Keep calm – and carry on.
That the message from Team New Zealand skipper Peter Burling, after a surprising opening day of the America’s Cup match.
Most experts were tipping a pronounced edge to the defenders– with some opining that it would barely be a contest – but that wasn’t the case.
Instead Luna Rossa showed they will be competitive, with little between the boats in the moderate breezes of between 12-14 knots on Wednesday.
The Italians kept it close in the first race, after falling behind early, and the eventual loss by 31 seconds was no disgrace.
But the pivotal moment came in the second contest, with Luna Rossa leading from start to finish, with the underdogs banking a seven-second win.
That result would have prompted some worry lines around the nation, after months of being fed the analysis that this Cup result was going to be a fait accompli.
It clearly won’t be, but Burling was unfazed by the prospect of Te Rehutai’s speed edge not being as pronounced as expected.
“We’re still pretty happy with how our boat is going,” said Burling. “Today was obviously a pretty tricky day – there was a lot of small wind shifts and one thing today did show that if you get behind at the start it’s pretty hard to get past. We did a good job of the first start and they probably kicked themselves for that and vice versa in the second race.
“We made a small mistake on the round-off, where we thought we’re in a good position and [from there] it’s definitely hard to pass in these spots. But we’re happy with how we dug deep in that final in the last race and really closed things up.”
Indeed, if Team New Zealand are looking for positives, they might come from examining the final two legs of Wednesday’s second race. Te Rehutai was behind by 24 seconds at the fourth gate – trailing by more than 400 metres – and the race looked all but over.
But they halved the deficit on the upwind leg, forcing the Italians into a couple of errors. The advantage was only 12 seconds at the penultimate gate and Team New Zealand then squeezed Luna Rossa all the way to the finish, with Burling suggesting that one more lap may have seen a different result.
Team New Zealand will use Thursday for maintenance and analysis, with Burling confirming they had “no intention” of going out on the water. Due to the Covid-19 enforced delay, Thursday is the last scheduled lay day of the regatta, with back-to-back racing after that and hence the only extended opportunity to analyse their performance against the challengers.
“We didn’t really know who had a speed edge heading into it, so it was great to check in today,” said Burling. “We haven’t really had a good chance to go back over everything and make some good decisions. Now it’s a great opportunity to really dive into the learnings from [Wednesday] and get as prepared as we can for the weekend, because whoever puts their best foot forward this weekend will decide it.”
Heading into the Cup racing?
• Give yourself plenty of time and think about catching a ferry, train or bus to watch the Cup.
• Make sure your AT HOP card is in your pocket. It’s the best way to ride.
• Don’t forget to scan QR codes with the NZ COVID Tracer app when on public transport and entering the America’s Cup Village.
• For more ways to enjoy race day, visit at.govt.nz/americascup.
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