In their last America’s Cup racing until August next year, Team New Zealand have sent a statement to their challengers.
In the second preliminary regatta in Jeddah this week, the defender won six of the nine races on their way to picking up the event title.
It was something of a milestone moment in the final of the event. With the final of the first preliminary regatta in Vilanova i la Geltru in September - which would have seen Team New Zealand take on American Magic - not being raced due to the conditions, the final in Jeddah was the first match race of the America’s Cup campaign.
On a bumpy day on the Red Sea, the conditions troubled all the teams early in the day. That continued in the final, with Luna Rossa spectacularly splashing down when rounding the penultimate gate, handing the race to Team New Zealand.
“We’ve been happy with how we’ve gone all weekend. A lot of effort’s gone into this so we’re very happy to get the win we didn’t get the chance to get at the last event,” Team New Zealand port helmsman Nathan Outteridge said.
As the top-placed team after the eight fleet races, Team New Zealand got their choice of which side of the course to enter from, opting for port entry and making that count.
Team New Zealand were clinical in the starting box, locking Luna Rossa into a poor position, forcing them across the starting line early and leaving them needing to make a big manoeuver to get back on the course.
It allowed the Kiwis to get off to an early lead, but the Italians had been fast all week and that didn’t change in the final. By the midway point of the second leg, Luna Rossa had edged their way into the lead.
That didn’t last long, as Team New Zealand regained their lead midway through the race and were able to extend it and went on with the job.
When Luna Rossa touched down as they began the final leg of the race, they were about 100m behind Team New Zealand and a clean leg from their counterparts would have sewn up with the result regardless.
While they didn’t win, the overall performance of Luna Rossa has been a big surprise this week as the youthful duo of Marco Gardoni and Ruggero Tita took the helming duties in place of the incumbent pairing of Francesco Bruni and Jimmy Spithill.
You would’ve have known they were inexperienced in the way they sailed, as for the most part they were aggressive and impressed with their decision-making.
The other syndicates all had their moments over the three days of racing, however the Kiwis and Italians were by far the most consistent two teams.
The regatta was the final time the America’s Cup crews will race on their AC40s, with next August’s final preliminary regatta in Barcelona doubling as the first time the teams will race their new AC75s.
The AC40s will return, however, as the vessels on which the Youth and Women’s America’s Cup will be raced.
Christopher Reive joined the Herald sports team in 2017, bringing the same versatility to his coverage as he does to his sports viewing habits.