News : 36th America’s Cup: Only flying is better
It’s a bleak sight when the yachts go out of flight mode at the America’s Cup. The state of suspension is gone, in which the boats lift themselves out of the water and only race over the surface on the wings. Instead, the yachts slide lazily through the Hauraki Gulf off Auckland like black swans. In the last race of the Cup so far, both teams suffered this fate.
Still, it didn’t get boring: After Team New Zealand fell from their wings onto the water in the second race of the day, it initially looked like a clear victory for the Italian team with their »Luna Rossa«. The Italians were at times ahead by around 2500 meters, an actually impossible lead. But then this yacht also sagged in the gentle breeze – and couldn’t get on its feet.
The “Luna Rossa” crew tried desperately to catch a breeze at the edge of the regatta course to get back on the foils to come up the wings. But the wind speed of around seven knots (around 13 km / h) was not enough. The New Zealanders were long back in flight mode and finally sailed away from the Italians. In the previous race, the New Zealanders had reversed a deficit for the first time – and the previous laws of the racing series apparently overridden.
The start is not everything
The most important finding after the fourth day of racing in the Cup is that the start is not everything. While the previous races were characterized by duels for the better starting position, the races were now decided on the open field. For the »Luna Rossa« skipper Jimmy Spithill this is not really good news. The 41-year-old Australian has earned the nickname »Pitbull« for years through his aggressive maneuvers before the start. If the Italians crossed the line in a better position, Spithill has always succeeded in “biting off” the New Zealanders with skillful maneuvers.
In the light wind conditions, however, he seems to run out of breath. On the one hand, this is astonishing, as the Italians were supposedly better positioned for the last two races with a slightly larger headsail. On the other hand, differences in performance between the teams can now be seen – in favor of the New Zealanders.
Nevertheless, the New Zealanders could only partially live up to their clear favorite role predicted before the Cup. Her »Te Rehutai« is the faster yacht, especially on downwind courses, but the Italians can sail higher up the wind, thus getting closer to their destination and having to cover less distance. The reason for this is apparently also the different handling of the yachts. While the Italians let their boat fly a little higher over the water, the New Zealanders push the bow down a little more aggressively and gain speed.
Translated to the races, this ultimately meant: If the Europeans are ahead, they tend to lose a bit of their lead, while the New Zealanders mostly extended their leadership.
Duel for the “clean air”
On the other hand, the Italians held up to the fourth day of racing with good starts and clever tactics. In their three victories, the Italians succeeded in blocking attack maneuvers by the New Zealanders by leaving “bad air” behind on their course. This refers to the turbulence caused by the own, wing-like sail that pulls the yachts behind them. They disrupt the flow of air to the opponent’s sails, which can mean valuable seconds gain.
This is why the “suction” known from racing does not work in the slipstream when sailing. The wind pressure on the sails must be as constant as possible. Distractions of the wind, for example by land masses or the boat in front, slow down considerably.
Both teams therefore not only feverishly search the route for gusts of wind that could bring them additional pressure and thus an advantage. At least as important is a free route without turbulence for the opponent – that is, with “clean air”.
The score of 3: 5 for the Italians is already a success: 21 years ago, »Luna Rossa« sailed against Team New Zealand in the Hauraki Golf – and had no chance. After a promising preliminary round, the team lost all five races.
“Pitbull” Spithill does not want to write off the race yet. You have fought your way back several times from a difficult situation, he said. To catch up, Spithill will have to be successful in the next two races on Tuesday. If the New Zealanders win both races, they will have defended the cup.