America’s Cup: Arm wrestling on the Hauraki Gulf

Published on March 15th, 2021

Auckland, New Zealand (March 16, 2021) – With the pendulum having swung toward the home team in the 36th America’s Cup, today was an opportunity to close out the series for New Zealand’s first successful defense since 2000.

But across the start line was Italian challenger co-helm Jimmy Spithill, who was down 1-8 in 2013 before mounting a comeback to win the 34th Match 9-8. His team’s deficit of 3-5 was hardly a talking point, but those two losses yesterday were ugly, so forgive us for pondering how this showdown may end.

However, only authors know how their final chapter reads, so both teams returned to the arena to see how the story would be written. But adding to the drama was how racing returned to Course C, the stadium venue off North Head.

While this course is located for the land-based spectators, it is a borderline lottery as it sits to leeward of the 50m headland. The course also needs a southwesterly, and while that was forecasted, Mother Nature had a mind of her own.

With a westerly prevailing, a 30 minute postponement was needed to orient the course, but nothing was going to settle down the near 20° wind direction oscillations that would decide the outcome.

Race 9 – NZL (port entry) vs ITA
With the wind in the teens for the pre-start, the starting box that is small gets even smaller as the boat speeds increase, requiring both teams to execute massive turns to burn time, with the Kiwis nearly falling off the foils in their final approach.

But at the gun both bows were on the line and a near even drag race ensued to the left boundary, with Italy hanging on the Kiwi hip. When the teams got to the edge, they simultaneously tacked and reversed roles, now on port tack heading across the course. It was the beginning of the closest race yet in the 36th America’s Cup.

Both teams traded the lead until Italy rounded the top mark with a one second split, and again it was back and forth down the first downwind leg, with Italy holding a slight lead near the end of the leg as both teams were next to each other on port, but neither laying the mark. With Italy in control, they pushed the Kiwis slightly beyond the mark, forcing both teams to gybe hard to starboard, making a massive turn to get back to the mark, with Italy leading the way for an eight second lead.

The second lap was all Italy in the lead, but always in doubt, nearly even at times but resulting in a nine second delta at the end of the upwind leg and three seconds at the downwind mark. However, the Kiwis got a split rounding, and when the boats would come together upwind, Italy didn’t have enough of a lead to tack on them.

However, right at the end, Italy had enough lead to tack and cover, forcing New Zealand to the right… and straight toward a right hand shift. The defender quickly had a 200m lead, rounding the final weather mark 18 seconds ahead, and extended up to 500m on the final downwind leg to win by 30 seconds.

As Kiwi helm Peter Burling summarized, “One little right shift at the end decided it.”

Race 10 – ITA (port entry) vs NZL
With a southwesterly shift and a drop in breeze strength, all efforts to adjust the race course were not enough to beat the 18:00 NZT deadline for starting the race, forcing the abandonment of Race 10.

America’s Cup Match Scoreboard (wins-losses)
Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL): 6-3
Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team (ITA): 3-6

After advancing as the winner of the PRADA Cup, Italian challenger faces the Kiwi defense in the best of 13 series. The 36th America’s Cup Match racing schedule has two races per day planned for March 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, and each day after that until the first team has won seven races.

More information:
• America’s Cup format, standings, and how to watch: click here.
• Complete America’s Cup coverage: click here
• Additional America’s Cup information: click here

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