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Vaikobi 2021 - LEADERBOARD

As cool as cucumbers

by Mark Jardine 10 Mar 05:07 GMT 10-17 March 2021
Peter Burling lines up for the start of Race 2 in the America's Cup match © ACE / Studio Borlenghi

You'd have thought that Peter Burling and co. at Emirates Team New Zealand would be a little rusty after three months without a race, but there was no such luck for the Italian challengers in race one of the 36th America's Cup.

The pre-start, where we all talked up Jimmy Spithill's match-racing prowess, saw the Italians pulling the trigger to head up to the line just a second too late, handing the advantage to the defenders from the off. Glenn Ashby and Peter Burling's time on distance was spot on and they were up and away, holding the windward advantage over Luna Rossa.

With both boats on starboard, heading towards the left hand boundary, Jimmy Spithill luffed aggressively, but the home team were clear and the umpires were quick to call no penalty. In that one move the Italians lost their speed and handed Emirates Team New Zealand a 250 metre advantage.

Those critical VMG (velocity made good) figures showed the Kiwi advantage, constantly a knot faster, which even at the eye-watering speeds these AC75 reach, is a massive margin to overcome.

The second upwind leg saw the afterguard of Glenn Ashby and Peter Burling get it all wrong, completely out of phase with the wind shifts, but the Italians only gained a couple of seconds on their opponent.

To add insult to injury, Emirates Team New Zealand completed fewer manoeuvres during the race than Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, so the grinding team would have felt fresher as well.

So, it was what we all feared. Kiwi dominance and a one-sided America's Cup match... The Italians had different ideas.

Race two saw the Luna Rossa gain the advantage in the pre-start, with both teams tacking on to port early, and then they camped on Emirates Team New Zealand upwind and held their own downwind.

It wasn't until the final lap that Burling broke cover for any prolonged period of time, flying down the final downwind leg to close the gap to just 7 seconds at the finish, but the Italians took the all-important win to level the series at 1-1.

An elated Jimmy Spithill said at the finish, "It's great to be competitive and we're looking forward to the next race... bring it on."

Burling responded that maybe he was a little bit race rusty after all.

We've learned (again) that starts are critical, the Kiwis are fast in a straight line and the Italians are quick through the manoeuvres. The great news for sailing fans worldwide is that we have an America's Cup match on our hands.

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