In one of a handful of test days to come, all the technology needed to showcase the racing to the world from the 17th of December when the Prada America’s Cup World Series Auckland kicks off, was put through its paces on December 8.
These are key days for the many race officials, on water marshals, broadcast crew to diagnose anything which might occur during actual racing. They are also equally important for the teams, who are now officially allowed to engage each other for the very first time.
Regatta Director Iain Murray allowed the teams to invite each other into the start box from 3:00 till 6:00 pm. Emirates Team New Zealand and New York Yacht Club American Magic opened the dance with a series of practice starts in stunning Auckland sailing conditions.
Luna Rossa also stepped into the ring, and before so, co-helmsman Jimmy Spithill confirmed he and teammate Francesco Bruni would be splitting drive time.
“Basically, we’re each taking a side,” Spithill says, adding that both would be trimming the foil when not on the helm. “We decided to run that way and who knows if it’s right or wrong. There are pros and cons of both setups. The downside is you get half the time of the other helmsmen and foil trimmers, but there is an upside in the maneuvering in that we can go at the drop of a hat. We’ll have to wait and see which is better suited for certain conditions as well.
As this arrangement is unique, it’s not likely at this stage they’ll return to a traditional setup of crossing the boat after maneuvers. “You better off just staying in one side so the muscle memory is the same,” Spithill says. “I’m on the starboard side, so at least I’m on starboard tack.”
Observers of early training and after the practice session say the Italians are fluid with their boathandling and speed is not an issue, but Spithill has been in the game long enough to no speak too soon as to which of the four teams is showing the most promise. “Hopefully the [World Series] regatta will identify a pecking order,” he says, “but I really don’t know. My gut says, ‘don’t make any assumptions yet. It’s too early, there’s a lot of differences in the foils and hulls. So, yeah, everyone has recon, but until we line up, we don’t really know.”
According to race organizers, the race management went well, as did the test broadcast, noting it was: “An intense day for the TV as well with the highly sophisticated media equipment being operational on all boats and transmitting during the practice sessions. Just as importantly, the race officials had the chance to test their race systems, and more importantly start putting into action processes and controls which until today have just been plans on paper.”