Photography by Photography by © ACEA 2017 / Photo Gilles Martin-Raget - Photo Ricardo Pinto
Peter Burling’s Emirates Team New Zealand started the day with a 2-1 lead in the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Challenger Playoff final over Nathan Outteridge and Artemis Racing.
Two hours later, Burling was sitting on match point, holding a 4-2 lead and taking a stranglehold on the series. But it was far from easy, with the winning delta on the final race of the day of just one-second.
“We were really happy to walk away from the day 4-2 up,” Burling, the young Kiwi helmsman said. “To get our boat around the track in the way we did and to take those couple of wins, is full credit to the whole team, and what they’re willing to give to get the job done here. We probably gave everyone a heart attack at that last mark there… but the way the boys ground the board down it’s full credit to the bikes and the design we have to get the power to get it down and hold on to the lead.”
The first team to earn five points will advance to the America’s Cup Match against two-time defending champion ORACLE TEAM USA.
In the semi final, Artemis Racing won three consecutive races to defeat SoftBank Team Japan and Outteridge and his team will have to repeat that performance to advance to the match.
“We saw in the semi finals that anything is possible,” Outteridge noted. “We’ll keep chipping away. We won’t change how we tackle the starts or the first mark approaches. We’re six for six there. It’s more what we do in the upwind legs to help keep them behind us…
“The boat’s going just fine,” Outteridge said. “I think if we can keep attacking the races the way we have been, and (keep) trying to control Team New Zealand as much as we can that’s the important thing for us to focus on.”
Sunday dawned with dark clouds and stormy skies in Bermuda and an ominous forecast – rain showers and thunderstorms crossed the Great Sound race area throughout the early afternoon and racing took place in winds that peaked near 15 knots and dropped as low 8 knots.
An even start saw Nathan Outteridge’s Artemis Racing gap off to the windward side of Burling’s Emirates Team New Zealand to take the high-speed option and lead into mark one for the fourth consecutive time in the series. At the bottom gate, the Swedish lead was just 5-seconds, with Burling keeping the pressure on, following Outteridge through the gate. On the first upwind, the Kiwis were able to get a couple of short splits, but Outteridge and tactician Iain Percy never allowed them to wander too far away, offering up a loose covering position, staying between Burling and the top gate.
While Team New Zealand earned a split on the run, it wasn’t to the favored side, and Percy and Outteridge sped away to a big gain. Burling again took a split at the bottom, rolling the dice on the final upwind leg. With a lead of xlose to 200-metres, Outteridge was content to sail his own race but a very poor tack near the top gate allowed Burling to close the deficit right up. The Artemis Racing boat reared up into the air coming out of a tack and crashed hard into the water. Burling and his Kiwis almost made the pass, but this time, Artemis Racing recovered – just in time – and protected through to the finish. The 15-second win sees the series tied at 2-2.
For the fifth time in five races, Nathan Outteridge and Artemis Racing led across the starting line and past mark one. There wasn’t a lot of engagement in the pre-start and Burling and Emirates Team New Zealand have yet to find an answer to get across the starting line with a lead.
Burling elected to take a split at the bottom gate and when the boats converged, Outteridge tried to slam a tight covering tack on the Kiwis, but Burling took the high road, pinching up to a safe and strong position approaching the boundary. When the boats tacked again, the Kiwis were in a powerful leeward position and with rights, Burling luffed hard, forcing Outteridge to tack. The extra maneuver gave the lead to the Kiwis who soon crossed ahead to round the windward gate with a 13-second lead.
From there, it was straight-forward to the finish. Burling and the Kiwis extended to take the win and a 3-2 series lead, with Sweden retiring from the race as the Kiwis crossed the line.
Both boats crossed the starting line at speed in a neutral start, but with better pace and the leeward position on the reach to mark one, Artemis Racing’s Nathan Outteridge was able to push Burling well to windward of the target before turning downwind with a 3-second lead around mark one and then a 7-second lead through the bottom gate. The Swedish team is now 6 for 6 in terms of leading at mark one.
New Zealand followed through the gate but an early tack on the first upwind leg allowed the Kiwis a bit of separation and a slight gain on a left hand windshift. Halfway up the leg, Artemis Racing put a tight covering tack on the New Zealand boat, forcing them back to the right side of the course, and into a big split. Artemis Racing held a narrow lead and crossed ahead when the boats met at the top gate, but New Zealand took the favored gate mark and sailed into the lead on the first half of the run.
At the bottom gate, Outteridge was less than 2-seconds behind and as the boats turned upwind the Swedish bows were just meters from the stern of the Kiwi boat. But in disturbed air, Artemis Racing was forced to tack away. When the boats next converged, Burling had again extended to a more comfortable lead, always sailing a closer angle to the top gate where he held a 16-second lead.
Just when the race appeared to be in hand for the Kiwis, the team appeared to lose control on the final gybe and the boat settled into the water, very slow. This set up a dramatic sprint to the finish, but Burling had the faster angle, crossing the line just over one-second ahead of the fast charging Swedish boat.
Despite trailing at the first mark in all six races, Emirates Team New Zealand has earned four points. Burling says the team has confidence in its speed around the race course to help overcome any early deficits.
“Today was all about getting to that bottom gate in good shape and then trying to generate opportunities upwind, where we’re fast. We’re learning a lot about how to come from behind… We have the confidence we can run them down.”
The first weekend of the final match in the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Challenger Playoffs ends with Emirates Team New Zealand sitting on match point with a 4-2 lead.
Racing is scheduled to continue in lighter conditions on Monday afternoon.