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PATRIOT splits races 1-1 with Luna Rossa on day 2 of ACWS Auckland

by NYYC American Magic 18 Dec 2020 01:35 PST 17-19 December 2020
Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli vs New York Yacht Club American Magic on day 2 of PRADA ACWS Auckland © Sailing Energy / American Magic

Day 2 of the Prada America's Cup World Series Auckland saw two gripping races between New York Yacht Club American Magic, the U.S. Challenger for the 36th America's Cup, and Italy's Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team, the Challenger of Record.

Both races featured hotly contested pre-starts, penalties, tacking duels, and unpredictable maneuvers. In the 10-15 knots of breeze present on Course C throughout the day, the two teams appeared closely matched in terms of speed and execution.

Luna Rossa took the win in Race 5 by a margin of 12 seconds, with American Magic bouncing back with a 30-second win in Race 7.

Race 5: American Magic vs. Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli

In the pre-start, Luna Rossa was penalized for entering the starting box too early, giving American Magic an early advantage. A left shift just before the start led PATRIOT, the U.S. AC75, and her opponent to start the race on port tack. Shortly after Luna Rossa cleared its penalty, PATRIOT tacked onto starboard and crossed the bow of the Italians.

As American Magic tacked back onto port to cover Luna Rossa, PATRIOT's port-side foil arm failed to lift quickly enough from its lowered position, depriving the dark blue AC75 of crucial windward ballast as her sails began to generate power on the new tack. PATRIOT heeled hard to leeward and fell off her starboard-side foil, leaving American Magic in displacement mode while Luna Rossa sprinted clear of the U.S. boat and built a significant lead up the first beat.

"The [board up] button was pressed, and the board didn't come up," said mainsheet trimmer Paul Goodison. "Luckily, we have alternate buttons that we can press to also raise the board, so in the end we managed to raise the board correctly, but it was a bit late. Then we're in the water and we had some catching up to do."

At the first windward mark, PATRIOT and the Americans found themselves over 700 meters astern of Luna Rossa. Nevertheless, the second leg saw an impressive comeback by the U.S. Challenger. With smooth gybes and good course management, the team closed the gap to roughly 12 seconds at the first downwind gate.

Despite regular and close action between the boats, PATRIOT could not find a passing lane on the subsequent legs. At the final leeward gate, American Magic was forced to execute an extra gybe just before rounding. Luna Rossa was able to sail less distance through the rounding maneuver, and opened up a lead of several hundred meters.

The final downwind leg saw yet another comeback by American Magic, and while PATRIOT was able to close the gap to 12 seconds and a few boat lengths, the American team came up just short at the finish.

"We just didn't come up out of the tack, and unfortunately, that kind of put us on the back foot," said Dean Barker, helmsman for American Magic. "It was really impressive how well we got back into the race a couple of times. We kept coming back at them, so I think we have a lot of positives to take out it, but [it was] frustrating not to get the win."

Race 7: American Magic vs. Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli

The second contest of the day between American Magic and Luna Rossa involved a multi-penalty pre-start reminiscent of previous Cups involving monohulls. Luna Rossa again was penalized for an early start box entry, which co-helmsman James Spithill later attributed to incorrect timing information from the race management system being sent to the Italian yacht.

Luna Rossa managed to clear their penalty against American Magic in the pre-start, but in doing so fell off their foils, allowing Barker and PATRIOT to strike back and score a penalty against the Italians and cruise off the starting line in a commanding position. After the first upwind leg, PATRIOT was over 300 meters ahead.

"[The Race 7 pre-start was] a bit like the old-school days," said Barker. "There was quite a lot going on, as normal. It's what we've been practicing, but in saying that it's nice to have a bit of variation. This is all about learning for the Prada Cup, and it's nice to learn some of these lessons now."

The rest of the race was a taught contest that saw American Magic often making minor gains downwind, and the Italians earning equally minor gains upwind.The U.S. Challenger worked hard to keep close tabs on their opponent on the upwind legs, and multiple tacking duels occurred.

American Magic never relinquished their lead, but there were some tense moments as Luna Rossa's deficit dwindled to as little as 5 seconds. PATRIOT's final margin of victory was 30 seconds, bringing the team to 3-1 overall at the Prada America's Cup World Series Auckland.

"The course is very challenging. You are never quite sure how much leverage to take, but they never went away and made it a very exciting race," said Barker post-race.

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