 - Te Aihe makes a slingshot exit from the Waitemata

by Richard Gladwell/ 1 Sep 2020 02:03 PDT 1 September 2020
Emirates Team New Zealand - Waitemata Harbour - August 30, 2020 - 36th America's Cup © Richard Gladwell /

Emirates Team New Zealand were the only team on the Waitemata on Monday, putting in a two hour session on Course C - which is expected to the predominant course used for the Prada Cup and the America's Cup.

The session consisted of a few speed runs, along with some mark roundings - with the breeze up and down in strength - as is typical for this course given its surrounding topology. Four volcanic cones surround the course, with the inner Waitemata Harbour acting as a funnel when the breeze is in a westerly direction. The real time readings from Predictwind showed fluctuations of 30 degrees of more, on the weather station on the Northern Leading harbour marker - about 1.5nm east of North Head.

The session was shorter that we are used to seeing from Emirates Team New Zealand, but passed without incident. There were only a couple of significant breaks - which looked to be more a time out for a chat with coaches and engineering team. From what we could see there were no timeouts for adjustments/repairs.

Te Aihe sailed the session with what appeared to be a #2 jib - which seemed to be about the right choice given the range of the wind strength.

The session was punctuated with localised rain squalls, which could be seen around the edges of the course. Te Aihe got on the front edge of one as she came out of the harbour for the last time, with the breeze going from 8kts to 20kts.

Te Aihe literally rocketed out of the harbour, with Peter Burling driving the AC75, pedal to the metal, like he had just robbed a Bank.

We could hear the usual warning sound of an approaching AC75 - not the high singing noise of the foils as happened on the AC50's - but the revving of banks of four 400hp Mercury outboards, on the two ETNZ chaseboats. They sound like a jet gunning its engines for takeoff - just the right sound effect.

The AC75 made a spectacular sight under full power - flying straight and level and without any control issues. It was a surreal sight, given that we couldn't see around the corner into the harbour where she started her run - and expected to see Te Aihe coming back at a sedate 25-30 knots. Instead she emerged like projectile emitted from a slingshot.

Having heard the "warning signal" from the chase boat and recon fleet, the camera was set up and ready with the focus length just right. Unbelievably she seemed to gather speed as she moved down the harbour with the wind from dead astern, and extreme apparent wind angle causing the sails to be sheeted hard into the centreline.

Neither team was on the harbour today, Tuesday, due to fresh winds. American Magic's race boat will arrive by Antonov later this week, the other challengers are expected to deliver theirs later this month.

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