Young New Zealand sailor Peter Burling has made a successful debut in the America's Cup World Series, skippering Team Korea to a narrow win over Luna Rossa Piranha in his match racing qualifier today.
After clear skies, light winds and temperatures in the early 30s for the practice races, more traditional San Francisco conditions returned for the opening day of racing, with the fog rolling in and the wind picking up.
With winds gusting up to 20 knots and a difficult sea state caused by low tide in San Francisco Bay, many were predicting a tough introduction to the world of multihull racing for Burling. After all, far more experienced sailors have capsized in lighter conditions in the Bay.
But Burling proved equal to the challenge, capitalising on an error from Luna Rossa's Chris Draper at the start to build a strong lead. Despite some problems setting the gennaker on the final run, the team managed to hold on for a narrow two second win.
Burling said while there were some technical glitches on board, he was pleased to come away with a win in his first outing.
"I was pretty happy, I think the guys are pretty glad we didn't have to do another race because we were all pretty tired after just that 13 minute race," Burling said.
"We made it hard for ourselves to be honest. We had so many problems on the boat, which hopefully we can iron out over the next few days."
The wins sees Team Korea advance through to the quarter-finals tomorrow, where they will face Artemis White, skippered by veteran American sailor Terry Hutchinson.
Team New Zealand also had strong opening day of the regatta, securing a 51 second win over Artemis Red in Nathan Outteridge's first outing for the Swedish team.
The Kiwi team will meet Energy in tomorrow's quarter-final, and skipper Dean Barker said they will need to be on their game against the French with the finals format unforgiving.
"With the way it is set up at the moment you make one mistake, you lose the race and that's it for the match-racing side," he said.
The other Kiwi skipper in action today, China Team's Phil Robertson had a mixed day on the water, securing the team's first match race win on the world series circuit, before being forced to withdraw from their final race of the day with damage to their wing.
After losing the opening match against Energy Team France, the Chinese boat came back to beat Luna Rossa Piranha in an eventful repechage match, which saw Robertson cop a penalty for going beyond the boundary line.
They managed to scrape through for a six second win after completing their penalty.
But five minutes before they were due in the start box for their final qualifier against Artemis Red, the team's wing fractured. Robertson said after such a strong performance in the second race they were disappointed they didn't get the chance to push for a quarter-final spot.
"[The wing] just kind of fell apart on us just before our third race. We were really disappointed, we had the boat going really well in the second race and found a good mode and we were ready to go out and do it again in the third, but it all fell apart."
Results: America's Cup World Series, San Francisco
Results - Match Racing qualifiers
Q1 Team Korea bt Luna Rossa Piranha +02 seconds
Q2 Energy Team France bt China Team +56s
Q3 Emirates Team New Zealand bt Artemis Red +51s
Q4 Ben Ainslie Racing bt Luna Rossa Swordfish +1m 15s
China Team bt Luna Rossa Piranha +06s
Artemis Red bt Luna Rossa Swordfish +33s
Artemis Red bt China Team (DNS)By Dana Johannsen Email Dana