Artemis bask in Mediterranean sun
The results of the first day of racing at the Louis Vuitton America's Cup World Series Toulon, the penultimate round of the series before Bermuda 2017, leaves the overall leaderboard closer than ever, with everything to play for across the whole pack today.
Oracle Team USA and Land Rover BAR are now tied on the same points heading into today, but it is Artemis Racing who really basked in the Mediterranean sunshine today, taking two first places and a third to dominate the first day of racing, held in light winds.
In race one SoftBank Team Japan were first over the line and held their lead down to the first mark with Emirates Team New Zealand breathing down their necks.
At that point Oracle Team USA were in fifth, but the American boat fought its way back up to second by the third mark, just behind Artemis Racing who really were mastering the conditions.
At the finish line the Swedish boat took their first spoils of the weekend, Emirates Team New Zealand were second, Oracle Team USA third, Groupama Team France fourth and SoftBank Team Japan and Land Rover BAR fifth and sixth respectively.
Race two started with Groupama Team France crossing the line fractionally early for the second race in a row, incurring a penalty that sent groans singing out across the home fans, but it was Artemis Racing who picked up where they left off in race one and who were first around mark one.
On the leg two run the Swedes extended their lead over Emirates Team New Zealand and SoftBank Team Japan, with Land Rover BAR just ahead of Oracle Team USA, but Groupama Team France fought back hard and clawed their way back into contention after serving their startline penalty.
At gate two the French team were just one second ahead of SoftBank Team Japan and the British and American teams who were fighting it out for fifth and sixth.
Around gate three it was still Nathan Outteridge's crew ahead, but the Kiwis were pushing them all the way to the finish line but finally, again, Artemis Racing were victorious for the second time yesterday.
Emirates Team New Zealand were second, Groupama Team France third, SoftBank Team Japan fourth and Oracle Team USA fifth. Land Rover BAR brought up the rear, looking like they were struggling to come to terms with the vagaries of light winds and the Toulon waters.
Race three capped off a very tense afternoon of racing and, yet again, Artemis Racing were at the sharp end of the pack at the start. However, in the final race of the day, Ben Ainslie's Land Rover BAR had finally pushed themselves up into contention in the opening stages of the race, with Oracle Team USA also making amends for their race two result, and as they rounded the first mark, the Americans headed off on their own to find wind, and that move paid off, putting clear air between themselves and Groupama Team France who were starting to show consistency on home waters.
Artemis Racing dropped back through the pack and found themselves in a fight for third and fourth with Land Rover BAR, but on leg three the British team found good wind and moved up into first place, ahead of their old foes on Oracle Team USA.
Demonstrating perfectly the utterly unpredictable nature of America's Cup racing in the modern era, the British team went from last to first in just two races, and ended the final race of yesterday first, but Groupama Team France raised French hopes for a Super Sunday as they finished second, mere metres behind their British rivals who finally made up for their last place finishes in races one and two.
Nathan Outteridge, Skipper, Artemis Racing, said: “Good day on the water for us today. We started well and we were strong when we needed to fight back and it's great to have such a good crew who are working seamlessly around you, it makes my life much easier.
“Even though I was away for the last round, we spent a lot of time going through how we communicate on board, and today was the perfect example of how we've developed a system to make sure we make good decisions. It makes it much easier to come straight back into the team without any issues, and today shows how well we are working. In every pre-start Perc [Iain Percy] was talking clearly about time to burn, who were the danger boats, picking the right marks around the whole course, and all of that made my life so much easier, and it's clear from the results today how well we're working.
“However, Saturday is now done. Tomorrow it's double points, there's all to play for and we will improve where we can, aiming to perform even better than today.”