The America's Cup World Series came alive on Friday – setting up not just the weekend but the upcoming events in 2021.
There was a slightly anti-climatic feeling after the first day on Thursday, with three of the four races extremely one-sided.
Sure, these AC75 boats were fast, but at times it was about as enthralling as watching a drag race, with the obvious disparities.
But Friday was reassuring; there were some brilliant contests, whetting the appetite for next year.
Luna Rossa and American Magic engaged in two gripping battles – with some old fashioned match racing, as they stalked each other round the course, with one victory apiece.
And despite two more defeats, Ineos Team UK showed they have a functioning boat – and improbably led Team New Zealand for almost two legs in the final race of the day.
That seemed an impossible scenario after all their previous problems, but came after a spectacular start by Ben Ainslie, as he outfoxed Peter Burling to gain the favoured side of the course.
Team New Zealand always looked more likely – as Te Rehutai clicked into gear, especially upwind – but the British made a decent fight of it, though they eventually lost by 1:42.
All three potential challengers bared their teeth in their own way on Friday, which will offer encouragement to those trying to prise the Auld Mug away, though Team New Zealand clearly have the quickest and most versatile boat at this point.
Burling was far from satisfied though, admitting it was an untidy day, with a few mishaps.
Americans' near disaster
The first race on Friday was spectacular, though with another hint of the mechanical issues that have been a talking point.
The American Magic boat almost tipped over early in the first leg, after a delay with the lifting of the windward foil.
It cost the Americans their lead – earned after the Italians incurred a penalty in the pre-start – and they never regained it, though the deficit was reduced to only four seconds at one stage.
It appeared to be an issue with the foil cant system, a repeat of the problems that had plagued Ineos Team UK on Thursday and prompted Ainslie's outburst.
"It was a bit frustrating," said Dean Barker. "We had a nice position and it didn't come up out of the tack and unfortunately that put us on the back foot."
He suspected it was mechanical.
"We have to check," said Barker. "It seemed to work okay after that. These boats are pretty difficult at times and you are never quite sure…but if in doubt blame the boat."
Still Barker was content, as Patriot stalked the Italians relentlessly.
"We were a long way back a couple of times and we kept coming back at them."
The Italians hung on, thanks to clever sailing and guile and looked happier in the lighter airs, as they finished 12 seconds ahead.
'Peter listen to me…no lower, no lower, listen to my comms'
The second race was straightforward, with Team New Zealand cantering to a win over Ineos Team UK, with a 1:32 delta. But it wasn't particularly polished from the Kiwis, as they almost collided with a mark – with skipper Burling receiving a gentle telling off from trimmer Glenn Ashby.
"Peter listen to me…no lower, no lower, listen to my comms," said Ashby urgently as Te Rehutai careered towards the fibreglass mark, followed by a quick "sorry" from Burling.
Team New Zealand also crashed off the foils at the end of the second lap, though showed good awareness to round the mark without attempting to take off again. Their boat speed was again impressive, though they didn't have to extend themselves after taking control halfway down the first leg.
It was much better news for the British after their disastrous Thursday.
They got round the course and looked clean in transitions, though Ainslie conceded they are "a few clicks" behind Team New Zealand in boat speed.
They at least have a platform to build from.
A battle of attrition
The third race was a four-lap battle of attrition, as the course was shortened due to a change in conditions.
The Italians collected two more penalties at the start but pursued the Americans doggedly around the course.
It was a genuine match race, with some precise tacking.
The Italians made gains upwind, while the Americans found more juice with the breeze behind them.
It was tight – at one stage the margin was only five seconds – but Barker's crew didn't give Luna Rossa any openings and crossed the line 30 seconds ahead.
"They never went away…it was a bit like the old school days," reflected Barker.
Team New Zealand and American Magic have three wins apiece, with Luna Rossa on two and the British yet to register a point.
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