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Knox-Johnston on Seamanship & Seafaring by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston
Knox-Johnston on Seamanship & Seafaring by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston

America's Cup Rialto: Nov 17 - AC75's in hot pursuit of each other in solid breeze

by Richard Gladwell, Sail-World NZ 17 Nov 10:19 GMT 17 November 2020
American Magic - Waitemata Harbour - November 17, 2020 - 36th America's Cup © Richard Gladwell / Sail-World.com

The three challengers all enjoyed a solid afternoon sailing in near-perfect conditions - an 18kt breeze from the SSW, bright sunshine and blue skies.

The Waitemata turned on its typical offshore summer breeze, albeit 60degrees further south than normal at 210 degrees and averaging 20kts- and it would have been interesting to see whether Course B or C were used, or a combination of the two.

American Magic was first to dockout around 1115hrs, followed by the Brits at noon, and Luna Rossa around 1300hrs.

After all three rigged up in the North Head area, the Brits took off out of the Rangitoto Channel for some private practice out in the Hauraki Gulf, where maybe they got steady breeze. But the three courses (B,C and D) dotted around the Waitemata are noted for varying pressure and directional changes, than the steady breezes of the Hauraki Gulf.

American Magic had again laid some marks for racing practice and did several laps- getting the laylines and approach angles sorted out - and looked to be hitting her targets.

In contrast to Monday's session - where all three teams, worked in relative isolation, the US and Italian Challengers kept tabs on each other - breaking away on occasions - and hooking up for a fast downwind leg on others.

The rules prohibiting sailing in a 'coordinated manner' are virtually unenforceable. No-one is going to go to the Arbitration Panel with a complaint that can easily be denied as being a fortuitous circumstance, and certainly not worth risking a four figure apportionment of hearing costs.

Both AC75's were definitely sailing at race pace, but didn't seem to be faster than we remember Te Aihe sailing in similar conditions, before the Kiwis first generation AC75 was retired. The intriguing question will be answered if/when Luna Rossa sail their recently delivered first AC75. If sailed against the other two Challengers, it would give an interesting benchmark, if it was visibly slower than their Boat 2.

And in turn if Te Aihe was a very well developed first generation boat, then the Kiwis second boat may not be that much quicker - and that sets the scene for a very closely contested America's Cup.

From what we have seen to date, we would expect that the Prada Cup will be a very difficult regatta to win - as the standard of the boats all seem relatively high, and they are all well sailed.

The standard of boat handling was high on both Challengers today, and there is no doubt that both AC75's were being driven hard, and with their games of 'follow the leader' were able to inject a feeling of competitive pressure into their training. Both sailed using their #2 jibs - even stopping together - one to change jibs, the other to sort out a luff adjustment.

There was one breakage - American Magic breaking a job sheet or similar during a tack - preventing the job from being sheeted. Interestingly Patriot had enough power to get up and foiling after exiting the tack - and desp te the drag and distraction of the flapping jib.

It was very hard to see any real and repeatable speed advantage that one had over the other. In trying to pick performance differences and speed advantages, there has to be an acute awareness of the viewing angle and also the course being sailed by the respective competitors. There can be big apparent speed differences when the boats are travelling in the same general directions, but a closer look at course angle and wind direction shows that one has a hotter angle and usually a speed advantage, while the other is sailing a more efficient course to a likely mark.

It was low tide for most of the afternoon, and surprising how close to shore the AC75's sailed on occasions - if that is repeated in the Prada and America's Cups then fans are certainly in line for some great viewing and the online/TV audiences will see the Cup sailed against some amazing backdrops.

Of course this game will go up several clicks when Emirates Team New Zealand get sailing at the end of the week.

Will the Challengers sail against the Defender?

Watch this space.

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