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America's Cup Rialto: March 12 - Rebooting the Cup - now a best of nine series

by Richard Gladwell, Sail-World.com/nz 13 Mar 12:50 NZDT 13 March 2021
Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa engage in the start box - Day 2 - America's Cup 36 © Richard Gladwell / Sail-World.com

The 36th America's Cup got underway a few hours after the Labour Government announced that they were lifting the COVID Alert 2 on Auckland.

The decision had been made Thursday night, but wasn't announced until 1130am Friday. The Prime Minister explained this pedantic approach by saying some epidemiological homework to be checked on a couple of cases.

The announcement came too late for the race course area to be moved from Course E, the same area used on the opening day of America's Cup 36. It's an area of water which is becoming renowned for its no passing lanes, due to the consistent wind patterns, dictated by the surrounding islands.

Course E is effectively an inland sea. There is no route you can take which will take you into open sea without having to dodge a landmass or island.

One of the few things we remember from geography at Westlake Boys, was that the Hauraki Gulf was a sunken valley, a fact that is confirmed elsewhere, claiming that "during the last glaciation period the gulf was dry land, with the sea level being around 100–110 m (300 ft) lower than at present. The gulf was submerged when the sea reached its current level around 7200 years ago."

That explains why the Hauraki Gulf is relatively shallow and dotted with islands.

Today's course was laid in a similar location to Wednesday's, on an axis of 13 degrees east of North, Wednesday's was two degrees west of North. That confirmed our compass bearing of the wind direction which was close to due North of the startline.

Looking upwind the area is surrounded by island landmasses, except there is one chink in an area known as the Sergeant Channel - spanning a whole 10 degrees - again due north of the startline.

It is as plain as the nose on your face to see what the wind is doing - hitting the islands, and then scooting around the edges until it finds the gap between Moutihe and Waiheke Islands. It squirts through there - taking the path of least resistance, and then exits down the right-hand side of the course.

It does the same around Rangitoto Island on Course A, which is the other one-way track in a sea-breeze

Despite the denials of the sailors the right hand side of the course is clearly favoured not so much with shifts, but with consistent pressure, and the tactical advantage it offers.

Track the AC75's on Virtual Eye and no-one has gained coming out of the left, except at the top of the course when they can do a mark rounding saving a tack. In fact, in Race 2 ETNZ lost the lead twice coming across from the left, but then reaped the tactical gain by being able to tack ahead of Luna Rossa. Had they not been able clear Luna Rossa, then we'd have been looking at a 3-1 score line in favour of the Italians.

The left is where you spend some lead looking for a later tactical advantage. If you are trailing, then the left is a lender of last resort.

What is the point? Simply that today we had another 12 legs of racing where there wasn't a lead change confirmed by a mark rounding. And between Courses A and E we are now on 95 legs without a lead change. The number would be 96 legs except for the final race of Round Robin 2 when Patriot capsized at the start of Leg 6, allowing Luna Rossa through for a win.

That is a pathetic statistic for an America's Cup Regatta between four AC75's which on their day were all very competitive.

We are now past all that and hopefully the Course will be moved to Stadium Course C, from which fans will now be able to watch from North Head, Bastion Point and a number of other vantage points.

Fortunately, there's been no damage caused by racing on a soldier's course. The score is at two wins each, and one way of looking at the past two days, is as Practice Racing - and the America's Cup has gone from being a best of 13 race series to a best of nine.

That means that the first boat to reach five wins takes, or retains the Cup.

The 2007 America's Cup Match in Valencia, was the last time there was a 2-2 scoreline. That is in the return match of Emirates Team New Zealand vs Alinghi, where the Kiwis won two races out of the first three. Alinghi won the fourth - and the rest is history which doesn't need to be repeated.

Of course, going to Course C is very much a case of being careful what you wish for. It may play into Burling and Tuke's hands, having won their sixth 49er Worlds on those waters in November 2019. The

On the other hand, the two Italian sharpshooters, co-helmsmen Francesco Bruni and Jimmy Spitello may be in their element for Luna Rossa.

They were in the best race to date in the regatta - the fourth day of Round Robin racing where there were nine lead changes between Luna Rossa and INEOS Team UK, including a couple confirmed by mark roundings, than just a line on a computer screen. In the same race there was the controversial crossing incident, with the AC75's clocking closing speeds in excess of 80kts.

There was another unique moment for the regatta, when the first start was blown up with the AC75's circling hard. The call was made not by the wind limit countdown. Not by the Regatta Director for a serious windshift. But by the Harbourmaster who had discovered that there were a few spectator boats that had drifted, not into the Course but below the line where they should have been.

"We need to manage the spectator fleet better", was Regatta Director Iain Murray's quotable response.

Today's racing didn't answer the question of who will be the next holder of the America's Cup. But the march of Luna Rossa continues, and it is hard to reconcile the Italians performance now with their results in the first week of the regatta in the Round Robins.

When we got to the racecourse Luna Rossa was there is with her mainsail down, whether that was because the Italians had not yet hoisted, or they were changing was not clear. But there was a lot of indecision from both teams as to what jib should be carried. Interestingly for the first race, which they won, Luna Rossa had a smaller jib set than the Kiwis.

Ahead of the second race, it was a similar story with the Kiwis setting a smaller jib - and got the job done.

With the COVID Alert Level down to Level 1, the waterfront watering-holes were running at full volume. Those that were nearly empty on Wednesday evening now had all bases loaded. And further back where 48hours before, a shot could have been fired, the tables spilt out onto the street.

Maybe now we will have the America's Cup for which we have all been waiting!

Check out the latest odds offered by the TAB with the gap being closed between the Italians and Kiwis, but still with the Italians on a very good price - click here

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