Photography by Ricardo Pinto/America's Cup
01 December 2023
A cautious start for all in the opening race with the fleet staying above the line in order to fast gybe back to get below and start with speed. NYYC American Magic were first called OCS (over the line) and then copped a further two penalties before being disqualified for a boundary infringement as they wallowed in displacement off the foils.
Emirates Team New Zealand aced the start, coming over to the right side on port tack, trailed by Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, whilst INEOS Britannia made a glamour entry at the pin end of the line on starboard tack at pace with Orient Express Racing. Up the first beat, the Kiwis played the middle and rounded first with a 60-metre lead and continued to build on that down the first downwind. Orient Express fell off the foils on a big ventilation, leaving INEOS Britannia to really secure their second place.
Alinghi Red Bull Racing came off the foils at the first leewards mark. Emirates Team New Zealand and INEOS Britannia gapped the fleet up the second beat with the Kiwis stretching away and enjoying a 36 second lead at the second windward mark.
Downwind, the gybe angles on both the Kiwi and British boats saw high exits to keep the power on as the helms kept it smooth and the trimmers maintained power in the mainsail and jib through delicate control. Race control reduced the length of the legs to 0.7 nautical miles and on the final upwind, Emirates Team New Zealand stretched away into a 450 metre lead and rounded the final windward mark 1 minute and 5 seconds ahead.
No mistakes down the final run to the finish, Peter Burling, Nathan Outteridge, Blair Tuke and Andy Maloney brought the Kiwi yacht home to secure a vital first win and stamp their mark on the America’s Cup Preliminary Regatta, presented by NEOM. In second place, and securing 7 points was INEOS Britannia after a brilliantly executed race by Sir Ben Ainslie, Giles Scott, Bleddyn Mon and Iain Jensen. Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli secure the final place on the podium in race one.
Interesting starting tactics in race two with the fleet all staying upwind of the start-line with 30 seconds to go in order to execute a fast gybe back behind and keep pace on in the marginal foiling conditions of around 7 knots.
Emirates Team New Zealand aced the start again, hitting the committee boat end of the line on port tack and leading off the line with INEOS Britannia giving chase. Alinghi Red Bull Racing started down on the pin end of the line at pace and going out to the port boundary. The first beat was all about minimising manoeuvres with the fleet going out to the boundaries, but it was the Kiwis that clicked into a little puff on the right side by the starboard boundary who capitalised and seized the lead.
At the top mark it was a smooth exit and downwind Emirates Team New Zealand stretched into an unassailable lead. At the leeward mark, INEOS Britannia overtook Alinghi Red Bull Racing to take second place as NYYC American Magic who had been scored an OCS at the start that they resolved, closed up on the front-runners.
The Swiss got ahead of the British whilst American Magic also overtook INEOS Britannia as the three contested the podium places whilst the Kiwis sailed away. American Magic came off the foils on the first gybe and lost distance, leaving INEOS Britannia and Alinghi Red Bull Racing in an almost match-race.
The Swiss elected to take the port gate whilst the British took the starboard gate and it was a split tack final beat as both boats hit their respective boundaries.
Meanwhile up front, Emirates Team New Zealand were off into the distance, building a lead of some 700 metres to lead at the final windward gate by 1 minute 33 seconds. Alinghi Red Bull Racing consolidated their second place, but it was close with INEOS Britannia as they split at the final gate and selected different tactics downwind.
By the finish, Emirates Team New Zealand secured the win by a large margin of some 1 minute 40 seconds with the Swiss securing second and INEOS Britannia in third. High technique on display from all the teams but it was a masterclass from the Kiwis.
The die was cast off the start-line in race three with Marco Gradoni, just 19 years old, bringing Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli in on a pin end port tack flyer sitting to leeward of Emirates Team New Zealand but crucially with pace and power to steal a march that they simply would never lose.
At the top mark it became a three-way battle with Orient Express Racing Team muscling into the podium positions and split gybe tactics brought it desperately close at the bottom gate.
Crucially, and perhaps the moment of the race, was the decision by the Italians to take the port gate and head out to the right-hand side of the course on the second beat where they clicked into more breeze. Emirates Team New Zealand elected to take the starboard gate and hit the port boundary where a fatal light patch ended their chances.
Up the second beat, Orient Express overtook the Kiwis to round the second windward mark in second with the Italians building and building their lead. On the second downwind leg, Luna Rossa made no mistakes and gapped away with Orient Express whilst a fall off the foils by Emirates Team New Zealand ended their race completely.
Alinghi Red Bull Racing sailed into the final podium place ahead of the last beat but almost came off the foils on the rounding with INEOS Britannia close behind whilst up front, Orient Express came off their foils and got a boundary penalty trying to get back up.
Somehow the French managed to attain flight and cleared their penalty whilst Luna Rossa streaked away, rounding the final windward mark and trucking downwind at 30 knots to secure a massive win, over half a leg ahead of the competition. Orient Express Racing Team secured a fabulous second place, whilst Alinghi Red Bull Racing held off a strong challenge from INEOS Britannia to take third place.