JPMorgan BAR leads after day one
In today's two fleet races, Ben Ainslie’s JP Morgan BAR got off to a strong start to end the day on 21 points after posting a 3-1. The British team lead Emirates Team New Zealand crew by 1 point after Dean Barker's team finished 1-4.
JP Morgan BAR also scored a come-from-behind win in its quarterfinal race of the match racing championship. Having been adeptly locked out at the start by the Yann Guichard-steered Energy Team, Ainslie and his crew managed to fight back overhaulling their opponents when they split tacks on the first beat.
“The wind was changing all through the start of the match race it made it very, very difficult, and we just got it completely wrong," explained Ainslie. "Yann Guichard and the Energy Team did really well especially in those kind of conditions when the wind is changing around so much, but the race was never really over, we got once chance to make a break and we took it, luckily it went our way so we were a little bit fortunate with that one.
“It was a good day for us in difficult conditions, we rode our luck a little bit at times certainly in the match race. The boys did a great job of staying calm and dealt with the conditions really well picking our way through on the shifts where we needed to. We won the match race and had a first and a third in the two fleet races so we’re happy for the first day, but there is a long way to go and we need to keep working on our performance for the next few days." added Ainslie
“It was one of those days when you want to survive because it would have been easy to pick up some bad results,” Ainslie added, who had the British Ambassador to Italy, Christopher Prentice, aboard as a guest racer. “The wind was so shifty today coming over the headland. That was the biggest challenge.”
With the wind was shifting from SSW to nearly west, over some 35°, and varying in strength from 8 to 12 knots, Barker echoed Ainslie in finding the conditions challenging.
“There was no real rhythm to it today,” said Barker. “At times there were big gains to be had on the right side, and other times you could sail yourself into no wind. There were big gains and losses, particularly at the top of the course. I think we managed the course as well as we could today.”
Holding third place with 18 points is the Chris Draper-steered Luna Rossa Piranha. Draper is looking to recapture the lightning in a bottle that saw him win last year’s AC World Series Naples in a thrilling debut performance.
“I would say we had a good day,” said Draper. “We missed a couple of opportunities in the fleet racing and wound up with a 4-2. We’ll work on that for tomorrow. I didn’t trust my instincts enough when I should have and then tried to make things happen that weren’t there. But it was a good day.”
While the conditions were challenging, so was the race course for some of the new helmsmen in the fleet. Both Tom Slingsby, who has taken over from Jamie Spithill as the sole Oracle Team USA helmsman at this regatta, and HS Racing skipper Roman Hagara were penalised for crossing the course boundary limit.
In Slingsby’s case, it meant the difference between winning the first fleet race and coming second. “We were off to a nice lead in the first race, but being a bit of a rookie in the class I didn’t see one of the boundaries and apparently we just crossed over it,” said the London 2012 Olympic Laser gold medalist. “After that race I told the boys to remind me about the boundaries.”
In today’s match racing action, newcomer HS Racing, led by co-skippers Roman Hagara and Hans-Peter Steinacher, won the qualifier match in a 'walkover' when opponent China Team, being helmed on this occasion by Tornado legend Mitch Booth, was disqualified for failing to start properly.
Two of four quarterfinal matches were also held today. Luna Rossa Piranha defeated Artemis Racing White (Charlie Ekberg) in one match while J.P. Morgan BAR beat Energy Team (Yann Guichard) in another.
The quarterfinals will conclude tomorrow with HS Racing squaring off against Oracle Team USA Slingsby and Emirates Team New Zealand racing the Francesco Bruni-steered Luna Rossa Swordfish.
“It’s really nice racing here in Napoli,” said Hagara. “It’s really good sport and especially for the spectators. It’s unbelievable the amount of people who turned out. I've never seen so many people watching sailing.”
Helming Artemis Racing White at this regatta is 23-year-old Sweden skiff sailor, Charlie Ekberg. The young Swede is also the leader of the Swedish Youth Challenge for the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup team.
Ekberg made extensive strides in his match racing skills today and managed to keep himself between the finish line and Chris Draper’s Luna Rossa team at all times and was ahead in all manoeuvres. However at the final leeward gate Artemis Racing incurred a penalty for not giving way to the Italians who were on starboard on the downwind leg. This proved to be very costly, at a critical time in the race with just a short sprint to the finish leaving no time to recover. Luna Rossa Piranha gybed past Artemis and went on to take the victory.
“We developed a lot from yesterday and the main goal for today was to learn and we want to exit this regatta with a couple good scores,” says Ekberg. “We are looking forward to tomorrow and we will be further up the results the further into the regatta.”
Racing will be streamed live tomorrow beginning at 12:00 UTC.
America’s Cup World Series Naples Championship standings (after 2 of 7 scheduled races)
1. J.P. Morgan BAR (Ben Ainslie) – 21 points
2. Emirates Team New Zealand (Dean Barker) – 20
3. Luna Rossa Piranha (Chris Draper) – 18
4. Oracle Team USA (Tom Slingsby) – 16
5. Energy Team (Yann Guichard) – 14
6. Luna Rossa Swordfish (Francesco Bruni) – 14
7. Artemis Racing White (Charlie Ekberg) – 11
8. China Team (Mitch Booth) – 7
9. HS Racing (R. Hagara/H.S. Steinacher) – 7
More images from Carlo Borlenghi/Luna Rossa/www.borlenghi.com