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35th America's Cup Qualifying complete: What have we learnt so far?

by Mark Jardine on 3 Jun 3 June 2017

So the 35th America's Cup Qualifying Round is complete. Groupama Team France are the team who didn't make it through and ORACLE TEAM USA won, giving them a precious point going into the America's Cup match itself. The racing has been tense and exciting, with real racing, lead changes, drama, upsets and a collision.

Without doubt, all the teams have improved over the last week, and it's clear that development is going on behind the scenes all the time.

With Emirates Team New Zealand being the top challenger in the Qualifying Series, they got to choose their opponent for the Louis Vuitton America's Cup Challenger Playoff Semi-Finals (yes, that is the title they chose!), and Peter Burling announced in the post-racing press conference that they will compete against Land Rover BAR.

What have we learnt from the Qualifying Series?

The defenders are no slouches, as they showed today with their victory over Emirates Team New Zealand. Jimmy Spithill has been there and done that in the America's Cup and the team looks strong with Tom Slingsby often moving forwards on the boat to call tactics, then dropping back into a cycling station on the downwind legs to generate a bit more power together with the grinders.

The Kiwis have at times shown devastating speed, especially in their victory over Land Rover BAR on Thursday, and the British team know they have it all on to progress past the semis. Their manoeuvres have been slick, and they managed a full race without coming off the foils on Friday. They throw the boat through the tacks and gybes - a technique that many of the teams are now using. The team look calm on the water with 49er Olympic Gold Medallist Peter Burling supremely assured on the helm. Power-wise, the cycling seems to be working nicely - they never look like they're short of hydraulic energy for their foils and wing and that has to be a strong advantage.

Sir Ben Ainslie's Land Rover BAR have been inconsistent; two wins over Artemis Racing and a final-day victory over SoftBank Team Japan were tempered by a defeat to Groupama Team France on Monday and a massive loss to Emirates Team New Zealand on Thursday. Match racing tactics have been strong for the team, winning 7 of their 10 starts and inflicting numerous penalties on their opponents.

Although they were involved in the terrifying collision with SoftBank Team Japan last Saturday, which led to an extremely long night for the shore side team. The Kiwis definitely have the upper hand come Sunday, but only a fool would write off Ben in any regatta...

Relive the collision between SoftBank Team Japan and Land Rover BAR in Race 6. The Brits are about to begin their first race of the day against ORACLE TEAM USA, we will soon see if yesterday's damage is a factor!

Posted by America's Cup on Sunday, 28 May 2017

Iain Percy's much fancied Artemis Racing have had a strange Qualifying Series. Two defeats to Land Rover BAR and a loss to Groupama Team France left them looking precarious early on, but two wins against ORACLE TEAM USA and SoftBank Team Japan steadied the ship. They'll be confident going into their semi with SoftBank Team Japan following on from those victories in qualifying.

Dean Barker's SoftBank Team Japan only picked up three race wins in qualifying; two against Groupama Team France and the one against Land Rover BAR where they had that big crash. The results don't tell the full story though, as they've been involved in some close matches and are tactically sound. Their semi with Artemis Racing could be close, but they'll need to be on top form the entire time.

Groupama Team France were valiant in defeat and Franck Cammas smiled his way through the racing. Their two race victories against Land Rover BAR and SoftBank Team Japan were greeted with huge applause as everyone recognised the team were short on funding and preparation time.

With the French having such as strong history in multihulls, and Cammas being a serial big event winner, I really hope they'll be back for the next 36th America's Cup where they could be a force to be reckoned with.

The Louis Vuitton America's Cup Challenger Playoff Semi-Finals start on Sunday with the first two races in both match-ups. Monday is scheduled to be a day off, then races 3 & 4 will be held on Tuesday, races 5 & 6 on Wednesday, and races 7,8 & 9 on Thursday (if they are required).

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