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America's Cup Rialto: November 3 - Keeping it close on Course E

by Richard Gladwell, Sail-World NZ 3 Nov 2020 03:49 PST 4 November 2020
American Magic and Luna Rossa - Course E - Eastern Beach - Hauraki Gulf - November 3, 2020 - 36th America's Cup © Richard Gladwell /

American Magic's Patriot was the first to head out into the Hauraki Gulf today - heading into a 20kt easterly breeze and grey skies. Behind her more sailing travelled in one of the team RIBS. The guys on the AC75 foiling under tow at around 20kts, definitely got the better side of the deal - higher, drier and more stable.

Luna Rossa headed out about 30 minutes later, and the two enjoyed each other's company for the next four hours or so on Course E - off Eastern Beach, about 8nm east of Auckland.

The Protocol for the 36th America's Cup is very clear " there shall be no sailing or testing of AC75 Class Yachts in a coordinated manner..."

Of course the operative word is "coordinated" - which most assume excludes casual hookups as boats happen to be passing in the same piece of water.

It is a little hard to believe that these two AC75's didn't have a meaningful date, with one never too far from the other in the area known as the Tamaki Strait, which is approximately 10nm long and 2.3nm wide. With over 20sq nm of water to train in, it is hard to believe that it was completely co-incidental that the two AC75's found themselves so close together, and travelling in the same direction, so often.

Where one led the other followed, always in a position to be able to work out if there was a gain being made or otherwise.

They even took breaks together, with one starting sailing when they were ready to go and the other joining the party when they were ready.

It wasn't quite trialling on an equal basis. This was only the fourth sail for Luna Rossa, and they had more downtime than American Magic, who were the first to launch their AC75 and have been sailing solidly ever since.

For all the differing sailing time, unless the American were sandbagging, there wasn't really any discernible performance difference between the boats. Our first stop was on Musik Point, at the western end of Tamaki Strait, setting up around noon, as Patriot and Luna Rossa were set up side by side with Luna Rossa soon sailing through Patriot's lee.

The blue hulled Patriot was sailing in her normal stance - heeled to windward, with a lot of wash coming off her leeward foil at times. Luna Rossa was more upright, and with just fine spray coming off her leeward foil. Who knows if this was a serious hitout, or the two were just having a look at each other.

We've seen very little of Luna Rossa, but today she looked good, with no control problems in a breeze that was probably over the 23.5kt wind limit (before a race start) at times.

American Magic should now be well advanced in their development program. Patriot is a different boat from the scow hulled Defiant, which in these conditions a few weeks ago did "sky leaps" and a serious nose dive. Patriot is notable for her ability to be driven hard - particularly downwind. Upwind she doesn't seem to be as cranky as Defiant.

Luna Rossa was impressive, as she was the other day coming down the Rangitoto Channel, but doesn't quite seem to have the same ability to drive hard as Patriot. It looks like the crew are holding back a little while understandably they build confidence in the boat.

But in their many runs against Patriot it didn't appear that Luna Rossa was conceding ground in any way.

American Magic was the first to quit the session, heading down the side of Motuihe to drop the sails and get tidied away before towing back to Auckland. Luna Rossa followed an hour later.

Quite what happens from there with the enforcement of the prohibition on sailing or testing in a co-ordinated manner remains to be seen. The Regatta Director only has jurisdiction over racing, in the context of a regatta - and not test sailing several weeks beforehand.

Whether a team can be bothered making constant applications to the Arbitration Panel and enduring the hearing process, let alone cost per application, remains to be seen. One suspects not.

However even though this is the America's Cup, sailing is supposed to be a self-policing sport.

Today, INEOS Team UK kept their AC75 in the boatshed. The forecast for the next few days is for plenty of breeze - but maybe OK for racing.

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