Dominant Kiwis lay down marker
Emirates Team New Zealand started the 35th America’s Cup Match on the front foot, sweeping the opening two races against defender Oracle Team USA in the Great Sound today to lay down a marker.
The Kiwis came out firing on all cylinders, winning both starts and leading their rivals around every mark to take a 1-0 lead in the first-to-seven series.
“I know we are only one point ahead, but to come away with two race wins today was a fantastic way to start,” Glenn Ashby, the Team New Zealand skipper and wing trimmer, said. “I’m really happy for all the guys, it was a great day.
“Obviously a fantastic rally by the boys today and just a massive effort on the hydraulic front.
“It was so shifty and puffy out there which puts huge loads on both the daggerboards, the wing and jib. You never stop trimming something for the whole day, so those guys got an absolute whipping today.”
Team New Zealand’s day did not go without incident, as they nearly blew considerable leads in both races.
They held an advantage of almost two minutes with one leg to go in the opening race, but lost momentum when they dropped off their foils gybing before recovering to lead Oracle across the line and wipe out the latter’s bonus point they earned for winning the qualifying regatta.
The Kiwis were seemingly in control in the second race with a minute and a half advantage at the second leeward gate. However, Oracle nailed a big shift on the last beat to cut the deficit to three seconds before a poor gybe all but ended the race as the Kiwis stretched their lead the rest of the way.
“We made a few mistakes around the track obviously and so did the other guys,” Ashby said. “So it was one of those days where it’s pretty hard to string every single puff and every single puff together so we had to let a couple go to make sure we sort of played the longer game.”
Jimmy Spithill, the Oracle skipper, felt his team failed to seize on opportunities in the light and shifty breezes and ultimately paid the price.
“I clearly felt we played the cards we were dealt,” Spithill said. “Tough day but we are only one down.
“It was very gusty and some really big lulls out there so that was obviously the case out there today. But it’s the same for both boats so you have to deal with it the best you can.
“They seem to have good speed around the course but there was still some opportunities there and I thought Tommy [tactician Tom Slingsby] did a good job keeping us close there.”
As for his team’s poor starts, Spithill said: “First one we had a little issue with our software. We were a little surprised with some of the numbers we had and really handed that one to them.
“The second one we thought he was going to be early. He got that real early push and we thought we were going to make a leeward end start work there and they just accelerated there unfortunately.
“But from that point on we still had our opportunities and it was little bit of a shame we could not pull that gybe off after rounding the top mark.”
Racing continues tomorrow with race three and four of the series.
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