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America's Cup Rialto: Nov 16 - Three AC75s workout on a congested Course D

by Richard Gladwell, Sail-World NZ 16 Nov 01:12 PST 16 November 2020
American Magic - Waitemata Harbour - November 16, 2020 - 36th America's Cup © Richard Gladwell /

What will be one of the more significant weeks in the 36th America's Cup, got under way today with the three Challengers all finishing up on Course D, in the area known as Motukorea Channel.

The area is edged by Rangitoto to the north, Motuihe to the east and Browns Island (Motukorea) to the south. It is shown as Course D on the America's Cup locations - but it was originally included as one of two foul weather options. Whether it stays that way for the Prada Cup and America's Cup remains to be seen.

It was termed a Race Area, a few weeks ago, when the two Stadium Courses B and C were dropped by decision of the Arbitration Panel, after the Ports of Auckland didn't have the nous to scale back their port access requirements post-COVID19, and just let the matter play out.

Course D is not a great piece of water - and won't really take a NE/SW orientated course (the prevailing breeze in Auckland) - and comes with the complication of a few reefs along its southern edge. It is a major fast ferry thoroughfare.

American Magic was first out today, docking out around 1230hrs - followed by INEOS Team UK and Luna Rossa mid-afternoon - around 1430hrs. The afternoon started with grey overcast skies and got progressively more dull - culminating in rain in the late afternoon.

The US Challenger initially went out onto Course A, off Takapuna Beach, and looked to be testing a Code Zero, before cutting away and joining the other two on the Course D area.

At least one of the teams had laid marks, but in the hour and a half we watched they didn't seem to get much use - except maybe as a target if they happened to be in the way of one of the three teams.

The Brits seemed to have staked a claim at the eastern Motuihe end of the area, with the Italians staying in the western or City end. The USA, when they arrived worked across the two.

Even with the three Challengers in the same area, there didn't seem to be any attempts at the outlawed testing or sailing "in a coordinated manner" against other competitors - even though there was plenty of opportunity to inadvertently do so.

Instead they all seemed focussed on speed runs in various directions, foiling easily in the 10-15kt SW breeze. Speedwise, they didn't appear to be noticeably different than Te Aihe, however time will tell on that one.

All were wearing #2 jibs, with Luna Rossa changing jibs presumably to test other options in the same size.

Takeouts from today were that the boatspeed looked quite even - although it is near impossible to tell - except when the boats are sailing the same course - and then there no surety that one or both aren't sandbagging. More obvious was the absence of the control issues that plagued American Magic's Defiant - being the only Boat 1 to sail in Auckland other than the Kiwis in Te Aihe.

The latter also had their issues in the early days, but seemed to iron out the wrinkles, while Defiant's stayed with her until she was retired.

Today the AC75's all seemed to be sailing at race pace, and without too many of the blowouts - capsizes, sky jumps, rolls to windward or leeward and the like. The probable reasons for the settling down are twofold - the crews learning how to sail the fickle AC75, and improved control systems along with a greater range of rudder rake and consequent control over the angle of the rudder wing.

Later this week Emirates Team New Zealand will formally launch their second AC75, and for the first time all four AC75's that will contest the Prada Cup and America's Cup will be sailing on the Waitemata.

Practice racing is expected to be held in advance of the Christmas Cup/America's Cup World Series Auckland, which starts on December 17.

Preliminary racing was always planned for the first ACWS regatta in Cagliari, Sardinia in late April - for reasons of race management, safety and to give the crews racing experience ahead of the ACWS Regatta in December. Several practice race events were held ahead of the 2017 America's Cup in Bermuda for similar reasons in the AC50 despite the crews having sailed their race boats for three months.

The weather forecast for the rest of the week shows good sailing conditions through to Sunday, with conditions close to the upper wind limit forecast for Wednesday.

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