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Cup Spy Special: Kiwis start Match Racing training off Takapuna

by Richard Gladwell Sail-World NZ 27 May 2023 07:46 PDT 28 May 2023
Emirates Team New Zealand - AC40 and the LEQ12 - Day 25, May 26, 2023 © Richard Gladwell -

Emirates Team New Zealand completed a match race practice session off Takapuna Beach, on Friday, after waiting several hours for some sailable breeze. Sail-World's NZ Editor gives his take on the afternoon and the how the AC-40's shakedown for match racing.

The session got underway around 2.00 pm, in a light sea breeze, using three laid marks.

The racing was rather underwhelming, with long periods of downtime, principally with the LEQ12, and it appeared that the team was trying to combine some development testing with the match racing practice.

Two AC40s were used with the Match Racing specialist crew co-skippered by Josh Junior and Leo Takahashi, competing against the AC75 crew co-skippered by Peter Burling and Nathan Outteridge.

The Match Racing team appeared to have the better day in the pre-start phase in relatively tame starts where the two boats locked up late in the start and sailed a long tack into the start line on starboard, with the windward yacht being forced to break and tack onto port soon after crossing the startline.

In the races, which continued for a full first leg, the LEQ12 was first with an expected speed advantage over the AC40 One Design.

There was none of the aggressive match racing tactics seen in monohull racing, even though the Match Racing team at least had been practising pre-start circling and other match racing-specific manoeuvres on the days leading into today's session. Today's tactics were similar to those seen in the 36th Match for the America's Cup in March 2021. Wind conditions were quite similar to the latter races in that series sailed in the same area - Course A. Today's pre-starts were less aggressive than seen in the 2021 America's Cup - possibly due to the removal of the Spithill factor and his hallmark aggression.

In that series, Emirates Team New Zealand did not have the benefit of going through a Challenger Series and really only have ten match race starts in their log-book, aside from the racing in the ACWS and Xmas Cup sailed in December 2020.

Despite the breeze being extremely light - a group of ILCA6s training in the same area were nowhere near planing/surfing downwind - the AC40s were, very impressively, always able to water-start without chase boat assistance to get foiling. That differs from the sticky AC75 performance we saw in light winds in the 2021 America's Cup.

Throughout the pre-start, both AC40s were always engaged and holding good speed - and quite a different spectacle from the more pedestrian pace we are used to seeing in monohull match race sailing. We didn't see any flash new tactics - which will likely come later once the team works out some of the match racing opportunities afforded by the foiling monohull under the Racing Rules.

With a lot more curry in the pre-start, AC40 match racing should be well worth watching. Whether that style of racing continues onto the main event in AC75's is another question. Quite how the experienced and more aggressive match racers in the AC75 fleet perform in the AC40 will be interesting.

It is not known how long Emirates Team NZ will continue with this in-house match racing, with the AC40-OD due to accompany the AC75 to Barcelona and begin sailing from July 1 to October 31.

This commentary was written and compiled from video, still images and statistical content extracted from the AC37 Joint Recon program and other material available to Sail-World NZ including photo files, and other on the water coverage from the 2010, 2013, 2017 and 2021 America's Cups. Its format is intended to give Sail-World readers a snapshot of all teams' progress on a given day or period.

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