Fri. Nov 18th, 2022

OPINION: Welcome to the Americas Cup! What an incredible first day of racing. It certainly felt like it did not go quite according to plan for the Kiwis while in contrast the Italians have come away with the first moral victory of the event.
We are so used to seeing one boat completely dominate the other in Americas Cup finals that the 1 – 1 scoreline has already forced any pre-race assumptions of a clear winner to be quickly abandoned.
This first day win would be a big morale boost for the Italian team, who are tagged as the underdogs, and it was assumed that they would be at the disadvantage in a medium to stronger wind condition.
Luna Rossa and Team New Zealand produced a fascinating start to the 36th America’s Cup match.
From experience, after months of intense training, racing and other Cup demands, the Italian team will be getting quite tired. Its a big challenge to move across the world to a different time zone, away from your support networks and especially so with the stress and uncertainty of Covid-19. For those with families temporarily in New Zealand, theres the added impact of supporting your kids into a new school and your partner into a new environment.
READ MORE:* America’s Cup: Peter Burling coy on how Team NZ can get ahead after second race setback * America’s Cup: Italy ecstatic – ‘Like beating Brazil in a World Cup final in the Maracana stadium’ * America’s Cup: Team New Zealand skipper Peter Burling’s alarming tumble at 67kmh
Strong mental drive and continual focus is crucial to these high-performance athletes. This is a long regatta and the Italians showed by fighting back to win the second race that they are focused and worthy challengers. And with lighter winds coming later in the week, in which the Italians are proven to be skilled sailors, the even first day score is a good indicator that this will be a close Cup.
The Kiwis certainly did not look slow and after the first race win, Im sure there was a very collective sigh of relief amongst the team.
Team New Zealand now need to use the precious day off to analyse different aspects of Wednesdays racing to gauge how their predictions in performance are lining up with the reality. There is certainly no need to panic. They have clearly turned up to the Americas Cup with a very competitive package, and we always knew there would be a bit of dust to shake off from the lack of racing compared to the Italians.
Course E in the back paddock provided a very one-way sort of racetrack which meant there were not a lot of passing lanes for the boat behind if the leading boat wasnt making any mistakes. We saw that in both races.
The course will have given the Kiwis some great opportunities to gauge their relative performances to Luna Rosa and all this will help them keep tweaking and adjusting Te Rehutai to keep getting faster and faster.
Team New Zealand will have learned a lot about themselves and Luna Rossa on day one.
But boat speed isnt the only thing that needs to be discussed here. There will be plenty to debrief around how the two pre-starts played out and their impact on the final results. In the first race, the Kiwis nailed their timed run back to the start line and got a significant jump on the Italians. From there they were able to control the race tactically to win what seemed quite comfortably.
If youre the leading boat, you control the race by sailing on the favoured side of the course, and essentially staying between the opponent and the mark. Youd be looking over your shoulder at the team behind, making sure to cover their tacks or tacking in a way to force them to the unfavoured side of the course, so they end up sailing a longer distance the mark.
Team NZ skipper Peter Burling says a small mistake cost them the second race.
The second start was a different story, the Kiwis simply just mistimed the turn back to the line and were left in the wake of Luna Rossa who did an incredible job to use that advantage to defend their lead the entire way round the racetrack.
If youre second off the mark, you need to keep the race as close as possible, so that you keep applying pressure to the team in front. The closer you are the more opportunities you have to pass, by capitalising on any mistake the leading team makes. Team New Zealand did do this quite well. They shortened the distance between the boats, but Luna Rossa didnt slip up.
We havent seen the dramatic mistakes we saw in early races, such as falling of the foils, because first of all the teams have been on a step learning curve with these boats. They now have much better control over the foiling monohulls. The conditions also play a part, as light winds make it much harder to stay up on the foils. However, there are small slip ups here and there, theyre just more subtle, such as missing a windshift, but when racing is close this mistake can be just as significant as losing a start.
This first day was testing the waters, somewhat polite racing. When the racing heats up, the teams will be attacking each other more, and thats when youll see the risk of the attack lead to a mistake or pay off, forcing the other team to make a mistake.
We saw this attacking in the pre-start for Luna Rossa versus Team UK, when Sir Ben Ainslie tried to hook the Italians and unfortunately it didnt pay off as they lost control and fell off the foils.
These flying monohulls definitely seem to herald the return of match racing to the Americas Cup, with two very evenly matched boats fighting it out by winning the start and controlling the favoured side of the racecourse.
Fridays return to the racetrack in what could be quite different conditions much lower wind speeds will be another critical opportunity for Team New Zealand to gauge their performance and keep building on the momentum they are going to need to overcome the very motivated Italians.
Carl (Tiny) Whiting is a three-time Americas Cup sailor, sailing world champion and former Olympian. Carl is hosting charters to watch the Americas Cup racing on the water with Whiting Sailing, his family-run sailing school and charter business.