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RS Sailing 2021 - LEADERBOARD

America's Cup Rialto: December 14 - A race at last - Practice Day 4

by Richard Gladwell, Sail-World NZ 14 Dec 2020 05:00 PST 14 December 2020
Luna Rossa crosses ahead of American Magic - sailing downwind- America's Cup World Series Practice - Waitemata Harbour - December 14, 2020 - 36th Americas Cup © Richard Gladwell /

After four days of practice racing, the four America's Cup teams finally managed to have a contested race - the first ever sailed in the AC75 class.

What should have been an historic moment came more as sense of relief. As the day turned out race organisers were lucky to get a race in at all.

As the teams left the inner Waitemata and headed for a new course area - Course A, off Auckland's North Shore, the northerly breeze looked set to settle and build onto a nice seabreeze, for which Takapuna is renowned.

The first race of the day, got underway at 1410hrs, between Emirates Team New Zealand and INEOS Team UK. While the prestart was keenly contested, INEOS Team UK was penalised for starting early (OCS) the British boat came off her foils and was unable to get back on her feet and could only watch the kiwis sail off. Fortuitously for the British, Emirates Team New Zealand failed to make it up the 1.7nm first leg within the required time limit of 12 minutes, and the race was abandoned.

The second race between Luna Rossa and American Magic, was a more spirited affair, after the clock restarted once, presumably due a minimum wind limit not being reached in the specified period.

The Italian emerged from the start with a small lead of under 4 seconds, and to windward of American Magic. Initially Luna Rossa covered the New York Yacht Club's entry. By the time the race had entered its second windward leg, Luna Rossa, with its twin helmsmen - Jimmy Spithill and Francesco Bruni began to sail their own race and extended further to achieve an 18second advantage at the end of the 1.7nm first leg, but that was cut to 12 seconds at the second mark.

Luna Rossa extended to a 39 second lead on Leg 3 upwind. American Magic held the margin to 39 secs at the finish - giving the Italians the honour of winning the first ever official race sailed in AC75's.

There didn't appear to be any passing lanes in the 7-8kt seabreeze and it is no surprise that American Magic could not find a way through the dark hulled Italian.

The reality is that the race was won at the start, with Spithill scoring another win over his old rival Dean Barker.

The next race was a rerun of the first between INEOS Team UK and Emirates Team New Zealand. Ben Ainslie got the UK boat across the start line just 2 secs after the New Zealanders. This time the British boat appeared to come of its foils shortly after the start, and was unable to lift off - leaving the kiwis to sail away, once again. This time the wind stayed up and the Kiwis were able to sail out the course.

The hapless British retired 10 minutes after the race start.

The third race of the day got into one start sequence with both USA and NZL incurring starting penalties.

Again they were saved from a penalty when the a minimum wind limit timer reset the start.

Around 5.30pm the breeze was not building and the teams hitched up the towlines and headed back to their respective bases, with the Italians and British being the first to head home, with the USA pulling out five minutes later and the Kiwis a minute after that.

There was no evidence on the water of any gear issues or breakdowns, and the lack of wind was the key issue for the teams and Race Committee, who performed admirably.

It always brings a small smile, to hear the voices of Iain Murray - who has had a long involvement in the Cup dating back to when he was a skipper in the 1987 Defence in Fremantle, and Mattie Mason, a four times America's Cup winner - who is laying/moving the windward mark. With that sort of expertise on the water you get the feeling that this regatta is in very good hands.

Ironically while the Pacific ocean side of the isthmus on which Auckland situated, had light to moderate north easterly winds, on the opposite Tasman Sea coast, an 18kt, gusting 25kt westerly breeze had been blowing all afternoon.

It didn't really make its presence felt until the AC75's entered Auckland Harbour - underscoring the point about sailing the America's Cup regattas on harbour courses, and for the delayed start time of 4.00pm (NZT).

The final Practice Race will be held tomorrow afternoon. The forecast is for more of the same.

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