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America's Cup Rialto: December 10 - When will the gloves come off?

by Richard Gladwell, Sail-World NZ 10 Dec 2020 02:11 PST 10 December 2020
Luna Rossa - Practice Racing - America's Cup World Series - December 10, 2020 - Waitemata Harbour - America's Cup 36 © Richard Gladwell /

We've never read much into Invitation Races - held to give competitors and officials a test run-through before the start of the Main Event.

Too often we've seen a super-hot fleet line up for the Invitation Race of a major world championship, and after a couple of general recalls, half the fleet pulls out at the top mark, leaving the rest to sail what they will, and then everyone has an early night, after a thorough check of the boat.

At the end of the regatta, the invitation race outcome showed nothing of what evolved in the main event.

The past two days of Practice Racing in the America's Cup World Series preliminary, looks just like typical Invitation Racing.

How else would you describe only two of the four teams front for the second day of racing, today, Thursday - after they had a day off from the first day of racing on Tuesday.

How else would you describe the "start" of Race 3 today, when Luna Rossa had a slingshot start at full place - but 14 seconds ahead of the official start time.

Emirates Team New Zealand follows - beating the start clock by 3 seconds, and sets off after Luna Rossa, on the same line with both sailing fast of starboard tack - and then the Kiwis start climbing nicely off the hip of the Italians? Did Burling hit the elevator? Or did Jimmy Spithill (starboard helmsman aboard the Italian Challenger) decide to bear off a little and make the kiwis look good. Hard to believe it was a windshift that lifted Emirates Team New Zealand, and by passed Luna Rossa.

If it was Luna Rossa sailing into a knock, why didn't they lift out on Emirates Team New Zealand when they tacked?

ETNZ rounds the top mark ahead and is around 30 seconds ahead at the bottom. Are those margins real - or had the Italians buttoned off soon after the start of the first beat? Or is Te Rehutai the "super-boat"?

Mainstream media would have that there are all sorts of issues with Challenger breakdowns etc, but the reality is that if shore support teams really have to perform, they can work near miracles.

We saw that twice in the last America's Cup in Bermuda, where Land Rover BAR's shore team fixed overnight a hole in an AC50 hull that was big enough for someone to climb through. That was dried, cut out , a new hull section laid up, secured in place and painted - all ready to race the next day. Similarly with Emirates Team New Zealand's pitchpole - again some catastrophic damages was repaired overnight and able to race a day later.

Looking back at the daily sailing log of American Magic and INEOS Team UK, they have put in a reasonable number of sailing days. American Magic probably the most of all of the Challengers. They've all put in some long hours on the water - and it is hard to believe they have collapsed in a heap after just a couple of hours of practice racing.

More likely that there are some repairs underway, along with upgrades - which will be tested next week during the America's Cup World Series and Xmas Cup.

But again how seriously that event will be taken also has to be questioned.

The objective of the Challengers is to relieve the Defender of the burden of the America's Cup. One strategy to achieve that objective is to deprive the Defender of racing experience.

The only real target practice the Defender, Emirates Team New Zealand will get ahead of the America's Cup in early March - is in next week's four day ACWS.

The Challengers get five weeks of solid racing in the Prada Cup during January and February. Maybe that schedule explains what we have seen Tuesday and Thursday - and with Emirates Team New Zealand being left to sail alone on Friday.

The only group who seem to taking the current series seriously are the Race Committee. And they are certainly getting a solid workout.

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