The first day of the 36th America's Cup didn't disappoint. Defender Emirates Team New Zealand and challenger LunRossPradPirelli each won a race. The most important finding from these two races is that there is no room for error, that both boats are about the same speed in these conditions and that the start then decides which team will be in front at the finish. The New Zealanders won the first start and then the race, in the second meeting it was the other way around.
Race 1 and 2 on record
"We are very happy with the speed of the boat and it is obvious that we can still have some very good races," said Francesco Bruni, co-helmsman for the Italians, after the races. The victory in the second race was "a bit of relief for his team. What was not said before the race, the Kiwis are five, even ten knots faster. That was obviously not the case."
The day showed that it doesn't matter whether one of the boats has a slight speed advantage. In some situations the New Zealanders seemed a tad faster, but the Italians were more maneuverable. Rather, the narrow race course with its limitations forces the crews to turn or jibe early, a speed advantage can hardly be exploited. The boat, which has once taken the lead, is so hard to overtake that the boat behind can slow down with its own downdraft. This finding is not new, however, in the entire PradCup there was only one race with a change in leadership.
The foils of the New Zealanders, compared to those of the Italians with about 20 percent less area, did not bring any decisive advantage with this wind
This was also confirmed by Peter Burling, the New Zealander's helmsman: "If you are at the back of the start, it will be very difficult to happen. But we are very happy that we were able to stay close." Bruni added: "That has a lot to do with the conditions. The leading boat benefits in these very stable wind conditions. If the wind gets gusty with stronger turns, we will see more changes in leadership."
The New Zealanders are a little closer to the line at the start and have a little more speed
In ten to twelve knots of wind, both started on starboard tack. The New Zealanders had more speed on the line and were immediately about half a boat length ahead of the Italians - a hopeless situation for them. Had they sailed on like this, the New Zealanders would probably have overrun them and been in control. At the latest at the course limit, which would have forced both of them to turn, the New Zealanders would have been windward ahead of the Italians, an even more hopeless position that they could not have turned away immediately because of the limit.
The windward maneuver of the Italians. The kiwis are too quick and can break free from the overlap
Co-helmsman Jimmy Spithill, who steers the Italians on the starboard side and was at the helm at that moment, decided on a desperate maneuver. He luffed to force the New Zealanders to react in the same way, either to get them off the foils or to induce them to turn away, which would have meant relinquishing control. But the maneuver failed. The New Zealanders were too fast, slipped over the Italians, solved the overlap and were able to sail freely. In return, the maneuver cost the Italians a lot of speed, and they were finally lost to the New Zealanders. The race was decided.
The New Zealanders are too far behind the line
With a little more wind around 13 knots, the pre-start duel initially turned out similar to the first race. The Italians approached the line on a starboard tack, the New Zealanders followed in the wake. This time, however, the timing of the New Zealanders was wrong. "We wanted to start in windward direction, but were too far behind the line, that was a clear mistake," said Burling. Shortly before the start, the New Zealanders had to turn around to sail to the line, but the Italians were already there, also turned with the start signal and were immediately on the windward side with the New Zealanders, which meant control over them and a lead of about 70 meters. The now eagerly awaited answer to the question of whether the New Zealanders could get out of such a situation with their supposedly better speed was answered: They can't. The Italians continued to expand their lead.
The New Zealanders have to turn away, the Italians go with them immediately and control the race
But the Italians made it exciting again. After the second downwind, they had a lead of 430 meters. At the Leetor they opted for the right side of the course, apparently because they thought it was the better one. The New Zealanders went left and won. At the windward gate they were only twelve seconds behind the previous 24. And they continued to catch up on the last downwind passage. At the finish they were only seven seconds behind.
Thursday is the only day of rest, starting Friday at 4.15 a.m. with two races per day.