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America's Cup Match Day 2 - A win apiece keeps series very much alive

by Ben Gladwell - Sail-World NZL 12 Mar 16:18 NZDT
America's Cup Match - Day 2 - March 12, 2021, Auckland - Course E © America's Cup Media

Racing resumed today on the Hauraki Gulf under blue skies and with light winds. Dock talkers had it that these conditions theoretically suit Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli more than Emirates Team New Zealand.

However, until Wednesday afternoon those same dock talkers were saying that Emirates Team New Zealand had a significantly faster boat than the Italian challenger and the 1-1 scoreboard would contradict that. Exactly who is favoured in these conditions was not resolved today.

Winds were non-existent to light all morning and most of the afternoon but a light seabreeze developed into a 6-8kt breeze from due North with flat water, and a big spectator fleet.

Race 3

Conditions seemed to have stabilized by the time we got underway with racing. Luna Rossa was a little late entering the box but neither boat made a great job of the ri tim on distance back to the line. ETNZ elected to lead back and had a bit more time to kill which allowed the Italians to start to a few lengths to windward but bow-to-bow. They followed the Kiwis out to the left hand boundary and performed a tack in sync with ETNZ, setting up in a strong position to leeward and ahead.

Italy showed their extremely impressive high-mode and squeezed up hard on ETNZ, climbing right up onto their line and then continuing above the Kiwi's course as their wing wash forced NZ to bear off to retain the power in their sails. Luna Rossa certainly looks to be more comfortable in these sub-10 knot conditions with their larger foils, stepping out to a lead of about 150m.

NZ gained a split course at the top of the race track as they approached the top mark, eventually rounding the mark 10 seconds behind. The situation didn't improve much for the Kiwis, it appeared that the left hand side that Luna Rossa had picked was paying off. Once the Kiwis gybed on their right hand boundary and made their way across to the other side of the course nearer the Italians, the deficit started to reduce down to around 110 metres. As they rounded the bottom mark, Luna Rossa headed back towards that favoured side of the course and ETNZ looked to be following them, rounding 13 seconds behind but went for a JK tack rounding.

As they settled into the second windward leg, Luna Rossa looked dominant again, stretching out their lead to around 230 metres by the time they were halfway up the course. ETNZ was able to make some slight gains by splitting off but they were hurting in the tacks. The tracks on the water clearly showed Luna Rossa turning through much wider arcs as they tack, their bigger foils meaning they had to speed build less before and after each manoeuvre.

This turned out to be a pretty damning leg for ETNZ, who eventually rounded the mark 27 seconds behind. Downwind they were able to erode some of that deficit and gained a split at the bottom again with a last-minute gybe, rounding the mark 22 seconds back.

On the final upwind, ENTZ stuck to the left-hand boundary and Luna Rossa the right-hand boundary. The gap between them hovered around the 300-metre mark, with things looking ominously reminiscent of the Prada Cup final. Luna Rossa again looking crisp and clean all the way around the race course, putting another 16 seconds on the Kiwis this leg. ETNZ rounded 38 seconds back.

They didn't put a foot wrong on the final leg and eventually stretched the lead out to more than 500 metres. NZ crossed the line 37 seconds behind.

Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli go to 2-1. With these conditions forecast for the next three days, this regatta could be over before the Kiwis get a chance to sail in some stronger breeze.

Race 4

Emirates Team New Zealand entered on port in this race, where the breeze looked to have dropped a fraction from the already light conditions in the earlier race. ETNZ gybed at the far end of the start box and looked set to lead back but dropped off their foils and looked for a moment like they were staring down the barrell of a hook. Burling and crew popped the boat up on the foils just in time to get out in front and avoid the penalty. What initially looked a dire situation turned into a strong position very quickly as they squeezed up towards Luna Rossa and got across the line just to leeward and ahead, in the perfect positon for a lee bow.

Spithill and Bruni weren't happy trying to live there and bailed out early and headed for the right-hand boundary. Following a tack on the left hand boundary, ETNZ made their way across to check in with their competitor. Having the power of the right, Luna Rossa looked for a moment to be crossing ahead but ETNZ stuck a very nice lee-bow tack and bounced Luna Rossa back towards the boundary to do another tack in short order. ETNZ extended out towards the middle of the course, sailing in some nice pressure and crossed around 70 metres in front of Luna Rossa. At the top mark, ETNZ retained their lead with Luna Rossa rounding 7 seconds behind. Boat boats looked to have good pressure with ETNZ heading for the right boundary and Luna Rossa the left.

ETNZ put in a very long port gybe, sailing boundary to boundary and getting their VMG ticked up nicely to sit around 180 metres ahead and well to leeward as they entered the bottom half of the run. Neither boat looked to engage the other on this first run, both happy to bounce off the boundaries with ETNZ holding at 180 metres ahead. They would round the left-hand mark at the bottom as Luna Rossa made their first real mistake since the round-robin phase of this regatta. They had a shocker with their layline call and gybe, going far too early and ending up very high and having to gybe back and then put both boards down and point directly downwind to even make it to the mark, rounding 34 seconds behind while ETNZ sailed off towards the top mark, now almost 400m ahead.

Upwind Luna Rossa made some slight inroads into the Kiwis in the first part of the beat but wasn't close enough to engage so both boats did their own thing. Luna Rossa didn't have a brilliant top portion of the course, handing back all of those gains and rounding again 34 seconds behind.

On the second downwind, ETNZ showed their downwind wheels stretching out again to around 500m in front. As they enter the bottom section of the course, ETNZ set themselves up with a very nice layline and approach to the bottom mark while Luna Rossa looked to have at least two more gybes to do. ETNZ would start the final upwind leg with a 48-second head start.

This race looked to be the first in a long time where Luna Rossa looked rattled and generally a little shaky. Perhaps it comes from being more used to sitting in the driver's seat but their manoeuvres certainly didn't seem as crisp and clinical as previously. The breeze looked to be dopping slightly as the boats make their way towards the final mark, with Luna Rossa bottoming out at around 17 knots through some of the tacks which is desperately close to their splashdown speed - where ETNZ were more comfortably foiling at around the 22-knot mark.

ETNZ continued to stretch away towards the top of the course, almost 550 metres in front as they complete their layline tack. As ETNZ set off down wind and Luna Rossa approached the top mark, they passed close enough for Pete Burling to say "Arriva derche" to Francesco Bruni as they head to the finish. Luna Rossa would round the mark 58 seconds behind. He and the crew onboard Te Rehutai kept it very clean, minimizing manoeuvres and sailing from boundary to boundary and crossing the line comfortably. Luna Rossa would finish 1:03 behind with the scoreboard now reading 2-2.

After having watched a day of racing in ETNZ's apparent favoured conditions on Wednesday and one in Luna Rossa's conditions today we can confidently say that we know nothing about how this regatta is going to unfold.

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