American mistakes and Kiwi domination
Team New Zealand dominated a difficult opening day when American Magic said they were “embarrassed” by mistakes which led to two disqualifications in the first races of the America’s Cup preliminary regatta in Jeddah.
The Kiwi Cup defenders won the opening two fleet races before slumping to fifth in the third race when Italy’s Luna Rossa crossed the finish line in first, but Team NZ led the standings by four points yesterday.
The struggles of American Magic on the Red Sea were more of a revelation. They beat Team NZ by one point to win the first preliminary regatta in Vilanova i la Geltrú in September when the half-scale AC40 Cup boats made their racing debut in Spain.
With the same design in Saudi Arabia, they already look out of contention with another two days of racing to come, while the Kiwi crew are in a strong position to finish in the top two to qualify for the final Cup race tomorrow.
American Magic helmsman Tom Slingsby had a wry smile after returning to the port, but the Australian sailor had a blunt assessment of their troubles on the water after receiving several penalties.
“We've had a quick debrief. It’s always tough. Today, you want to crawl into a hole and hide and forget about it, but that's not what you've got to do,” Slingsby said.
“You've got to face your issues head on. ‘What were we doing wrong? How do you fix those mistakes?’
“As a team, we're gutted. I'm embarrassed. I've never sailed like that before. We’ve just got to get better.”
American Magic were first penalised in the opening race for a boundary infringement and were disqualified as they were falling off their foils after straying way off course. They completed the second race but finished last and were disqualified from starting the day’s final race because they couldn’t fix their foiling problems.
Onboard their Te Kākahi boat, Team NZ were comfortable winners in races one and two after pulling clear of the Britannia and Swiss Alinghi crews. The impressive Italians were always in the mix and the French Orient Express team floundered until finishing second to Luna Rossa in race three.
Team NZ skipper Peter Burling was still reflecting on the final race when they fell off their foils to drop out of contention for a third consecutive win. Still, they emerged as the team to beat against their five challenging syndicates.
“It was a very high-stakes day. We made a couple of mistakes in that last race and ended up getting lapped,” Burling said.
“We tried to approach it aggressively, get out in front, and when we did that we sailed away.’’
The Jeddah regatta is the second of three preliminary competitions before the main event in Barcelona next year, with teams returning to race in the larger AC75 boats.
None of the results count until the challenger series next August, which determines what syndicate Team NZ will race in their defence of the Auld Mug next October.