America’s Cup: Master blasters of the Hauraki Gulf

America’s Cup: Master blasters of the Hauraki Gulf

America’s Cup: Master blasters of the Hauraki Gulf

Sport

23/04/2024 - 08:03

“Fresh to frightening” was how the recon team described Monday’s session for Emirates Team New Zealand as they took the chance to push Taihoro in very top-end conditions that saw speeds rocket and the loadings increase exponentially. Demonstration sailing from the Defenders of the Louis Vuitton 37th America’s Cup, this was a statement of intent as well as a vital commissioning day that tested the AC75 to its outer limits.

Sailing in the area they call the ‘Back Paddock’, the Kiwis took it cautiously at first with plenty of stops to check systems onboard and ensure the safety of the boat but once in flight, she had the after-burners lit and looked to have real stability and poise. For sure, when the breeze is up, the Kiwis are a mighty sailing force and Pete Burling and Nathan Outteridge barely put a foot wrong all day, helming supremely smoothly and rifling through a variety of cant and heel modes, seeking perfection where they could find it.

With a fairly consistent 20-25 knots of breeze, occasionally gusting 30 knots, this was on the limit stuff, similar to what we saw on the very last day of sailing last summer in Barcelona onboard Te Rehutai. Similar too was the moding that the trim team of Andy Maloney and Blair Tuke chose, with the boat resolutely kept low to the water’s surface and with a touch of leeward heel, effectively ‘standing’ on the immersed foil as much as possible. On the ragged edge of control and right up there in terms of what the boat has been built to withstand, Taihoro was pushed to the outer edge of its speed envelope and one can only speculate at the top speeds they hit – 50 knots + would be a conservative estimate as the recon teams struggled to keep up.

Laps were performed aggressively and with the smaller mainsail and the smallest J5 jib up, this three-and a half afternoon session was pure dynamite to watch with Taihoro blitzing around the ‘Back Paddock’ with an assurance that will send a signal to every team in this Louis Vuitton 37th America’s Cup cycle. Flight was low throughout the session, hunkered down but it was noticeable just how little the bow immersed. The balance of Taihoro and the efficiency of its bustle is quite remarkable.

Speaking about the day, Nathan Outteridge, port helm on Taihoro commented: “Plenty of breeze today, we've been looking for a breezy day and we definitely got that it was good fun out of the back paddock we were here in the late 20s to sometimes almost reaching 30 knots out there so good chance to load up the boat properly and see how fast it can go.”

And talking about the initial commissioning of the new boat, now into its seventh day of sailing, Nathan added: “It's really nice, it’s been a lot of fun, the commissioning period is going really well and feels like each day we just understand the boat more and more each time we're out there and we’ve had a wide variety of conditions now which has been good with the top end today and some lighter days last week, so yeah it's all going really well...It's an improvement for sure you can say the boat’s aerodynamically a little bit more optimised and all the systems inside the boat are working really well and I think that's a tribute to a lot of hard work that's gone on the last couple of years to get the boat to where it is in terms of its functionality and control systems so we're very happy.”

Specifically commenting on the day, Nathan said: “Today we were just getting a feel for the smaller sails that we had on, the small jib and the smaller mainsail, just looking at how they set-up and then also just the feel of the boat. As the wind that blows over us in the cockpits it’s obviously a bit different with cant and heel angles and stuff like that and obviously the boats going significantly faster too both upwind downwind so just getting comfortable to going that fast once again.”

Speaking about the stop/start nature of the session, Nathan commented: “It was pretty squally and pretty windy at times and it took us a while to get all the gear up and get going and after a couple of tacks and a bit of a downwind it was always prudent just to check inside the boat and then just check all the areas and it's pretty hard in a chase boat to really follow the loads of the boat at the kind of pace we're going, so it's a good chance to stop and go back through the data and get the all clear to keep going and then you saw us slowly wind up the session with more laps and more manoeuvres...so pretty important for us to have a bit of a stop/start day on days like that.”

Electric sailing from Emirates Team New Zealand, today was a serious marker of deep intent. The Kiwis won’t be giving up their trophy without one heck of a fight and the ball is firmly in the Challenger’s court now. Match that.

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