James Boyd Photography / www.thedailysail.com

Emirates Team New Zealand the form boat

Final America's Cup World Series practice races held in Cascais

Friday August 5th 2011, Author: James Boyd, Location: Portugal

The final practice races prior to the start of the first America's Cup World Series regatta in Cascais took place today with three examples of the 'short' fleet races, each taking in the order of 20-30 minutes, followed by one longer fleet race.

Today was the first time we had seen the new course, set to be used for these AC45 regattas, in action with a reaching start followed by two windward-leewards within a rectangular (rather than diamond-shaped) race area - ie the boats can't just head out to a corner and tack/gybe once for the next mark.

We suspect that the two Oracle Racing AC45s, in particular James Spithill's, may not have been giving it their all, however from the three short races there seemed to be no doubt which boat was the class act: Emirates Team New Zealand. It seemed to make no difference where on the start line they headed off from - to weather or to leeward - as on all three occasions they were first to the reaching mark (occasionally drenching us on board the reaching mark boat - the marks are small motor catamarans rather than inflatable mark) as they blew off the furling line unleashing the genniker, truly the most exciting moment of the race. 

Behind the Kiwis, Spithill picked up second in the first race having overtaken Chris Draper's posse on Team Korea which had been ahead of them initially into the reaching mark, while Team Korea was second in race two ahead of Energy Team, with skipper Loick Peyron looking decidedly in his element. The fleet was down to six for the third race, where Artemis Racing was second ahead of the other Russell Coutts-driven Oracle Racing boat.

Tomorrow the first race today comprises three fleet races followed by some speed trials over a 500m course with proceedings kicking off at 1400 local (or 1200 GMT). The TV offering, which can be viewed online, is expected to be un-precedented.

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