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PATRIOT goes 2-0 on opening day of ACWS Auckland

by NYYC American Magic 17 Dec 2020 02:36 PST 17-20 December 2020
New York Yacht Club American Magic's AC75 PATRIOT crosses the finish line 12 seconds ahead of Emirates Team New Zealand on day 1 of ACWS Auckland © Sailing Energy / American Magic

New York Yacht Club American Magic, the U.S. Challenger for the 36th America's Cup, won both of its races on the opening day of the Prada America's Cup World Series Auckland. The four races held today were the first official contests for the AC75 class yachts. Thursday also marked the return of a New York Yacht Club-affiliated yacht to an America's Cup racecourse after a 18-year absence.

"You like to come off the racetrack with wins, and that's why we're here," said Andrew Campbell, (San Diego, Calif.), Flight Controller for American Magic, after the U.S. team was successful against both INEOS Team UK and Emirates Team New Zealand on Thursday. Campbell also stressed that PATRIOT, the team's AC75, remains a work in progress.

"The reality is that we have so much to learn between now and [the Prada Cup]. Watching how some of these other races went, it's really, really impressive what we [still] need to figure out. I know there are some big mistakes we made on the racetrack that we need to correct."

Race 2: American Magic vs. INEOS Team UK

The first race of the day for the U.S. Challenger saw a close start between INEOS Team UK's BRITANNIA, helmed by four-time Olympic gold medalist Ben Ainslie, and American Magic's PATRIOT. Prior to the prestart, word spread on the racecourse that the British boat was experiencing technical issues, and for a time their ability to race was in doubt.

Shortly before the designated start time for Race 2, BRITANNIA was cleared to compete by the team's on-the-water engineers. The black and silver yacht then joined Race 2 against American Magic by starting at the correct time, but without entering the starting box in compliance with the rules. This would lead to BRITANNIA being scored DNF in Race 2. Nevertheless, both teams proceeded with the race as the contest represented a valuable learning opportunity.

The British yacht tacked early off the start, and the U.S. AC75 performed a loose cover of BRITANNIA up the first beat. PATRIOT rounded in front at the first gate by 50 seconds. The Americans never looked back from that point, rounding every mark ahead as the British team later reported experiencing foil cant system issues.

Campbell emphasized the value of each AC75 racing experience at the post-race press conference on Thursday. "We were really pleased with how our boat managed to get around the track and we're going to go through a lot of maneuvers on a skinny track like [Course C]. That's the priority and making sure to keep the boat [up on the foils]. And that's a hard thing to do sometimes."

Race 4: American Magic vs. Emirates Team New Zealand

After winning their opening races, American Magic and ETNZ each entered Race 4 with a chance to go 2-0 on the day. Anticipation for the matchup was high for the teams, spectators and the global broadcast audience.

Helmsman Dean Barker and the 11-man team onboard PATRIOT timed their start perfectly, and were a few seconds ahead off the line. It soon become apparent that the two yachts were well matched in terms of speed, hitting speeds between 30 and 40 knots on the first upwind leg. PATRIOT rounded the first mark 15 seconds ahead of TE REHUTAI, and it was the first race of the day where two yachts had been in such close proximity.

With clean maneuvers and solid speed both upwind and downwind, PATRIOT maintained a lead of around 15-25 seconds between laps 2-5. However, on the final upwind leg (leg 5), the two teams engaged in a tacking duel. Maneuver by maneuver, TE REHUTAI clawed back into the race.

By the final windward gate, TE REHUTAI and PATRIOT were overlapped, with the kiwis getting to the zone first and scoring a penalty against PATRIOT. Barker and American Magic quickly cleared the penalty, and charged after ETNZ down the final run towards the finish. With clean gybes and a successful search for better pressure, PATRIOT regained the lead and held on for a 12-second win over the Defender of the America's Cup.

"Twelve seconds sounds like a lot, but it was more than I thought it was going to be on the racetrack," said Campbell. "[ETNZ] were definitely going well, so you know we've got a lot to learn on our program to make sure we're good enough to beat these guys on a regular basis, which is by no means guaranteed."

Coming Up:

For American Magic, Day 2 (Friday) of the Prada America's Cup World Series Auckland will feature two races (Race 5 and Race 7) against the Challenger of Record, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team from Italy.

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