Strong starts give Kiwis advantage

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  • Burling was the iceman in race one for Team New Zealand (Photograph by Gregory Bull/AP)

    Burling was the iceman in race one for Team New Zealand (Photograph by Gregory Bull/AP)

  • Emirates Team New Zealand have a 1-0 lead over Oracle Team USA after the first day of the America’s Cup Match (Photograph by Ricardo Pinto/ACEA via AP)

    Emirates Team New Zealand have a 1-0 lead over Oracle Team USA after the first day of the America’s Cup Match (Photograph by Ricardo Pinto/ACEA via AP)


America’s Cup Match, presented by Louis Vuitton

Race 1: Emirates Team New Zealand beat Oracle Team USA by 0:30

The course was 6-F, six legs and one to the finish, Seven legs total.

The score going into Match 1 was Oracle 0 New Zealand -1.

When asked about that minus-one starting point. Peter Burling said: “It didn’t seem to matter much who went into the last cup a couple of points down so I don’t imagine it will matter much this time. The America’s Cup is one of those unique sporting trophies where it’s all about who wins the last race.”

New Zealand led from start to finish in this first match. But this is match racing at its best and it is all about winning the last race.

Conditions on Bermuda’s Great Sound were perfect. The teams were excited after two and a half years of training and preparations. Positions on the boats have changed and now it is all about power and quick reactions. The coaches were out on the course early to decide how they want their boat positioned to get to mark one the fastest.

Oracle entered first on port tack 10 seconds of New Zealand on starboard. Oracle led back away from the starting line and turned to lead back they were close to the starting line and the Kiwis wanted to push the American boat over the line and they did.

Oracle had to slow down to give New Zealand a two boat length lead. New Zealand led artround important Mark One by 13 seconds and had a 200 metre lead going into their first gybe. On their third gybe New Zealand were 300 metres ahead, leading by 32 seconds

The mark rounding was perfect, foiling high and they waited to make their first tack till Oracle committed to their course. That is a classic match racing tactic. New Zealand led by 200 metres. The big kink in the Kiwi light air foils is very different from Oracle and seemed to give them high and dry foiling. Their boards are different from all the other challengers and the defender.

The Kiwis continued to build their lead up Leg Three. The Kiwis got some good wind shifts on the left side upwind and rounded the top mark 46 seconds ahead and gybed back to the middle of the course to protect their nearly 500-metre lead.

There were a lots of shifts and puffs coming from the south easterly wind and the Kiwis took advantage of the separation between them and Oracle to extend their lead.

The Kiwi boat led going into the upwind Leg five. Peter Burling was the iceman showing little stress and no excitement as he casually steered around the course. He did not make any errors.

Spithill seemed to try to slow down to engage the Kiwis and both boats went off their foils in a real wind hole. They were on different legs of the course.

The Kiwis were going downwind and with a 148 second lead. At the end of Leg six they came around the mark onto their finish leg and the boat crashed down to almost a total stop. There was a gasp from the spectator and it looked like a déjà vu of an earlier Kiwi race against Artemis when they came around the downwind mark, just like this and gybed into a complete stop. They won that race by only a beak. This time the got foiled up sooner the finish wasn’t nearly as close. Kiwis win by 30 seconds.

One win for New Zealand. Burling was happy to get through that race and level the points. The event will start even now with both teams on 0-0 going into Match Two.

The Kiwis average speed around the course was a knot faster. Oracle were not getting through the tacks well in this light air.

Race 2: Team New Zealand beat Oracle by 1:28

Peter Burling was two for two on the starts. New Zealand headed to the left pushed by Oracle. They were close to the left-hand layline apparently about to be pushed over by Oracle. But Burling sped up, pinched up high to windward on starboard. Very close on the wind, the Kiwis powered up and kept themselves between Oracle and the first mark, climbing parallel to the starting line. Oracle were in the windward boat and had to keep clear. Falling away at the start signal onto the reach to Mark One, Burling got the lead. The Kiwis were five seconds ahead at the turn.

Going downwind, the Kiwis went through their gybes quicker and came out faster than Oracle. They opened their lead to 23 seconds at the bottom mark going onto upwind Leg Three.

Oracle went upwind to the right. The Kiwis took their first tack to put a tactical loose cover on Oracle. All the numbers were in New Zealand’s favour; they were faster, they were sailing higher and their VMG (velocity made good) to the windward mark was better.

Good tactics, good VMG, but maybe it was still possible all because of speed. Maybe speed was still king.

Going on to Leg Four the Kiwis led by 1min 6sec.

The Kiwis rounded the bottom mark with a massive lead. Oracle were being embarrassed on the course by superior performance. Oracle were 35 seconds behind going into the last upwind leg. Nearing the final upwind mark the Kiwis were still nearly 300 metres ahead.

Then puff… Oracle got a big lift from a huge wind shift while the Kiwis headed down from the mark. They were out of phase with their last two tacks. Oracle closed the lead to a few meters and pressed for a penalty call around the mark.

But the Kiwis were clear ahead, in the zone and did not get a penalty. Then Oracle lost 300 metres in a awful wet gybe. They went off their foils, sinking down to just five knots in the splashdown and had a time of it getting the boat back up and flying. The Kiwi magic worked again and they went through the last gate 50 seconds ahead.

Coming back from that close last upwind mark rounding with only a few metres between them and Oracle, the Kiwis won by one minute twenty-eight seconds.

The Kiwi average speed was close to two knots more than

Two matches, two wins for Peter Burling and the Kiwi crew. The scoreline is now 1-0 Kiwis. Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill said he played the cards he was dealt.

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Published Jun 17, 2017 at 3:04 pm (Updated Jun 19, 2017 at 5:51 pm)

Strong starts give Kiwis advantage

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