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Selden 2020 - LEADERBOARD

America's Cup World Series: Day 1 - Live play by play reports from the Waitemata

by Richard Gladwell Sail-World NZ 16 Dec 2020 03:08 PST
American Magic - America's Cup World Series - Day 1 - Waitemata Harbour - December 17, 2020 - 36th Americas Cup presented by Prada © Richard Gladwell /

Racing will get under way in the America's Cup World Series at 3.00pm New Zealand time.

This story is our rolling updates for the day

Four races will be sailed on the opening day with racing set up for Course C - the Stadium course - between Rangitoto Island and Orakei Wharf.

The conditions are idea for sailing AC75's with a SSW breeze of 16-18kts which is expected to stay steady for the racing.

Overhead there are blue skies and bright sunshine, as the spectator fleet move into position the competitors are yet to leave the Viaduct Harbour.

First race is set down for 3.00pm between Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa.

Race 1 - Emirates Team New Zealand vs Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli

For more than three years, the yachting world has been salivating over images and footage of the AC75 class. Perhaps never before has there been so much exchanging of rumours and hearsay about what we could expect from the America's Cup. Today's racing wasn't likely to give us much of an insight on who would win the event, but it held a lot of interest for sailing experts and and amateurs alike because it would be the first time the public would get some actual concrete numbers on what these boats are capable of and we were not disappointed - upwind both Luna Rossa and ETNZ made sailing upwind in the high 30 knot range in 15 knots of wind seem pedestrian. Downwind, we saw VMG numbers well north of 40 knots.

As for the result, ETNZ entered the start box first, beginning the event with some standard match racing tactics, working to gain a tight-to-leeward position as the boats approached the line. Luna Rossa bailed out and tacked off towards the right hand side of the course before the line and when the boats came back together ETNZ passed a few lengths in front, and that is the last time Jimmy Spithill and Co. saw the Kiwi boat. Burling and the NZ entry stepped out to a 700m lead by the first top mark. Luna Rosa looked to be sailing a high slow mode compared to the Kiwis. By the first bottom mark they were 1:15 behind.

Lap 2 saw Luna Rossa hold it together much better, not gaining or losing any ground to speak of, but on the third lap, ETNZ stepped out again and thanks to a botched tack near the final top mark by Luna Rossa, won by close to three minutes.

Race 2 - American Magic vs Ineos Team UK

Ineos battled hydraulic issues right before the start but got away cleanly. Dean Barker and crew, aboard American Magic looked pretty well at home on the Hauraki Gulf, sailing away from Ineos to a 50 second lead at the first top mark.

Race two looked to have slightly less breeze than the previous heat, with even American Magic not hitting the same numbers as the boats in the earlier race, sailing around three knots slower than ETNZ and Luna Rossa on the first beat to windward.

Ineos' problems reared their head again on the first downwind, giving spectators - and sailors - their first scare of the event. Onboard communications from the British boat suggested that they had some rudder control issue which led to a minor spin-out during their first gybe. Slipping off the foils let American Magic sail out to an 1,800 metre lead by the time they turned at the first bottom mark.

By the next top mark, the breeze was averaging 17 knots, gusting 21. These conditions made for a fairly dramatic bear away and plenty of white water as they accelerated away to a lead of 2,400m and setting off towards the bottom mark at 37 knots.

Both crews look to sail the boat a lot higher than those in the previous race, with the leeward foil tip often scratching through the surface of the water and much more daylight under their hull than the likes of ETNZ.

Ineos looked to have battled control issues throughout the race, however they did look strong and weren't shy of pace when they did have it in the groove. Ben Anslie and crew would finish their first outing more than 3,500m behind Dean Barker's American Magic, being awarded a DNF.

Race 3 - Ineos vs Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli

Jimmy Spithill was up to his old tricks in the pre-start against Ineos, getting up close and personal and scoring a double whammy on Ben Ainslie, forcing them off the foils and winning a penalty. The result was that Spithill and co-helm Francesco Bruni piloted Luna Rossa around the top mark 1:09 in front.

The breeze was up a little more in this race, now averaging 16 knots but gusting up to 24 knots at the weather beacon on Bean Rock that is situated 2/3 of the way up the beat on this Racecourse C.

Ineos went on to cop their second DNF of the day, this time thanks to their board control system shutting down. There was some consternation aboard the British boat, which was unable to get their windward foil down to stabilize the boat or steer away from the oncoming spectator fleet.

Meanwhile, Luna Rossa sailed a clean downwind were awarded the win by the race committee. They elected to stay out and sail one more of their allotted three laps - making the most of the luxury of having some clear water and laid marks to do some practice.

Race 4 - Emirates Team New Zealand vs American Magic

Emirates Team New Zealand showed a few chinks in their seemingly ironclad armour in the prestart of their second race, entering the start box late because they couldn't get foiling and then failing to foil tack, giving an easy start win to Barker.

There was plenty of chat onboard about their systems that seemingly weren't functioning correctly; including the traveler and jib, which left Burling struggling to get the boat in the groove.

Some more traditional match racing tactics from Barker unfolded on the first beat, seemingly content to sit with his boat between Burling's and the top mark while the younger skipper slowly clawed back some of the deficit they conceded at the start. Barker gripped the wheel for dear life as he steered Patriot through the bear away about 15 seconds ahead of his old team.

Speeds down the run were fairly evenly matched, hovering between 38 and 42 knots with Emirates Team New Zealand sailing a click lower. Burling is well known for throwing in a few extra maneuvers to stay in better breeze, which he did on the first run but to no avail. Failing to stay on the foils at the bottom mark, as he attempted a complete 180 turn in a tack-rounding, handed Barker another 200m to add to his lead. This was not the deadly clinical performance from earlier in the day, while American Magic looked to be cruising.

The second upwind saw ETNZ settle in and finally sheet their jib on properly, dragging the deficit at the top mark back to 26 seconds and ripping through the turn at 43 knots. ETNZ went for a simpler strategy, sailing low and fast, pulling five seconds back on the crew from the New York Yacht Club and splitting courses and getting the opportunity to sail in some different breeze as the two boats set off up wind.

The first taking duel of this regatta yielded some good gains for the Kiwis, pulling 30-40 metres out of their rivals every time they crossed paths. If anyone thought there wouldn't be any match racing in this event, they were proven wrong. A down speed tack saw Burling pouncing right at the top mark, sneaking around the mark inside American Magic and scoring a penalty to boot.

As if we hadn't seen enough swinging momentum in this race, a rough gybe handed the lead back to the Americans on the final run while Emirates Team New Zealand dove for the seemingly favored bottom right corner of the race track.

It wasn't to be for the Kiwis as American Magic crossed the line 12 seconds ahead.

Take-home points from the day:

- Mistakes in these boats are costly.

- The AC75s are everything they have been cracked up to be.

- We are in for a very exciting few months of yachting ahead - and can even expect a bit of match racing.

Points for the day and regatta are as follows:

American Magic: 2

Emirates Team New Zealand: 1

Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli: 1

Ineos Team UK: 0

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