Win the beginning, win the race. For the first six races of the America’s Cup final, Team New Zealand was the story for both Holder and his Italian challenger Luna Rosa Prada Pirelli.
Both teams and most experts expected an ultrite series this month in waters away from Auckland, New Zealand, and in the early days the teams traded wire-to-wire wins, exactly what happened. The first team across the line was also the first team to finish.
But racing for the first week also felt like something else: it was … boring. no passing. No pairing for leads. No dramatic comeback.
However, this all changed on Monday. Taking advantage of the shifting winds and its substantial pace, Team New Zealand passed Luna Roja in both races to take a 5–3 lead in the final.
The stunning – for this year – turn of events put Team New Zealand in a position to claim the Cup if it could record two more wins on Tuesday. Here’s how the host got within reach of the biggest prize of sailing.
Why did the race become so straight?
The world’s best sailors agree on one thing: the boats – finely tuned, meticulously crafted and expertly staffed carbon-fiber AC75s – are fully sailed. And it has robbed some of the drama incident.
“In recent times, this is the most interesting competition with the most boring racing,” said former US Cup captain and Olympic gold medalist Nathan Outridge.
In previous years, it was not uncommon for a dominant boat to sweep the finals, and often won every race after reaching there. But this year, a combination of strict design rules, high-tech simulators, a compact course and steady winds initially caused an unusual stalemate.
This year’s competitors, a new class of monohull hydrofoilers, rip into the air several times at four times the speed. The expectation was that, like speed, mistakes would have to increase.
The problem was that no one was making.
So what changed on Monday?
Wind, first of all.
New Zealand Won the seventh race For about a minute, but then Luna went too far back in the eighth race after cutting her froth after cutting into Rossa’s wind shadow. Taking advantage, the Italians gained a major edge before driving themselves into similar trouble.
Sailing in a hole in the air, Luna Rossa plunged her hull into the water, slowed to a crawl and then ran off course while trying to regain momentum. Upon his failure back to the Kiwi, Luna Rossa watched helplessly as the Kiwi screamed to complete a four-minute deficit in the previous four-minute victory.
“Two things changed yesterday,” former US Heelsman and commentator Ken Reid said of Monday’s race. “One, the first major break in the series and it was for the Kiwis. There is little luck in any game and they found it in spades.
“Second, we finally saw the jets that were Kiwi rumors. We saw that the speed of sailing was never seen before in our sport. “
New Zealand’s small, low-drag foils and the innovative, aerodynamic hull are considered to be the main differences in its speed gains. At one point, Read said, Team New Zealand was traveling 30 knots – about 35 mph – virtually in the air.
“You can’t do that,” he said, “with twin merchants in your motorboat.”
So is it all over?
not so fast.
“New Zealand is showing a fast boat, but Luna Roja shows that they are fast through maneuvers,” Nick Douglas, an Australian sailing commentator.
This means that when a boat comes to the fore with a fast start, it also lags behind for a full run. “If the wind is steady,” Douglas said, “there is not enough difference in performance to allow for a pass.”
This is what the Italians did in their three victories, and what they would have to do to survive.
What is the X-Factor? Turbulent air.
Even a boat with a modest advantage at the outset can easily defend its lead and win the race, which has come down to many factors unique to this competition, Douglas said, minimizing the effects of disturbed winds Including, coming from behind the sail.
“When an aircraft flies on the runway, another plane cannot fly for at least a minute due to disturbed air,” Plywood said. “It’s about disturbed air that we can’t see. These boats cut it like a knife and roll it upward.
Which can cause a big problem for the trailing boat. Dougal said that when one of the AC75s goes through the race committee boat this year, the wind affects the committee’s record for 30 to 40 seconds to help set an unbiased course. “Boats get stuck in these bubbles of troubled air,” she said.
With boats four times the speed of the wind, these invisible bubbles are like pits in the course. And in light air, like Monday’s two races, these anomalies are amplified.
This is why the key is to get out from the front and stay there.
But surely there is still home-water benefit?
New Zealand captain Peter Burling has won nine world championships and an Olympic gold medal, and he brought the Cup home to New Zealand four years ago. He wouldn’t give it up without a fight.
But this may be what is on his hands right now.
Outridge saw a shift from perfect selling technique to mental toughness, which made a difference to the rest of the competition.
“Nobody expected this to stop,” he said. “The boats are not changing now. It has gone from a design competition to a psychological competition. “
In 2017, when Burling won the cup, it was clear that New Zealand had a fast boat. There was never a do or die moment.
“Pete never really came under pressure in a cup match,” he said. “I don’t know how it’s going to be this time.”
His counterpart, Jimmy Spiethill, faced such a moment in the 2013 Cup. Then the American defender race, he and his teammates were down by eight races to New Zealand in the final over San Francisco Bay.
“They sat at match points for over a week,” Outridge said. “Jimmy either had to deliver or they lost.”
He said that experience can now pay dividends. It was better, because he is out of the race. and time.