Another day of high drama as Artemis Racing loses to another protest by Emirates Team New Zealand, Oracle Team USA cruises through to the match, and Land Rover BAR counts a dazzling win
There were extra lashings of melodrama again today in the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup qualifiers. Emirates New Zealand claimed another win as a result of a protest against Artemis Racing, and Land Rover BAR set fire with a superb and flawless win, also over Artemis.
And in the middle race of the day, Oracle Team USA cruised to a wholly one-sided victory over Groupama Team France.
Today’s race between Artemis Racing and Emirates Team New Zealand was seen as a rematch of ‘that race’ yesterday when they were robbed of a win by a protest that the chief umpire later admitted was a mistake.
Artemis’s skipper Nathan Outteridge said the strategy was to “take it out of the umpires’ hands” and sail a clean race. The irony was that their hopes of a win were expunged by another port-starboard protest, and this time it was clearly a foul by Artemis. On the final upwind leg, they came into the Kiwis on port tack at heart-stopping speed, and so close it forced Emirates Team New Zealand to dip.
Skipper Peter Burling protested and Artemis had to take a penalty. New Zealand made it straight to the next gate and zoomed off to an easy win.
But the race also saw some unforced errors, including a major splashdown on Emirates on the first downwind leg. As Burling pushed up below Artemis, apparently for a luff, the elevator of the Kiwis’ windward rudder (which has an effect rather like a spoiler on a race car) came out of water and Burling momentarily lost control.
The boat made a spectacular submarine deep dive, jetwashing the team of ‘cyclors’ and the loss of speed handed Artemis a 400m lead. But Emirates New Zealand climbed back on the upwind leg. With their light boards in today, which are said to span a larger range than most other teams’, they consistently looked quicker upwind.
The result gave Emirates Team New Zealand their fifth win in six races and marks them out as the most likely challenger for the match….so far.
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One-sided race for Groupama Team France
Sadly, there’s little to be said about the race between Groupama Team France and Oracle. It was a rather thin plotline: the US team led from the start, their manoeuvres were smooth and stable, they were consistently faster than the French team and it was one-sided from beginning to end.
However, on the final upwind leg, there appeared to be a wingsail problem on Oracle Team USA. Tom Slingsby was heard to say they’d “got issues” – there was something going on with or, more likely, behind the access panel to the wing controls. On the final upwind, Slingsby instructed: “Guys, we’re just nursing it from here.”
Nursing at high speed, mind you, and enough to keep extending their lead. They cruised to a win of nearly two minutes over Groupama.
Land Rover BAR on a slingshot
And so to Land Rover BAR versus Artemis Racing. Yesterday the British team finished their race against Groupama dejected and disappointed, mainly in themselves, if the crews’ self-castigating tweets were anything to go by.
There is still some speculation that Land Rover BAR’s foils may be lacking something, and if that’s true then this team can afford zero mistakes.
Today they had a different set of light wind boards in place and perhaps some other tweaks Ben Ainslie alluded to afterwards, and they made no obvious unforced errors.
Ben Ainslie did a great job getting a slingshot start, they flew off to the first mark to touch 43 knots, and from there on, Land Rover BAR led for the entire race. It was much closer than the timings might indicate, and it was clear that a single bad tack or gybe could have cost them the race, but that never happened.
Precise and clear communication between Ainslie, tactician Giles Scott and wing trimmer Paul Campbell-James, identified as an area for improvement, seemed to pay off. Manoeuvres were all really slick, Scott made good layline calls, and this looked like a team that had properly regrouped.
“We had to go back to the drawing board and look at the setup of our boat, how we were sailing, how we were communicating,” commented Ben Ainslie. “It was a long night of debriefing and a lot of work in the shed and to come out today and turn that around against Artemis, who we know are a really, really strong team – that’s satisfying.”
So finishing with a solid win, Land Rover BAR has pulled back into the top half of the table and will race against New Zealand tomorrow.