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Competition set to be intense on opening day

With the start of the racing in the 35th America's Cup Louis Vuitton Qualifier races delayed until tomorrow morning due to today's bad weather forecast, there is a feeling of tension, and anticipation at the Cup Village in Dockyard. There is danger in the wind.

In the opening press conference yesterday, the skippers were asked: “In practice racing in Bermuda over the last three months, there have been crashes, capsizes and crew overboard incidents. What do you think it will be like when the real racing really gets close?”

The consensus was that all the teams have a lot to lose. Competition will be intense. With the quickness of defensive manoeuvres in the pre-start, there may be contact. It will not be intentional, but one foot of misjudgement or a puff of wind at the wrong time can mean disaster in these super-fast cats.

And the further the competition goes down the road to the America's Cup Match, the more the teams will put at risk to win.

With that said, here is a look at Day 1 matches that are rescheduled for tomorrow. First up are Oracle Team USA v Groupama Team France. Next on board is Artemis Racing v SoftBank Team Japan. Then Team France are back on the line racing Emirates Team New Zealand. fourth is Land Rover BAR facing Artemis. Fifth is New Zealand against Oracle and finally BAR against Team Japan.

Oracle have to be the odds-on favourites against Team France. They have been consistently fast and are in a strong position as the Cup defender and Team France have the worst record in all the practice matches. Oracle start with one bonus point from their America's Cup World Series second-place finish. So after this race it should be two points for Oracle, none for France.

Artemis against Team Japan should be the race of the day, with two of the hottest challengers. Team Japan may have been holding back (sandbagging?) to set the stage for an upset, but give the edge to Artemis who have been the top challengers throughout the practice racing series. Artemis one, Japan zero.

Third up is the second match for Team France, this time against the other top team, Team New Zealand. The Kiwis came late to Bermuda but they had great practice conditions in Auckland's summer down under. They have suffered from broken rudders and the crash with BAR. It is time for them to show off. New Zealand one, France a second zero for the day.

The next match sees BAR face Artemis. Unless the Brits have a new pair of daggerboards or some other trick they have not tried, it will be a long 22 minutes for them. Artemis get their second point on the day. BAR holds two points from the ACWS so it is two for BAR and two for Artemis at the end of the first four races.

The first of the two extra races now on Day 1 because of rescheduling sees New Zealand against Oracle. This one is a toss up. These two have not raced each other in practice and are probably evenly matched in speed and reliability. The prediction nod goes to Oracle for this first-time match-up just because the American team have done more practice racing on the Great Sound in these AC Class 50-footers. Oracle have a third point.

The final race is another good one between BAR and Team Japan. But Rita has not shown the necessary speed so give this one point to Team Japan.

These are predictions, of course, made from observations of practice racing since March. But the proof of the pudding, they say, is in the eating. Only the teams themselves know their own potential.

Glory hunter: Spithill talks to reporters yesterday behind the Auld Mug (Photograph by Talbot Wilson)

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Published May 26, 2017 at 9:00 am (Updated May 26, 2017 at 12:59 pm)

Competition set to be intense on opening day

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