What a way to start the America’s Cup racing cycle.
This weekend’s first preliminary regatta in Vilanova I la Geltru was scheduled to feature eight AC40 fleet races to be contested over three days. But after losing the opening day of the regatta as heavy rain and thunderstorms saw it called off, light winds limited day two to two races.
Unlike the opening day of the event where they were able to make the call early, the racing window was agonisingly drawn out on Sunday morning as the teams sat around waiting to see if the wind picked up between the day’s two races.
The first consisted of just two legs as the teams were forced to race in displacement mode. French team Orient Express Racing Team picked up with win as one of just three teams to finish the race in the time limit, though Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, who finished second, were given a did-not-start on the score sheet after a butchered entry onto the racecourse. However, a late review turned that decision around, resulting in the team being reinstated in second place.
That race was followed by a wait of about an hour for the breeze to come in so another contest could get underway.
Sunday morning’s crawl was eerily reminiscent of the ill-fated Christmas Cup of 2020 when the final day of the preliminary regatta in Auckland could not be completed because there wasn’t enough wind, and the event was ultimately abandoned. However, this time around, racing was able to resume.
When it eventually did, at the bottom end of the limit, it wasn’t exactly the high-speed foiling action these boats promised as only one team – Alinghi Red Bull Racing - stayed on their foils in the starting box.
It wasn’t until Alinghi were midway through leg two of four that another team got back on their foils, with Team New Zealand shooting through the fleet as the rest of the teams struggled.
Alinghi came off their foils soon after, and the Kiwis were the first team to round the second gate – with the race then shortened to three legs.
Remaining the only team on the foils, Team New Zealand cruised to a comfortable race win. Lacklustre as the race was, it was impressive that Team New Zealand were able to find a way to get up onto the foils when no other team could.
While the Kiwis ended the day on top, Luna Rossa’s late reinstatement in race one meant Team New Zealand were scored in fourth not third for the race and therefore bumped down to second on the leaderboard for the regatta with 13 points, trailing the French by two.
There will be two more fleet races on the final day of the event on Monday morning (from 1.30am NZ time), before a match race between the top two teams to decide the winner of the regatta.