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Cup Spy Sept 17: Day 3 - American Magic win first event of the 2024 America's Cup

by Richard Gladwell/Sail-World NZ 17 Sep 23:19 PDT 18 September 2023
A happy and winning American Magic - Race Day 3 - AC40 - America's Cup Preliminary Regatta - Vilanova - September 17, 2023 © America's Cup Media

After being the first team to exit the 2021 America's Cup in Auckland, the New York Yacht Club's American Magic won the first Preliminary Regatta of the 2024 America's Cup.

The Terry Hutchinson led team had a very polished day winning two races and finishing second in the other to be leading Emirates Team New Zealand, by a 1pt margin ahead of the Final race.

The US team took the battle to the America's Cup Champions, and perhaps surprisingly it was the Kiwis - who while sailing brilliantly at times, cracked under pressure at vital moments of the regatta, sailed in AC40 One Designs.

After two races were sailed on the third and final day of the first Preliminary Regatta of the 2024 America's Cup, the two eventual finalists were were separated only by two points, and the outcome of the third race of the day looked to be academic.

Emirates Team New Zealand, the overnight points leader, made up for their disappointing Race 2 from Saturday, leading Sunday's Race 3 from start to finish, with the boats consistently hitting over 30kts in an 8kt breeze. The Kiwis took the race by 40secs, taking just under 22minutes to sail the six leg course, with American Magic (USA) second and Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli (ITA) third.

Emirates Team New Zealand led the pointscore with 26 points, with American Magic on 24. Alinghi Red Bull Racing are on 19pts along with Orient Express Racing Team (FRA).

American Magic won the second an third races of the day to be the highest placed qualifier.

Emirates Team New Zealand won the other Final spot after an action packed Race 5 - the final race of the qualification series.

The Kiwis looked to have the race under control with a blinding start, and eased away on Leg 2, but dropped of their foils in the exit phase of their last gybe to the mark - dropping back to last, and allowing American Magic through to the lead. The USA extended for the next four legs, while the real battle was fought out mid-fleet.

Emirates Team NZ sat in the backend of the fleet until the close of the penultimate leg, when they came across from the port side of the course, with a good angle, but lower speed. The Kiwis came in fast and to leeward sliding inside Orient Express Racing Team, at the windward mark moving from fourth to snatch second place.

The Kiwis had another foil-fall, but it was only brief and they recovered, again, to work back in front of the chasing pack - with only four boats left in the race. [Alinghi Red Bull Racing had hydraulic issues before the start, and Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli was off the foils in the latter stage of Leg 6.]

USA led the final point score with 34pts, and New Zealand on 33pts - with both going through to contest the match race final, which got away around 1700hrs CET.

The wind, as forecast began to fade with the AC40s unable to self start their foiling. New Zealand had the starboard entry, and found the worst of the fading breeze, and picked up two boundary penalties attempting to get sufficient momentum to start foiling. After they turned back to make their pre-start, the Kiwis did get onto their foils, but the softening breeze made foiling unsustainable. American Magic foiling on the other side of the course suffered a similar outcome.

The Kiwis were required to start behind American Magic, to clear their penalty, but the final quickly became pointless, as the wind faded, both boats attempted to sail in displacement mode, and to aggravate their predicament they had to punch into a head sea on starboard tack.

Requiring around 15kts of boatspeed to get foiling, both teams were struggling to get much above 6kts, and to the surprise of no-one the 10 minute time-limit triggered the abandonment of the race. The race officials' intention was to attempt another start, however times and an unco-operative breeze were against them, and a few minutes later the committee put everyone out of their misery, calling off all racing for the day and the series.

That outcome gave the win in the first Preliminary Regatta to American Magic, representing the New York Yacht Club. The leaderboard showed the two teams were more consistent than the other four, with Orient Express Racing Team - finishing on 24pts, with Luna Rossa on 20pts, Alinghi Red Bull Racing on 19pts. The Brits have a lot of thinking to do, finishing on 9pts.

The second Preliminary Regatta will be held in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia at the end of November 2023. American Magic have already applied to be exempted from participation on security grounds, but has not had an official response from Emirates Team New Zealand on the matter.

The teams are expected to stay in Barcelona at least until the 12 month period of the Cup Match, occurring in mid-October, to check weather and sea states.

Additional images:

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