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No wind for Christmas Race, but much to analyze for cup teams in Auckland

by NYYC American Magic 20 Dec 2020 09:06 PST 20 December 2020
American Magic lowering the mainsail on PATRIOT after racing was abandoned © Sailing Energy / American Magic

New York Yacht Club American Magic, the U.S. Challenger for the 36th America's Cup, was unable to complete a planned Prada Christmas Race semifinal match against the Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team of Italy on Sunday due to a lack a breeze.

No other races were completed, although Emirates Team New Zealand came within a few meters of winning their only attempted race against INEOS Team UK before the 45-minute race time limit expired.

The Prada Christmas Race was a one-day event with no reserve days, and no winner was declared. Prior to the official Race 1 start time of 15:12 Auckland local time, PATRIOT and the other AC75s had enough wind to sail, and the warmup sessions for each team looked promising. Nevertheless, the breeze faded steadily as Race 1 progressed, eventually rendering the AC75s TE REHUTAI (ETNZ) and BRITANNIA (INEOS Team UK) unable to foil and unable to finish the race.

The post-race focus for all four teams centered on a deeper evaluation of the racing held during the previous event, the Prada America's Cup World Series Auckland (December 17-19). For American Magic, the ACWS represented a learning opportunity that will have a profound impact on how the U.S. Challenger chooses to use its remaining development time.

"Each opportunity you get to sail against another team presents challenges and problems that you see in your shop," said Terry Hutchinson, Skipper and Executive Director of American Magic. "We'll go out [sailing] and try to answer some of those tomorrow."

American Magic was fortunate enough to compete in multiple tight races during the ACWS, which put its AC75 and personnel under significant pressure to perform. PATRIOT's battles against TE REHUTAI and LUNA ROSSA enthralled many in the press and public, as foiling monohull racing of this scale was previously unseen in the sport.

"The fact that the racing is as close as it is so quickly in the first generation of boat is pretty impressive," said Hutchinson. "It speaks volumes of the design teams, the engineers, and the build teams behind the sailors that are out on the water. [The AC75s] are incredible pieces of equipment."

In terms of development potential, the biggest limiting factor for the three Challengers from the United States, Great Britain and Italy is time. With the Prada Cup, the Challenger Selection Series, scheduled to begin on January 15, teams will engage in an energetic period of final testing before the races start to count.

The Defender, Emirates Team New Zealand, will not experience additional preliminary racing unless more opportunities are agreed on by the teams. However, ETNZ will have more time to develop their boat compared to the Challengers prior to the 36th America's Cup Match Presented by Prada. The Cup match between ETNZ and the Prada Cup winner begins on March 6.

"You look around the fleet and there's a lot of really good ideas on the other boats," said Hutchinson, who is now deep into his fifth career Cup campaign. "It's good to see that some of our ideas seem to be working. At the same time, [we may] grab on to a couple of others that we can implement into our own sails or techniques."

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