Epic sailing from the Defenders of the America's Cup

Epic sailing from the Defenders of the America's Cup

Epic sailing from the Defenders of the America's Cup


01/06/2023 - 15:01

When a sailor of the stature of Ray ‘Razor’ Davies calls a day ‘Truly Awesome,’ it’s certainly time to sit up and pay attention. A sailor’s sailor, not driven to hyperbole, what Davies was describing was the simply epic sight of two AC40s, at pace, in breeze, going head-to-head. If there’s a better sight in sailing, it would perhaps be two AC75s doing the same, but whilst we wait for the latest masterpieces to trip off the design-board and into build, for now the AC40s will more than do.

Emirates Team New Zealand would be forgiven if they had packed up the 40s early and headed to Barcelona but there’s so much left on the practice table to be completed that whilst the shore crew works round the clock to get everything for shipping, they still find the time to drop two AC40s in the drink in tip-top condition and let them go hammer and tongs against each other. If you want to see ‘team’ in action – this, is it.

And today (Wednesday) out on the God-given racetrack off Takapuna, the LEQ12 AC40 and the One-Design AC40 went at each other like heavyweight boxers, with the rockstars of the LEQ12 team determined to buck the recent trend and usurp the fast coming pairing of Josh Junior and Leo Takahashi. Experience counts in the America’s Cup, it’s the one thing you can’t buy, and today it showed with ‘Pistol’ Pete Burling and the ‘Wind Whisperer’ Nathan Outteridge pulling some remarkable pre-start moves including the controlled sky-rocket (we’ll be kind) on a harden up with 10 seconds to go, coming down perfectly on foil with pace and crossing the line ahead. The ‘bronco start’ – it could become a thing.

Over three pre-starts, it was hard to score the AC40 positively. The LEQ12 team were on it today and in a south westerly rising breeze, the inherent pace of the boat with its upgraded foils and systems really showed against the strictly one design AC40. One noticeable from a recon perspective is the speed and lack of leeway post-tack when going onto the long-span port anhedral. The LEQ12 can hold its lane, even gain post tack, whereas the one design foils don’t look to give the ‘bite’ and although the loss is small, it’s significant. That’s something every other team will be looking at in this cycle.

Shoreside, after a thrilling day on the water – arguably their best to date – Ray Davies gave an overview of what’s trying to be achieved in the AC40s looking forward to the first preliminary regatta in Vilanova i La Geltrú in September: “It was a really good day, we had a number of objectives today and to tick them all off is really good, also just going through a little phase trying to understand course duration, times and starts and all sorts of things leading into the regattas later in the year. So, it's been really good, Richard Slater’s come over to get an understanding of what these boats can do, so we're looking really hard at making sure we have some awesome racing on these boats, and I think we showcased that today, like far out.”

And he continued: “To be honest we're looking at everything we want to make this spectacular but there's a whole process to go through with talking to the Defender on how these rules all work so we're just trying to do some homework on what is going to be really cool and what should be happening in the future with them now that we've all had more time in these boats. So, we've got a pretty open mind and we just want whatever decisions we come up with will be what makes sense from a practical sailing point of view, there’ll be nothing trying to get an advantage out of anything here, we're just trying to make amazing racing and I think we can, we can make it way better than what’s seen before and pure match racers will really enjoy it.”

Davies, widely regarded as a visionary in Cup circles, can see what AC40 racing can produce, saying: “Full credit to the design team in the concept of this boat, it’s doing all that we kind of hoped for or expected from it, everything we actually expected, and so yeah we can take this forward to another level, it was truly awesome out there today it really was…honestly there’s a bit to work through…but again we're coming from a sailor’s perspective to make it practical, safe and amazing racing.”

On today’s evidence, ‘Razor’ is right. Epic sailing from the Defenders of the America’s Cup. For a reason.

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