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America's Cup Rialto: Oct 3 - A nice steady day for Emirates Team NZ

by Richard Gladwell Sail-World NZ 4 Oct 12:54 NZDT 4 October 2020
Emirates Team New Zealand - Waitemata Harbour - October 3, 2020 - 36th America's Cup © Richard Gladwell / Sail-World.com

Light winds in the form of a patchy 10-12kts westerly offshore breeze, made Saturday a steady day on the Waitemata Harbour.

At this of the America's Cup, if there is a criticism of Emirates Team New Zealand, is that they look a bit too smooth and slick. Are they pushing themselves hard enough to stay ahead of the Challengers?

Yet to be announced is how they are going to manage their buildup once the Prada Cup gets underway, and the Challengers are able to sail against each other - but as Defender, Emirates Team New Zealand can only sail alone, or against a second boat they own.

Obviously, the team get plenty of testing benefit from a good day like Saturday, but as Head of Design, Dan Bernasconi confirmed earlier in the week, the Kiwi team have caught up from their COVID-19 lockdown experience and are back on their original roadmap for the 36th America's Cup. The team is in its final test routines and are ready to step across to their second boat and race boat when it comes on stream - expected to be November.

After towing out foil-borne due to the light winds, Te Aihe set up on the old America's Cup course are well out from the East Coast Bays of Auckland's North Shore, and did a series of runs that took them closer to Gulf Harbour on the Whangaparaoa Penisular at the northern end of the inner Hauraki Gulf and 15nm from the team base in downtown Auckland.

The team got away around noon, carrying a couple of TV sports media aboard the chase boat who were transferred to the AC75 and each rode in the 12th crew member position at the stern of Te Aihe.

Around 1600hrs the Kiwis returned (with all the rival recon teams having seen enough for the day, and long gone home) and had some issues dropping their #1 jib, requiring a crew member to be lifted to the forestay attachment point, presumably to remedy a halyard which had jammed in its sheave.

That issue sorted, Te Aihe hoisted what appeared to be a #3 headsail and did several runs on the Stadium Course - Course C - in a breeze which had freshened nicely and appeared quite steady with even pressure - even close to the container terminal.

With New Zealand having just clicked onto Daylight Saving Time, this scenario was interesting in that it was conducted at the same time and in the same patch of water as the majority of the Cup racing is expected to take place.

As discussed previously the breeze for the day has usually settled in nicely by 4.00pm and hangs around to 6.00pm or later.

Emirates Team NZ has spent more time in this area than the only other Challenger in Auckland, American Magic - who often opt tow out and back through this racecourse. While the inner Waitemata Harbour is near useless for speed testing, it is a fact that the teams will have to be adept at coping with fluctuating pressure and direction, along with the vagaries of tidal flow both in the harbour channel and on its edges.

With the pending arrival of the other two Challengers on the Waitemata, it will be interesting to see if they put any weight on late afternoon training sessions on the Stadium Course, or opt for the more comfortable long runs out in the old America's Cup courses.

We have yet to see Te Aihe or the now decommissioned Defiant trying to fly and furl a Code Zero on the confines of Stadium Course, although both obviously have trialled the big jib set from the bowsprit on runs out in the Gulf, or on the occasions when they pass through the Stadium Course on their way to the test area of the day. There is no indication yet on the crossover for the Code Zero which was a significant factor the last time it was used on the AC72 in San Francisco.

While Emirates Team New Zealand may be back in the groove for their test and development program - which will come to a peak in early March for the start of the 36th Match, the Challengers do not have the same latitude. With their second-generation AC75's either in Auckland or en route, the clock is starting to run down at a concerning rate.

The first of the Challengers will begin packing up and heading home in just four months - at the end of January. Their development program will be interrupted by the Christmas Cup/America's Cup World Series in mid-December, and of course the Christmas and New Year shutdown in New Zealand.

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