Day three of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers was a day in which the five challenging teams; Land Rover BAR, Artemis Racing, SoftBank Team Japan, Groupama Team France and Emirates Team New Zealand, had their chance to enhance their positions on the leaderboard and close the gap on Defenders of the ‘Auld Mug’ and table-toppers ORACLE TEAM USA who sat out of action, having raced three times on day two.
After claiming a maiden victory by beating Artemis Racing yesterday, Groupama Team France took another win in the opening race of the day by beating Land Rover BAR comfortably in race 13.
Despite a poor pre-start, which saw them fall 10 seconds behind the British team at mark 1, Franck Cammas’ team recovered brilliantly to stay in hot pursuit, closing the gap ahead of gate 3.
When Land Rover BAR suffered a poor turn at the gate, Groupama Team France were perfectly placed to pounce, seizing on the mistake and taking the lead.
It was a moment that would prove pivotal and costly for Sir Ben Ainslie’s team as they had no response in the remainder of the race.
With their new-found confidence, Groupama Team France, who kept up on their foils for 95% of the race, kept their cool, despite a slight nosedive at gate 5, and raced home to win with a 53 second advantage over the Brits.
“It was another very good result for us and to beat the British is always good for the French,” joked Groupama Team France helmsman Franck Cammas, whose team suffered a defeat in their second race of the day against SoftBank Team Japan.
“We were quick, particularly upwind and to finish with a good gap to the other team is very pleasing.
“We made a number of mistakes in the second race and we made it hard for ourselves to be able to recover.
“However, compared to the start of the beginning of the week we are all very happy.”
Meanwhile, for Land Rover BAR, the defeat sees them continue to struggle for form having lost to ORACLE TEAM USA and Emirates Team New Zealand on day two.
“It was a very frustrating race but credit to France, they had better speed than us and took the win,” said British helmsman Sir Ben Ainslie.
“We will have to go away in the coming days and make some big improvements.
“Everyone knows the America’s Cup is all about development and we will be pushing to improve our performance in specific areas.
“We are all working hard and are reasonably happy but we have to keep improving and focus on getting up to speed.”
There was high drama in race 14 as the duel between Artemis Racing and Emirates Team New Zealand proved the most exciting, and most contentious contest of the 35th America’s Cup so far.
Having put themselves ahead at the start, the Swedish team were forced to drop two-boat lengths behind their rivals after being handed a penalty for crossing the start fractionally early.
They managed to catch up with the Kiwis and then swapped the lead with them multiple times throughout the race, but at the final mark there was a dramatic penalty called against the Swedes for not leaving the Kiwis enough room. Artemis Racing continued towards the finish line, but had to take their penalty, allowing Emirates Team New Zealand to take the win at the line.
Outteridge, Iain Percy and their crew looked devastated at the end of the race and finished day three on two points, equal with Groupama Team France and SoftBank Team Japan.
“We are still shocked by what happened,” said Nathan Outteridge.
“As soon as I saw the light I knew what had happened and we were already at the line by the time the decision was made. We all thought we gave them enough room and I still stand by that opinion.
“However the umpires obviously didn’t agree. That’s racing, sometimes you get the decisions and sometimes you don’t.”
Meanwhile, for Emirates Team New Zealand, the decision gifted them a fourth win out of five in the qualifying stages, equalling the record of ORACLE TEAM USA.
“Like in all sport you have to play to the whistle and respect the umpires,” said Kiwi helmsman Peter Burling on the late drama.
“We thought it was definitely a penalty and, at the end of the day, it comes down to the umpires to make the decision. We were just happy to stay upright and even more happy to take the point.
“For us our first goal was to get through the qualifying series and, bar one defeat, it has gone as good as it could have done so far.
“We are confident of beating anyone, including ORACLE TEAM USA, but because they are already in the final, we just have to beat the others first.”
Following racing America’s Cup Race Management (ACRM) commented on the controversial penalty decision against Artemis Racing, with Chief Umpire Richard Slater saying, “we have had a discussion, we have looked at other evidence, information and data, and I think if we were to go back in time and make that call, we would green that call and not penalize Artemis.”
With the pressure on Dean Barker and SoftBank Team Japan, having only won one race before the final day or Round Robin 1, The Japanese team clinched a welcome win in the final race of the day (race 15) comfortably beating the in-form Groupama Team France.
Getting out of the start box 10 knots faster than the French team, SoftBank Team Japan controlled the race from start to finish, gradually building their lead throughout.
With the French team struggling to make a real challenge, SoftBank team Japan eased to the finish line a whole 2 two minutes and 34 seconds ahead of their rivals, capping off a magnificent performance.
“It isn’t a feeling of relief for me because I didn’t feel under pressure,” said helmsman Dean Barker after the race.
“The best thing for me is that we executed a great race and claimed the victory.
“After a frustrating day yesterday, losing two races, today was a great turnaround by everyone in the team and we are really pleased with that.
“For me it is amazing to see some of the results out on the water. It has been really unpredictable and there will be more of that as we go forward.
“The big thing for us is that we need to take opportunities when they come in our races. If we can do that, then hopefully we will see some more wins in the same manner as today.”