Day two of the final week of practice racing before the 35th America’s Cup starts in Bermuda on 26th May saw all six teams enter the fray of competitive races, in what proved an afternoon of highs and lows for Emirates Team New Zealand.
Having sat out of competitive racing on day one of the latest round of practice racing (Monday), the Kiwi team enjoyed a promising afternoon, winning races nine and ten, overcoming Land Rover BAR and Groupama Team France respectively.
However, it was the scheduled 12th race, a rematch of their duel with Land Rover BAR, that proved the day’s real talking point after the race was abandoned following a collision between the two boats in the pre-start, which resulted in both teams sustaining damage.
Meanwhile, Kiwi helmsman Peter Burling shed some more light on the incident.
“It was a bit of a shame in the last pre-start. We had the leeward end of the line pretty locked down, Ben was quite late and just ran straight into the back of us,” said Burling. “Just unnecessary a week out from the America’s Cup. We are all here to learn and it’s a shame we have a pretty big dent now in the back of our nice boat.
“It went straight in with his windward bow and right down the inside of our leeward hull, so there is a pretty good dent there. You can definitely see it has punctured right into the cockpit right around where my steering wheel is.”
Meanwhile, Land Rover BAR, who suffered a defeat to SoftBank Team Japan in race five before recovering to overcome Groupama Team France in race six, confirmed via their Twitter page that the incident had caused damage to their bow and repairs had already started to take place with the aim of getting back out on the water for practice racing for day three (Wednesday).
Artemis Racing also returned to race action having sat out day one and enjoyed a positive day on the water as they managed to beat Groupama Team France in the fourth race of the day.
Having enjoyed a perfect run of back-to-back wins on day one, ORACLE TEAM USA endured mixed fortunes on day two, beating SoftBank Team Japan in race 7, before the Japanese team gained revenge in a re-run in race 11 with ORACLE TEAM USA retiring after the first mark.
Practice racing week for the 35th America’s Cup
However, despite the mixed race results, ORACLE TEAM USA skipper Jimmy Spithill looked at the positives of more valuable hours of practice on the Great Sound.
“I think we’ve put in more hours than anyone over the last couple of days and we’ve had some really good racing,” he said.
“It’s taken a huge effort from the shore guys to be able to do that, so our hats off to them.
“We’re learning a lot about different race situations now. All the teams are racing hard and we’re trying to learn as much as we can from that. So the past two days have been very valuable, even with limited racing.
“We tried to lock a few design things down for the past couple of days, but we’re still heavily into the development curve. There’s a lot of stuff we want to do and need to do still. But on the other side, I think as a sailing team we still have a heap to do to sharpen up, so getting these hours in has been very valuable.”
Regardless of their results, all teams seem to be in agreement that the practice racing is an invaluable opportunity to gain knowledge of the racecourse and their opponents. SoftBank Team Japan skipper Dean Barker commented:
“We’ve gotten a good feel for the opposition, everyone has their final parts installed and are learning how to use them. They’re all in that final fine-tuning process ahead of starting racing next Friday and everyone is making gains around the course. You’re starting to see that final pecking order though there’s still a lot that can change before next week.
“Two surprises over the past two days? One has been how aggressive the practice racing has seemed to become evidenced by a pretty decent collision between two of the boats. Two, I think the way the level has continued to rise. You expected a plateau but the game is on to one up each other right now.”