After day one of racing was abandoned due to poor weather conditions, the six Teams of the 37th America’s Cup managed to complete two races today in marginal light wind conditions, kicking off the first Preliminary Regatta of the campaign.
Although the weather improved for the second day of racing, with no rain and temperatures of 25C, the wind was extremely light which resulted in racing being delayed, as the race committee waited for the average wind reading to reach above 6.5 knots over a five-minute period, which would allow racing to get underway according to the regatta rules.
With the sun shining, the excited crowds lined the shore as they prepared to watch the first America’s Cup race in 913 days. All the competitors managed to start the race up on their foils, but that didn’t last long meaning the race quickly turned into a tactical game of displacement sailing for the whole fleet with INEOS Britannia dropping off their foils after attempting a port tack start.
Due to the light conditions, the Race Committee shortened the race from six legs to two with France’s Orient Express Racing battling it out with Italy’s Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli to take the opener. However, after finishing in second, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli received a DNS for not starting correctly, the Italian result was later reinstated after umpire review. NYYC American Magic took third, followed by Alinghi Red Bull Racing, Emirates Team New Zealand and INEOS Britannia.
After another delayed start in anticipation of more wind, race two eventually got underway. With all the teams being towed on the foil by their support boats within the three min prestart cut-off deadline. Alinghi Red Bull Racing was the only Team able to remain on foils across the start line and shot passed their displaced competitors taking what looked like an uncatchable lead.
The story was not finished as from dead last, Emirates Team New Zealand managed to get on their foils and hunt down the Swiss who were some 1200 metres ahead. As the downwind gate approached, the Swiss fell off their foils and the Kiwis took full advantage to nail every manoeuvre and fly past the Swiss to take the race win. For the rest of the fleet, it was a full displacement race with their finishing results being taken from positions at the first gate and INEOS Britannia getting the 4th place.
Speaking to media after racing, INEOS Britannia Team Principal and Skipper Sir Ben Ainslie said:“It was a tough day out there for us results wise, but we can take positives that we were a lot closer to the other teams in these light winds than we were three or four days ago and that will only improve the more time we spend in the AC40.
“As frustrated as we are in many ways it’s great to have this opportunity to race twenty miles down the coast at the same time of year that we will be racing in the America’s Cup next year. Alongside that we are getting to see first-hand the other teams racing technique in these lighter airs.