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Cup Spy Sept 16: Day 2 - Light air foiling prowess determines outcome of first day of racing.

by Richard Gladwell/Sail-World NZ 17 Sep 2023 04:20 NZST 17 September 2023
Closing the finish - Race 1 - Race Day 2 - AC40 - America's Cup Preliminary Regatta - Vilanova - September 16, 2023 © America's Cup Media

The second day of racing at Vilanova proved the maxim of the new breed of America's Cup class raceboats - that your ability to foil in the light is more important that that last knot of speed in the big breeze.

Like the key Race 7 in the 2021 America's Cup, both races were decided on light airs foiling ability, or maybe that should be inability.

Race 1

To some it was the Day of the Underdog in Race 1, with the newest entry Orient Express Racing Team taking the first race win of the 2024 America's Cup Preliminary Regatta.

However that is forgetting that the French crew are a regular competitor on the SailGP circuit, and are the only team to run both a SailGP team and and America's Cup program.

The French got the whiff and fizz of popped champagne, for the rest, except second placed American Magic, it was a day of regrets.

The America's Cup holder Emirates Team New Zealand got away to an adequate start, and soon overtook the early leader American Magic. The boats were foiling and the Kiwis looked to be lifting off the hip of the US team. When they crossed the Kiwis were ahead and rounded the first mark in the lead.

Unfortunately the Kiwis squeezed to high at the rounding of Mark 1, and dropped off their foils - never to rise again.

The Brits, repeating some of their performances in Auckland in 2021, dropping off their foils after having to give way to another boat on the first windward leg. They were the first to get in the foiling quicksand - with their speed dropping to 7.9kts while the others romped away at speeds of 22kts.

As the boats rounded the top mark, the wind, like a deflating tyre slowly lost pressure, and depending on where they were on the course, the others joined the Brits down the back of the class.

We then had the slightly ridiculous sight of the two lead boats Orient Express Racing and Luna Ross Prada Pirelli sailing for the race finish which was now reduced to two legs.

The pantomime continued with the French pulling a too close gybe when they crossed with Luna Rossa. After a very pregnant pause - broken twice by the Italians telling the Umpires they wish to protest - the unsurprising penalty was awarded against the French - whose penalty was to drop behind the Italians.

But that wasn't the end of it and the French came back, this time crossing ahead of Luna Rossa and taking the race win.

A few minutes after crossing the finish line, the Italians were called up by the Chief Umpire and advised that they had not started correctly, and were being scored as DNS (Did Not Start).

That call, tipped the points table into the realm of the absurd, with Orient Express Racing being declared the winner, followed by American Magic, who was promoted up from third. For the rest of the fleet, because none finished the race inside the time limit, the points were awarded on the basis of their position at the previous mark.

That pulled Emirates Team New Zealand up to third, Alinghi Red Bull Racing into fourth, and INEOS Britannia in fifth place.

But there was more to come on a day of surprises. Following a review of the starting protocols undertaken on course, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli were been re-instated in second place in Race 1, scoring 7 points.

Points from Race 1:

  • 10pts Orient Express Racing Team
  • 7pts Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli
  • 5pts American Magic
  • 3pts Emirates Team New Zealand
  • 2pts Alinghi Red Bull Racing
  • 1pts INEOS Britannia

Race 2:

After a long delay with the wind not reaching the required 6.5kts minimum, the Race Director decided to take advantage of an increase in pressure, in the hope that it would build. Certainly the sight of the six teams all foiling easily, would have encouraged a positive response.

All boats had been towed onto their foils but were not permitted to receive assistance in the 3 minute period before race start. It is not easy holding your apparent wind when cornering in these conditions, and five of the six competitors dropped their bundles one by one. By race start time only the Swiss entry Alinghi Red Bull Racing, with a very impressive piece of sailing, managed to retain their pre-start advantage, and at start time were on the right side of the line and streaking up the track at 22-25kts.

The other competitors moved up the first leg in displacement mode, and by the time they rounded the first mark, the Swiss were still foiling and almost down to the second mark. However they lost it just before the leg's end, and rounded in displacement mode.

The current America's Cup champions and the team with the most AC40 sailing in their logbook, were able to water-start - unassisted of course - and provided they could hold up the race was over. This they managed to do, sweeping past the Swiss early on the second leg. They fell off their foils at the end of the second leg in a race now shortened to just two legs, and limped across the line to take maximum points.

It transpired that the Kiwis and Swiss were the only teams to score points, as the other teams were all still on Leg 2, had not rounded the second mark, and scored zero points for the race.

Points from Race 2:

  • 10pts Emirates Team New Zealand
  • 7pts Alinghi Red Bull racing
  • 5pts Orient Express Racing Team
  • 3pts INEOS Britannia
  • 2pts American Magic
  • 1pts Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli

That left the subsequently amended overnight leaderboard with just two races sailed as:

    15pts Orient Express Racing Team
  • 13pts Emirates Team New Zealand
  • 9pts Alinghi Red Bull Racing
  • 8pts Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli
  • 7pts American Magic
  • 4pts INEOS Britannia

NB Following a review of the starting protocols undertaken on course, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli were been re-instated in second place in Race 1, scoring 7 points. This change is incorporated in the overnight points table above.

Individual Race Video and Interviews:

NB: Despite the titling, Race 2 is actually Race 1, and Race 1 is Race 2. This is an uploading error by the Event Media


There is no reliable now-casting of the current wind strength and direction at Vilanova. But if we flit 25nm up the coast to Barcelona, we can see that the southerly breeze has been steadily increasing for the last hour, and around 130hrs CET gusted to 12kts, before backing off a little.

We can see from webcams in the area that the wind appears to be light, with quite a seastate running from the East - and one that is out of proportion to the breeze.

Quite what happens in Vilanova will be interesting to see, with both the wind and seastate. The skies over Barcelona are about 50% covered in high white cloud, meaning there should be some thermal warming which should help the breeze to build.

Live coverage has started. But already there has been a short delay called as the wind had failed the minimum wind strength requirement. However the AC40s are foiling.

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