One boat match race
As the Italian team's skipper Max Sirena re-iterated in the morning: “I want to clarify the reason for which we are not racing today. As everybody knows we have protested the introduction of new Class Rules without the unanimous agreement of the competing teams. By racing under these rules, enforced by the Regatta Director with Race Notices 185 and 189, we would somehow silently approve them. This is not the case. Therefore we have no choice but to stay ashore until the International Jury has reached a decision on the matter. We have been forced into this position. We did not come to San Francisco to watch races, but to race.”
Luna Rossa's protest follows that of Emirates Team New Zealand made on 28 June. Oddly, despite the Louis Cup Vuitton starting today, the scheduled date for the hearing for the Kiwi protest is not occurring until tomorrow (Monday). There have of course been accusations of brinksmanship, scheduling the hearing for after the start of racing as a device to 'encourage' the Kiwi and Italian teams to comply with the safety recommendations, that include changes to the AC72 rule that they view as unacceptable as per Sirena's statement. However at the opening press conference last week Regatta Director Iain Murray countered that he had no influence over the ISAF-appointed International Jury and its choice of date. The IJ for the 34th America's Cup comprises Chairman David Tillett (AUS), John Doerr and Bryan Willis from the UK, Josje Hofland (NED) and Graham McKenzie (NZL).
So the Louis Vuitton Cup controversially started with a match between Emirates Team New Zealand and her invisible opponent. Under regatta rules, the Kiwi team had to start and complete the course in order to score the point. Fortunately the AC72s are such extraordinary boats that even one of them flying around the race track on its lonesome is a phenomenon in itself.
Iain Murray said he had offered the Kiwi team the option of sailing a short course, but they opted to complete the original longer course.
The New Zealand AC72, which has been named Aotearoa (the Maori name for New Zealand), opened the Louis Vuitton Cup completing the 16 nautical mile course on San Francisco Bay in 46 minutes, 27 seconds, racing in 14 to 16 knots with a flood tide (ie relatively flat water)—Emirates Team New Zealand’s AC72 looked spectacular streaking around the race course.
Skipper Dean Barker was today racing with Ray Davies (tactician), Glenn Ashby (wing trimmer), Chris Ward (grinder), Rob Waddell (grinder), Derek Saward (grinder), James Dagg (trimmer), Grant Dalton (floater), Chris McAsey (grinder), Jeremy Lomas (bowman/pit) and Adam Beashel (strategist).
The Kiwi team brought Aotearoa onto the racecourse doing 30 knots and riding on her foils. Around the course she recorded a top speed of 42.8 knots and averaged 20.7 knots around the course. 42.8 knot was faster than the top speed the 90ft LWL multihulls that competed in the 2010 America’s Cup recorded.
“We actually enjoy it when it’s windier, then you really start ripping downwind and can pull off some slick jibes,” said Barker. “You never finish a race in one of these boats and think it’s all gone perfect. We made a couple of mistakes today, but it was good to get out and go through the paces.”
As to why they didn't follow Luna Rossa's example and boycott the race, Barker explained: "We are a commercially funded team. It’s important for us as a team, to our sponsors and followers in New Zealand to get out there and race. We trust that the International Jury will make the correct decision based on the information it’s got. The process is underway. Whether we sail or not isn’t going to influence that.
“It was Important for us to treat this day as we would any race day. It would have been great to have Luna Rossa out there with us but we respect their decision.”