Following the opening two races on March 10 which reflected sufficient parity to offer hope for a long and bloody America’s Cup Match, today left us in fear there’d be no racing due to light winds. Shocker… the weather forecasters were wrong and racing was on.
With winds above the 6.5 knot minimum required, a 9 knot northerly on the outer E Course still meant nothing was certain. At this wind strength, the focus was staying on foils and avoiding any lulls in the wind. Teams would need to choose when to cover and when to extend… hard decisions when the answer often comes too late.
Weighing heavily on the Match was whether the Kiwi team would struggle in the lighter winds due to their foils having approximately 30% less surface area than Italy, which amounts to less drag but also makes them vulnerable at slower speeds and turning.
The data was beginning to show trends of how Italy can sail a click higher upwind and tack well, but the Defender has jets downwind and loses less on the gybes. How to use these attributes, and hide any deficiencies, has become the name of the game.
Who won the two races? Each team won a start and converted it into victory, but with the upcoming days indicating more light winds (yes, what do forecasters know?), nothing is yet certain in this 36th Match.
Race 3 – ITA (port entry) vs NZL
After the first attempt at a start was postponed due to spectators inside the boundary, the second attempt saw the Kiwis gybe tight behind Italy as both extended toward the right edge of the start box. When Italy gybed back to starboard, the Kiwis gybed inside to lead back.
Now it came down to judging the distance to the line, and with both early, who could burn time best? Italy has proven the masters at this, and as they sat up on the Kiwi hip, the defender pulled the trigger slightly late to give Italy just enough space as both headed out to the left boundary.
The theory was how New Zealand is low and fast, which is not a great combo for match racing, as when they tacked to port, Italy leebowed and went into squeeze mode. New Zealand was now stuck to such a degree that they needed to bear away to leeward of Italy to build speed so they could tack.
Italy was now in control, and on the first lap they preferred to choose their moments to tack and gybe as opposed to covering, but once they built a 200m lead, they used it on the remaining two laps to cover and bury the defender, ultimately building a nearly 500m lead on the final run to win by 27 seconds.
Notable in this race was Italy sailing nearly 1500m less distance which likely conferms their upwind advantage.
Race 4 – NZL (port entry) vs ITA
With the wind down to 8 knots from the north, it would be even more critical to stay on the foils, and managing speed prior to the start gets even harder. Once again, as the teams were on final approach to the start, Italy was on New Zealand’s hip with both teams early.
While the Kiwis did a big dip down to burn time, it looked like they dove too far, but their turn up at the gun had a click more speed than the Italians with the challenger soon sucking Kiwi gas to windward as they both headed off to the left boundary.
The result came early as Italy had to tack off for clear air, and while there were some big splits on the first beat, New Zealand’s lead was never in question as they began the first run with a 9 second, 175m lead.
But for this 3-lap race, it effectively ended as Italy made their final gybe prior to the first downwind mark. Mis-timing their foils adjustment during the turn, they nearly dropped off them while significantly slowing as the wind hovered near 7 knots. As they rounded the mark, their deficit was now 34 seconds.
The Kiwis, now able to sail their own race, let the boat do the work, building a lead of up to 800m on the final run to win by 1:03.
America’s Cup Match Scoreboard (wins-losses)
Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL): 2-2
Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team (ITA): 2-2