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America's Cup: Emirates Team NZ's miserable session in a building gale

by Richard Gladwell, 15 Jul 23:27 NZST 15 July 2020
Te Aihe - AC75 - Emirates Team New Zealand - July 15, 2020 - Waitemata Harbour, Auckland, New Zealand © Richard Gladwell /

Emirates Team New Zealand's AC75 Te Aihe put in a three hour training session, in fresh winds and miserable mid-winter conditions, that .

The team made a false start earlier in the morning, requiring the team to return to base having hoisted her mainsail and jib - she re-emerged 90minutes later. While the sight of a chase boat being sent back to the base at high speed only to return later with a part of whatever, this is the first time that we've seen a test sailing stopped for a return to base.

Luna Rossa and American Magic both had their recon teams on the water for most of the session.

Sailing on Course D between Rangitoto and Browns Island, winds were averaging 18kts peaking at 23kts - measured at Northern Leading beacon - which suffers the least interference, and is one of the lowest height of the three weather stations in the area. The conditions are close to the top end for racing in the Prada Cup Finals and America's Cup Match, but above those for the Prada Cup during the Round Robin and Repechage phase.

They were sailing in the face of a building easterly gale with winds averaging 35kts and gusting over 40kts before midnight. Conditions are forecast to increase on Thursday before moderating on Friday.

It was the Waitemata/inner Hauraki Gulf at its most miserable, with a cold wind south of east, overcast skies with low cloud and sweeping light rain showers, topped off by an awkward chop - which made for some spectacular splashdowns/ foil-strikes with spray being thrown high on occasions.

The chop appeared to be too much for the AC75 as it entered the passage between Motuihe and Browns Islands, with Te Aihe digging into a couple of big ones, before easing off and heading for more protected water in the lee of Browns Island. She would have hit the edge of a seaway coming around the corner of Motuihe Island - where there is a fetch all the way down the Tamaki strait.

From the day we can draw some conclusions regarding rough weather options. In the conditions of Wednesday (SE breeze) Course D was the best option, with there being a good area of shielded water - near ringed with islands. Had the wind been more to the north east, the area would have been challenging with a seaway coming through the passage between Motutapu and Motuihe Islands. While Course E in the Tamaki Strait would be the best option - however the tow through Course D would be challenging.

The AC9F, the one design foiler developed for the Youth America's Cup was also out trialling in the fresh conditions, and seemed to be very capable of handling the rough stuff.

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