A strong pass mark, but lots of work ahead in the quest to retain the America's Cup.
That's the verdict of Team New Zealand helmsman Peter Burling, at the conclusion of the America's Cup World Series and the Prada Christmas Races.
The four day warm up event provided several talking points – from the beleaguered British to wind limits and spectator craft – but the local focus was on the defenders.
Did they get the recipe right? Are they on the right trajectory?
Team New Zealand had five wins from six races, most by decent margins. They had impressive come from behind victories over Luna Rossa and American Magic and the only reverse was a 12 second loss to Patriot.
After all the conjecture, surely the regatta would have given Burling and his team a lot of confidence ahead of March?
"Yes and no," said Burling. "We are definitely happy with where we have checked in but at the same time we have learnt a lot from racing the other boats.
"There is definitely a lot of areas where they are still strong compared to us, but on the whole we are pretty happy with how our boat is going. We very much see it as a race against ourselves and trying to be the best we can be come March 6. That is what we are aiming at."
Burling's cautious optimism is understandable. Te Rehutai looks fast – certainly the quickest all-round boat – and Team New Zealand's crew work was the smoothest on display.
But Luna Rossa showed their capabilities in light airs and the Auckland breeze often softens in March. American Magic could have done the double on Team New Zealand – if not for one disastrous tack – and didn't race in heavier winds, understood to be their preference. The pre-starts revealed some chinks in Team New Zealand's armour, and the challengers will get much more practice during the Prada Cup.
The three days of the America's Cup World Series provided an interesting contrast; Thursday centred on pure boat speed, Friday saw match racing become paramount in the equation and Saturday was a test of foiling abilities.
That provided plenty of homework but the prospect of some additional racing – via a rescheduled Prada Christmas Race or some official practice – has since been floated by organisers and race director Iain Murray, though that would need to be agreed by the challengers, who may not want to give Team New Zealand extra opportunities.
"For sure it is not a straightforward decision," said Luna Rossa skipper Max Sirena. "[And] it needs to match with [everyone's] own plan and programme. [But] if there is an opportunity, probably keen to do it, and I guess Team New Zealand as well."
Burling took a wait and see approach.
"Yeah I was a bit surprised when they were saying they seemed happy enough to do it," said Burling. "I haven't talked to the team but I am sure we would be happy to race again. But even if we don't, we have a pretty good plan going through and feel like we are in good shape."
On a broader level, Burling was enthused by the capabilities of the boats and the excitement generated.
"It has been pretty incredible to see the level of the racing and the level that all the design teams are at to get these boats working so well in the first generation of a class.
"On the event side it was [great] to see how many Kiwis are excited about yacht racing, whether it is getting out on the water, or watching at home or sending us messages of support. It means a whole heap to us as a team."
Team New Zealand have some further practice this week, before a break for the festive period.
"For our group it has been a pretty big push," said Burling. "Through the launch of Te Rehutai, we have now sailed more than 20 days on her in just over a month. We need to make sure everyone takes a couple of days and rests up for the next push building up for the Cup."
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