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America's Cup Rialto: First cross - AC75's duke it out on Auckland harbour

by Richard Gladwell Sail-World NZ 21 Sep 16:25 BST 22 September 2020
Emirates Team NZ crosses American Magic - Waitemata Harbour - September 21,2020 - 36th America's Cup © Richard Gladwell /

The two AC75's currently in Auckland met up on the Waitemata Harbour this afternoon for the first shoot-out of the 36th America's Cup.

Sailing on Course C between North Head and Rangitoto Island the Emirates Team New Zealand and American Magic circulated through the area, making enough racing action for what appeared to be a camera crew in a helicopter hovering above, without giving the ubiquitous reconnaissance teams cause to make a complaint of training in a coordinated manner - which is banned under the Protocol governing the event. However the presence of the helicopter and camera indicates that maybe this was a session that should not be taken too seriously - even so it was a great opportunity to see these remarkable boats up close, and get a taste of the visual banquet that is to come in three months.

The two AC75's crossed tacks frequently and paralleled each other less often.

There was one good hookup with both boats sailing closehauled in the beautiful 10-12 sea breeze. Despite a couple of images in this story, boat handling was generally good - considering the wind direction, strength and the fact that they were sailing in the lee of a 260 m (850 ft) 600-year-old volcanic cone - Rangitoto.

The outcome was a predictable draw - with neither team showing a significant advantage over the other in the brief period they were hooked up, usually one started substantially ahead or behind.

A second run with both boats reaching on port tack, was equally inconclusive - although the teams may have a different view of that assessment.

Most of the session which lasted an hour or so, consisted of the two teams trying to race practice using their laid marks on the Course which is likely to be the most used in the America's Cup, with another run out into the Rangitoto Channel

It was American Magic which stole the show - not because of a blistering boatspeed advantage, but more because they had made it, they were there, in the America's Cup venue and taking on the defending Champion, literally in the Kiwi's own backyard. And that was after being out of action for five month due to the cancelled America's Cup World Series regattas.

The other two Challengers from Italy and UK are either yet to leave or in quarantine.

Leaving their dock about 30minutes after the Kiwis, American Magic towed out on foils as is their want. Te Aihe sailed down the harbour in light winds with variable pressure, but using her Code Zero and foiling with apparent ease. However it all turned to custard at the entrance to the Waitemata, with Te Aihe either running out of wind pressure, getting hit by a header, running out of apparent wind, or a combination of all three. Either way the Code Zero was furled, the towline attached and Te Aihe towed off in the direction of Browns Island or Motukorea and presumably a session running alongside Motuihe Island with a stint in The Paddock off Eastern Beach.

Defiant headed out into the Rangitoto Channel out off the East Coast Bays before returning back down the Channel where Te Aihe happened to be lurking.

Their respective workouts complete on Course C, Defiant headed back out for another two hours of training and another seven-hour session.

For 90 minutes or so we had a glimpse of the sailing spectacle that will be the America's Cup World Series/Christmas Cup, the Prada Cup and the America's Cup itself.

It will be magic.

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