As if it was written in the script, day 3 of the America’s Cup presented by PRADA is again locked up with Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli in 3-3 tie. To lift the Auld Mug one of them need to win 7 races so the regatta is anyones.
Today’s racing have been a copy of yesterday and the day before, starts have been crucial and have played a big part in shaping the final result and light breeze made staying up on foils the priority.
In contrast to many Cup that have gone before these lightweight flying AC75 only need a small window to deliver an exciting race sailing with an average speed of 30 knots reached in less than 10 knots of wind.
Out on the water ahead of day 3 it was another spectacular scene as over 1500 spectator boats lined the race course boundaries and tomorrow at 4:15 pm is game on again.
Current: 0.4 knots @ 194
Wind 8-9 knots
Winner: Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli 0:18
Out on the water ahead of Race 5 it was another spectacular scene as thousands of spectators lined the race course boundaries. But the one thing that hadn’t turned up in abundance was the wind. In the minutes before the start sequence got underway the average wind speed was floating around the 7-8 knots range, just above the minimum 6.5 knot average required for racing.
In these conditions the expectation so far has been that this would favour the Italians with the Kiwis less comfortable in the light airs.
When the confirmation came that the minimum wind speed conditions had been met, the racing was on, the fifth race was about to begin in just 8 knots of true wind.
In the pre-start, after their march out to the right-hand side of the zone, both boats found themselves early for their passage back to the start line. This meant slowing down, but this was a risky move with the threat of coming off the foils in the process. But there seemed little other option and as both boats settled down to the water’s surface Emirates Team New Zealand were in a trickier position and had more to lose.
As Luna Rossa got back underway and worked their way to the start line the Kiwis were stuck, struggling to get back on the foils and sailing a deep angle away from the line to do so.
The net result was that while the Italians made a clean start on time the Kiwis were struggling and were forced to tack for the line. Eventually, Team New Zealand get onto their foils but they had been left behind by the challengers who were free to head over to the left-hand side of the course where there was stronger breeze. Just minutes into the first leg and the Italian lead was 250 m.
Having said that, as both boats worked their way up the first leg the Kiwis appeared to be chipping away at the Italian lead. As Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli approached Gate 1, leading was not enough as Spithill and Bruni discussed their tactics for the first mark rounding.
“I don’t want to gybe too early as I want to give him gas at the top,” said Bruni in reference to their ability to add to the Kiwi issues by giving them turbulent air as they passed them on their way down leg 2. The Italians had rounded 32 seconds ahead. By the bottom gate the difference was exactly the same as the pair chose opposite marks to round. If nothing else, this seemed to suggest that the speeds between the two boats remained much the same and the distance between them in this match was the result of an unforced error at the start.
By the second windward gate the Italians were still in the lead, but Emirates Team New Zealand had managed to pull back 10 seconds. The defenders were still paying the price for a poor start but they clearly had a quick machine upwind when they were able to sail their own course in clear air.
By the top gate for the third and final time the Kiwis had once again hauled back a few seconds to round 23 seconds behind, a gain but the track record in this match suggested that a win on the final leg would be a big ask.
And indeed this is how it turned out as Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli crossed the finish 18 seconds ahead to take their third win in the 36th America’s Cup.
Current: 0.5 knots @ 193
Wind 8-9 knots
Winner: Emirates Team New Zealand 1:41
For race 6, the second race of the day, the breeze had remained much the same but the pressure on the defenders had increased significantly.
As Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli came in on port Emirates Team New Zealand were keen to get on their tail very quickly and gybed to get onto the chase.
Both boats headed out to the right-hand boundary, Luna Rossa gybed while the Kiwis tacked. The Italian gybe wasn’t a good one as they struggled to get through a light patch and get back up to speed after the gybe.
Meanwhile, Emirates Team New Zealand had good speed as they bore away from their high right-hand corner position in the pre-start zone.
As the final seconds counted down the roles had been reversed from the first race of the day with the defenders sailing 10knots quicker through the water as they crossed the start line while the challengers struggled for pace.
On the face of it Peter Burling had perfected his start, while Jimmy Spithill appeared to have got it wrong. Yet there was another potential issue at play, the breeze.
While the average minimum wind speed had been met, the breeze was becoming patchier. It was now becoming easier to get caught out.
By gate 1 Emirates Team New Zealand were 51 seconds ahead, a physical distance of around 800m on the water, a huge lead for the first half of the first lap. Getting back into this race for the Italians was going to be a big ask.
By gate 2 little had changed other than the Kiwi lead had increased slightly to 1min 7 seconds. By the end of the second lap, more of the same at 1min 13 seconds.
By the top gate for the final time the Kiwis were 1400m ahead, only a crisis stood between Emirates Team New Zealand and their third win. Across the line they were 1min 41 seconds ahead. But the time was of no interest, win or lose, that was all that mattered.
“That was a good one,” said Emirates Team New Zealand flight controller Blair Tuke. “a good way to finish another tight day.”
“We got caught in a light patch before the start and couldn’t get to the line,” said Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli co-helmsman, “after that there were not a lot of passing lanes to get back after that.”
So, three days of racing and three wins apiece, an extraordinary scoreline that few if any had predicted. The 36th America’s Cup couldn’t be any closer.