America’s Cup news from Auckland, ETNZ is pushing on

America’s Cup news from Auckland, ETNZ is pushing on

America’s Cup news from Auckland, ETNZ is pushing on


24/02/2023 - 20:15

A one-boat programme became a two-boat programme and pretty soon, Emirates Team New Zealand will be running a three-boat programme in their epic, no-stone-left-unturned quest to defend the America’s Cup in Barcelona in 2024. The team teased ‘Te Rehutai’, the Cup winning, all-conquering, speed machine AC75 of 2021 on social media in recent days and official notification was served through the formal process that must have been an eye-opener to every challenger trying to wrest the Auld Mug from the Kiwi clutches.

‘Te Rehutai’ currently undergoing extensive modifications will be back out on the Hauraki Gulf in short order to give the ‘Power Group’ a taste of the extreme demands they can expect when the new AC75 is launched in mid 2024. What a sight that’s going to be nand what a marker of serious intent.

Meantime, it was back to business out in the East Bays after a maintenance day yesterday for the team’s LEQ12 and AC-40 who went hammer and tong against each other over three hours and no less than ten practice starts. It was a full-on session for the sailing team after an onshore briefing from Grant Dalton and masterfully conducted on the water by Ray ‘Razor’ Davies once again.

Emirates Team New Zealand are relentless in their intensity and in perfect conditions that saw top wind speeds of 15 knots that fluctuated up and down the scale all afternoon, the sailors went hard against each other, honing the match-racing skills and outright technique that could well be the biggest determinant of outcome when racing starts in earnest in Barcelona in 2024.

Once again, the LEQ12 took a while to launch its innovative new mainsail with its wide leech exit point that makes it look like they have a differential on top of the main hydraulic ram to induce a different twist on each skin of the double-skinned sail. Speculation at best but what it translated to on the water today was the ability to crank marginally higher upwind on port tack than the AC40 when flying on similar foils but when flying on the port anhedral foil on starboard tack, the difference was pronounced. Boat positioning though was key and the AC40, with Josh Junior, Liv Mackay and Leo Takahashi onboard all putting the boat right on the line on the ‘B’ of the bang more often than not and could hold their own to the first cross. One suspects that if the race continued, the LEQ12 would grind into the command position relatively quickly but these boats are remarkably close on short courses.

America’s Cup news from Auckland, ETNZ is pushing on
America’s Cup news from Auckland, ETNZ is pushing on

However today was more about the starting practice than the rapid-fire 1.2 mile one-lappers straight up and down and what was evident was the raising of the game by Pete Burling and Nathan Outteridge in the LEQ12 who were sailing far more aggressively with more willingness to close the gauge, lining up within feet of the AC40 both upwind and down to assess relative performance and technique. From a spectacle standpoint, it was awesome to watch and gives a very clear indication of what we can expect when a number of AC40s line up in fleet racing or go head-to-head in the match-racing format.

Marius Van der Pol, a member of the ETNZ ‘Power Group’ that has recently been selected after extensive and exhaustive tests, offered an insight into the training day, saying: “Yeah the boys went flat out and I’m sure they’d be keen to get back onshore and into the debrief.” Van der Pol and his fellow crew are looking forward to getting sailing in ‘Te Rehutai’ saying: “It’ll be awesome stepping on board that boat and seeing the second life that she's had, and will be awesome to see the new boys as well getting a spin on that boat.”

All happening down in Auckland. The defence of the America’s Cup is serious, and it only gets more intense from here. Stunning session. First class team. The real challenge now is: who can get to their level?
On-Water Recon Unit Notes: Both yachts were sitting in the pen with sails loaded on to chase boats by 11.50am. There were more people about the briefing than in the past, with some guests visiting the base. The briefing was conducted mainly by Grant Dalton, with Ray Davies adding points. The race boats were towed off the dock at 13.15pm and were towed down to the Motukorea Channel to hoist sails.

The LEQ12 mainsail hoist was much faster than Tuesday but involved at least six persons in loading and hoisting. The first headsail used was new to the recon team, the #4 jib. From the headboard being loaded to sailing was about 20 minutes.

The boats now lined up for a reach north along the East Coast Bays up to about Castor Bay, where a 1.2 NM windward-leeward course was set. The teams went into four back-to-back pre-starts alternating which end of the line they entered. These four starts looked quite even off the line, with the AC40 early more than on time.

The yachts stopped at 14.48pm and changed to their #2 jibs. They now went into another four quick-fire starts but sailed up the beat to the 1st cross. Score 2 each. Another short stop from 15.36pm, starting sailing again at 15.41. The last two starts lead into a one-lap race finishing at the bottom gate. The LEQ12 looked not quite as controlled in the pre-start. They lost with several splashdowns and one big skid out. By my eye, the LEQ12 won both.

Great to see two boats being thrown around in anger, but it makes keeping the recon boat in the right place that much more difficult.

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