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America's Cup Rialto: Sept 14 - The Waitemata Rodeo

by Richard Gladwell/ 15 Sep 02:46 BST 15 September 2020
Emirates Team New Zealand - Waitemata Harbour - September 14, - 36th America's Cup © Richard Gladwell /

In contrast to Saturday's sunshine, blue skies, and the 4 o'clock 15kt breeze, winter returned on Monday, with a SW (offshore breeze) averaging 20kts for the duration of the session, gusting 25kts but with much stronger rain squalls.

One squall came through at 30kts gusting 33kts, which caught American Magic, after Emirates Team New Zealand had packed up and towed home, missing the worst of it.

Defiant made the right call, getting in a couple of hours more sailing in the extreme conditions - which for most of the day were over the wind limit for AC75 racing. However like in Bermuda, the wind limit system only applies in a five minute period of the prestart, and once through that test period the race continues, regardless - provided competitor safety is not compromised.

Te Aihe docked out at 1000hrs sailing down the harbour riding one of many squalls in the 20-25kts range, but looking very comfortable in the conditions.

The AC75 gybed off the wall at Orakei and then pinned her ears back and took off down harbour headed for Motuihe - at who knows how many times windspeed. Impressively Te Aihe stayed in level flight and just sailed fast - very fast. The sort of performance you'd expect to see in 10-12kts, but the SW breeze funneling out of the Waitemata is an impressive, nasty breeze, and a real cage-fight for the AC75's.

The kiwis literally smoked down the harbour heading for Motuihe - with the steamy high speed spray being carried away by the breeze, rather than its more usual exit after being jetted off the foil arms.

Emirates Team New Zealand seemed to have caught the recon teams napping, with Luna Rossa's RIB flying down the harbour and taking a shortcut between the reefs off Mission Bay to join Te Aihe - doing speed training in "The Paddock" off Eastern Beach and behind Browns Island. The conditions there should have been more steady than in the Waitemata. It was interesting that in the top-end conditions the Kiwis were still speed testing - no doubt checking their different wing and bulb shapes that have made it to the AC75 from the test boat Te Kahu.

This was the second day on which the two AC75's have both been on the Waitemata - and in these conditions it was mildly intriguing to see where they headed, to avoid infringing the Protocol prohibition on co-ordinated sailing. In lighter winds they would no doubt have headed out into the old America's Cup course area in the outer hauraki Gulf - but in these winds it was not an option.

As usual, Te Aihe did a couple of runs before heading for The Paddock.

Perhaps more prudently, American Magic towed past an hour later, when the breeze was averaging 23kts and solidly gusting to 27kts according to real time readings from Northern Leading beacon, 1.5nm from the harbour entrance - and passed by the AC75's as they head out for a day's sailing.

They set up about mid-way between North Head and Moutihe Island at the eastern end of the harbour, and did a run back to North Head, but parted company with the water in spectacular fashion on the return reach (see yet to be published story and images).

Other matters called and we returned just after 1.00pm to find ETNZ making a final run before shutting down for the day well - she was down towards Motuihe, and sail or tow - it was a long, and cold trip home.

ETNZ towed home in the strongest rain squall of the day with the breeze averaging 28kts and gusting 35kts for a 20 minute period. Defiant sat impressively alongside her chase-boat, head to wind and with her mainsail hoisted, before unhitching, setting a small jib and sailing away.

She continued a race training session around markes laid by the team - sailing well in the conditions which had eased back to 23-27kts.

However she managed a spectacular nosedive after her rudder ventilated again (see yet to be published story for the photo-sequence). After a reflecting on the incident American Magic impressively continued with their training circuit in a slightly softer, but still very willing breeze, before sailing home.

Tawhirimatea the Maori God of Wind and Storms hadn't finished with Defiant, slamming her with another rain squall averaging 25kts, gusting 30plus before she passed Auckland wharves, container base and downtown high-rises. Defiant backed off a little, but then charged up the harbour in a gust before she passed Devonport Wharf and was gone from sight.

Unsurprisingly, neither team has elected to train today, Tuesday - with winds averaging 30kts, gusting 40kts.

Emirates Team New Zealand - Waitemata Harbour - September 14, 2020 - 36th America's Cup - photo © Richard Gladwell /

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