2-0 to Emirates Team New Zealand
The long-awaited day has arrived with Emirates Team New Zealand lining up with the defender Oracle Team USA on San Francisco Bay for the opening two races of the 34th America's Cup. See our preview and the views of Terry Hutchinson, Dean Phipps, Francesco de Angelis and many more here.
Mercifully after weeks of one-sided competition, the opening salvos of the America's Cup were close between the Kiwi and US AC72s with two lead changes in the first race. However after day one, Emirates Team New Zealand emerged with the upper hand, going 2-0 up (or technically 2- -2 up, given Oracle Team USA's penalty going into this event).
Sailing on Oracle Team USA were Shannon Falcone (Grinder), Joe Spooner (Grinder), Jono Macbeth (Grinder), Rome Kirby (Offside trimmer), Joey Newton (Jib Trimmer), Gillo Nobili (Grinder), Simeon Tienpont (Grinder), Kyle Langford (Wing trimmer), Jimmy Spithill (Helm/Skipper), Tom Slingsby (Strategist), John Kostecki (Tactician).
Sailing on Emirates Team New Zealand were: Dean Barker (Helm/Skipper), Ray Davies (Tactician), Glenn Ashby (Wing Trimmer), Chris Ward (Pedestal 1), Rob Waddell (Pedestal 2), Derek Saward (Floater grinder), James Dagg (Trimmer), Grant Dalton (Pedestal 3), Chris McAsey (Pedestal 4), Jeremy Lomas (Pit), Adam Beashel (Bow)
In 16-18 knot winds, there was some drama prior to the pre-start when Oracle Racing trimmer/grinder was running across to the starboard side of the boat, couldn't stop himself and neatly slid feet first over the side of the US team's AC72.
In the opening race Emirates Team New Zealand was entering the box on the favoured port tack, which they delivered at speed - 38 knots. Oracle Team USA entered and gybed to follow with the Kiwis tacking back to the line with 1:25 to go to the gun. Oracle Team USA took up the leeward berth below them. The Kiwis to windward were a fraction of a second more precise in hitting the start line and being bow forwards was enough to get them to the reaching mark in first place. Coming into the reaching mark Oracle Team USA attempted a 40 knot luff on their opponent but there was no overlap and the judges green flagged it. The luff from Oracle caused it to plunge off the foils and they rounded the reaching mark four seconds behind.
Down the run, Emirates Team New Zealand was first to gybe with some masterful airborne manoevures on both boats, boat speedrarely dropping below 30 knots.
The Kiwis led into the starboard leeward gate mark (looking upwind) with Oracle Team USA just half a boat length behind them. However Barker on the helm of the Kiwi boat appeared to round up too high as he hardened up allowing Oracle Team USA to come up beneath them and get the hook, forcing the Kiwis to tack away. A protest from Oracle was again green flagged, however the American team did benefit from being on the right in the tidal shadow of Alcatraz and subsequently further up the beat Emirates Team New Zealand was forced to duck starboard tack Oracle Team USA - the first lead change of this America's Cup.
However through some masterful manoeuvring the Kiwis were able to regain the lead and led into the top mark. Bearing away at 43 knots the Kiwi's delta at the top mark was 25 seconds. From there it was game over, Emirates Team New Zealand going 1-0 up, finishing 36 seconds ahead at the line.
Interestingly, from the stats, the Kiwis sailed around 0.5km further than the US team but were around 1.5 knots faster. They also put in both two more tacks and two more gybes than their opponents. Their maximum speed was 43.54 knots compared to Oracle's 42.51 in the 16-21 knot winds the boats saw during this race.
In the build-up to race two Oracle Team USA were fixing a small issue with the Clysar film coming away from frame of their boat's wing. Skipper Jimmy Spithill indicated that they had been contemplating whether they would be able to sail race two because of this but they did.
Despite the entries swapping, with Oracle Team USA coming in with the favoured port entry, the approach back to the start line was similar to race one with Oracle Team USA taking up the leeward berth. On this occasion, Spithill tried a more aggressive luff, the US team's AC72 coming within a whisker of colliding with the Kiwis port hull. Again Spithill's protests of the Kiwis failing to keep clear was green flagged. Coming close to head to wind, both boats had slowed with seconds to goto the gun and were late over, but once again it was Emirates Team New Zealand that managed to pull the trigger fastest to arrive at the reaching mark in first place, must two seconds ahead.
Unlike the first race, this was more processional with both boats on this occasion rounding the port leeward gate mark and heading out to the left to make use of the favourable tide. On this occasion the Kiwis made a much better job of the beat, leading into the weather mark by 46 seconds which they increased to 52 seconds at the finish.
After racing, Kiwi skipper Dean Barker commented: “It’s still way too early to draw conclusions, but I think we saw two boats that are incredibly even in performance. There’s certainly not a lot in either direction in the conditions we saw today. I’m sure we’ll learn more as we get different conditions as the series goes on. But as we expected, there’s not a huge amount between the two yachts.
“We’ve known for a long time that if we got the opportunity to race for the America’s Cup the style of racing would be full on. We have a huge amount of respect for the Oracle team and we know they race incredibly hard. Certainly that was the case today.”
Oracle Team USA skipper Jimmy Spithill added: “In the first race we didn’t get as tight as we would’ve liked and they got over us on the reach. In the second one we got tighter, went in for the hook and thought we’d get the penalty. Unfortunately, it didn’t go our way. Those guys did a good job and didn’t make many mistakes. There weren’t a lot of passing lanes out there.”
Emirates Team New Zealand wing trimmer Glenn Ashby commented: “For two boats coming from a totally different design phase and production, totally different setups, to have the racing so close is fantastic. I think we’ll certainly have some good battles over the next week, anything can happen.”
Race three of the America's Cup starts tomorrow at 1:15 pm PT (21:15 BST or 20:15 UTC).