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America's Cup Heart Stopping Day 5 in Auckland

15th March 2021
Emirates Team New Zealand put 2 points on the scoreboard and took a 2 win lead over Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli
Emirates Team New Zealand put 2 points on the scoreboard and took a 2 win lead over Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli

Day 5 of the America’s Cup was without a doubt the most heart-stopping of the 36th America’s Cup. After four days of deadlock and races decided 5 minutes after the start, today Emirates Team New Zealand put 2 points on the scoreboard and took a 2 win lead over Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli.

For the first time in this America’s Cup, both races saw lead changes. Unsteady and light winds played a big role in the change of fortunes as being on the foils meant the difference between leading and loosing.

With the scoreboard at 5:3, the deadlock is broken and tomorrow is going to be a key day. Will the Kiwis keep the momentum and win again or will the Italians fight back and push the Cup into a seventh day? The question will be answered tomorrow at 4:15 pm NZT.

Emirates Team New Zealand put 2 points on the scoreboardEmirates Team New Zealand put 2 points on the scoreboard

Race 7 - Emirates Team New Zealand beat Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli

Start: 1615
Port: ITA
Stbd: NZL
Course: E
Axis: 027
Length: 1.9nm
Current: 0.1 knots @ 137
Wind: 9-12knots 025-050 degrees
Winner: Emirates Team New Zealand – 0:58

As the clock counted down to Race 7 the breeze was well within limits, hovering between 9-12 knots. But the direction wasn’t as steady with a variation over around 25 degrees and phasing around every five minutes. Could this provide the passing opportunities that have been lacking in the previous races?

As Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli entered the pre-start zone from the left-hand side Emirates Team New Zealand were quick to get onto their tail as both headed out to the right hand side of the zone. As the pair came back towards the start line both were early, Luna Rossa were well above the line while Team New Zealand stayed low.

In the closing seconds Luna Rossa had more speed as they crossed the line and rolled over the Kiwis who tried to luff to hold them back. But the move failed. In an identical start to the first race of the 36th America’s Cup the roles had been reversed it was now the Kiwis who were on the back foot. Just one and a half minutes into the race and the Italians had a 150 m lead, sailing high and climbing onto the Kiwi track. They forced Emirates Team New Zealand to tack off onto starboard. But the left was paying and the Kiwis benefitted, plus they were going quickly. Within another minute they had halved the distance between them and the Italians down to 70 m.
Coming into Gate 1 both boats took the right-hand mark and smoked down the first downwind leg, taking their time to gybe. The distance between the two was now just 50 m, but you didn’t need the numbers to see the pressure that the Defenders were putting on the Challengers be it upwind or down. The big change came after the downwind leg.

Luna Rossa led by 10 seconds and headed out to the left leaving the Kiwis to round the same mark but tacked off to head over to the right instantly after rounding the mark. By the time the pair came back together with the Kiwis on starboard and Luna Rossa on port, the Italians were forced to tack underneath. This allowed the Kiwis to take control of the beat. A minute later and Emirates Team New Zealand were fully in charge rounding Gate 3 19 seconds ahead.

At the bottom of the second downwind leg they had drawn out their lead to 29 seconds. And from there, the margin simply grew leg by leg as Emirates Team New Zealand took a win crossing the finishing line 58 seconds ahead of Luna Rossa.

Penalty after penalty for the Italians as they sailed through the boundary, not that it made much difference. Getting back onto the foils was key.Penalty after penalty for the Italians as they sailed through the boundary, not that it made much difference. Getting back onto the foils was key.

Race 8 - Emirates Team New Zealand beat Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli

Start: 1715
Port: NZL
Stbd: ITA
Course: E
Axis: 001
Length: 1.89nm
Current: 0.1 knots @ 151
Wind 9 knots 000 degrees
Winner Emirates Team New Zealand: 3:55 

So far in the 36th America’s Cup presented by PRADA neither team had won two races in a row, so was this the moment that the game changed?

The left-hand shift that had been present in the closing stages of the first race of the day had persisted forcing regatta director Iain Murray to shift the course axis to match. The breeze had also dropped slightly and was now down to 9 knots.

Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli was using a larger jib than Emirates Team New Zealand, would this pay off in the lighter breeze?

Into the zone, the Italians tried to get onto the Kiwis’ tail but had a slow gybe. The Kiwis were off the hook momentarily.

As they turned to head back Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli were ahead and to leeward. Seconds later it was an even start with the Italians at the pin end. Sailing high they managed to bounce off the Kiwis, forcing them to tack over to the right. If the Italians wanted the left they had now got it to themselves.

The breeze was staying low, this was a different race to race 7.

When the pair came back together with Luna Rossa coming in from the left they were ahead of Emirates Team New Zealand, the margin 60m.

As the pair crossed they swapped sides of the course. With the breeze now down to around 8-9 knots, keeping the pace on and avoiding costly manoeuvres was now key.

At the second cross, the Italians were still ahead and had extended their lead.

Towards the top of the course, both boats had congregated towards the right-hand side of the course. The breeze was still showing signs of remaining at 8-9 knots.

As Luna Rossa passed through Gate 1 they were 16secs ahead as they took the right-hand mark. The Kiwis took the same mark. Seconds later during the gybe, the Italian jib looked like it couldn’t be trimmed properly and was over eased for some time costing them distance all the while. Within seconds the race had closed up but there was further drama to come as the breeze dropped and the Kiwis splashed down leaving them dead in the water.

Luna Rossa appeared to have got their jib back under control and were still at speed, hurtling into Gate 2 doing 34 knots to the Kiwis’ 14 knots.

As the Italians passed through the gate they were almost a leg ahead and while the next pass that came was close, the boats were on different legs, the Italians almost 2 km ahead.

By the time the Kiwis rounded the bottom gate they were 4:08 ahead.

But at Gate 3 there were problems for the Italians. The breeze had dropped further and their last tack onto the layline dropped them off their foils. They managed to creep around the right-hand mark and slide out to the right-hand side of the course. But there was no breeze here and the Italians failed to get back up onto their foils.

Then came the news that the race would be shortened to 5 legs, finishing at gate 5, the final upwind leg.

Meanwhile, Emirates Team New Zealand were still flying and hauling back lost distance. The breeze was so light that the Italians had not been able to make any progress downwind, adding to their problems.

Emirates Team New Zealand managed to pull off a clean tack and stay on the foils they were hauling in distance fast. Now the tables were turning, the Kiwis still flying, the Italians stuck in the water and heading to the boundary as the Kiwis overtook their opponents.

Penalty after penalty for the Italians as they sailed through the boundary, not that it made much difference. Getting back onto the foils was key.

As the Kiwis continued to sail at speed each gybe from here was crucial to maintain their lead. And while at the bottom of the course there was still a reasonable amount of breeze, there was still a tricky upwind leg to come. But Emirates Team New Zealand managed it perfectly and while the Italians got back onto their foils, they were now over 2 km behind with just over a leg to go.

And from there nothing changed as Emirates Team New Zealand won the second race of the day.

America's Cup America's Cup results

Racing continues tomorrow

The Mental Game

Update from Emirates Team New Zealand as they go two points ahead

After a day of no racing yesterday, both teams re-set for Races 7 & 8 today on three wins apiece, and with the pressure building to break the deadlock in the 36th America’s Cup, the mental game becomes more intense. For the eleven athletes racing onboard Te Rehutai they thrive in these situations, and clear thinking and staying cool under extreme pressure is their trademark. As Emirates Team New Zealand helmsman Peter Burling calmly commented before leaving the dock, “Every day is important and every race is incredibly important - it is a very tight event, where we are learning a lot all the time. So it really is about going out and executing what we know.”

RACE 7 With a stronger breeze forecast out on racecourse E today, the on-water game of chess featuring move and subtle countermove, particularly in the key pre-start area will be significant. Competitor and coach, spectator and supporter - all are feeling the tension building. This is after all, the toughest prize in sailing, the 36th America’s Cup presented by Prada - it is not for the faint-hearted.

Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli entered the start box first, and as we have seen in all the pre-starts, headed to the right hand boundary. Pulling back in they sailed high, rolled down, then slid to windward and crossed the line slightly to windward and faster than Emirates Team New Zealand.

Rounding the top mark first by 8 seconds, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli were looking to extend - and this they did by 2 seconds, but it was close, and after rounding the bottom gate headed out to the left hand side of the course. Over to the right hand side Emirates Team New Zealand sensed a right hand shift on leg three and they used it, accelerating with their smaller and flatter jib they started the fight back. Half way up leg three, after being allowed into clean air, we saw Te Rehutai light the turbo’s and shift up a gear, coming back in from the right hand side and sailing over the top of the Italians. For the rest of that leg, the key was cover tacking on Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli leaving options open for Burling and crew whilst shutting them down for the chasing boat. Leg 4 saw Emirates Team New Zealand simply light-up the boat and accelerate ahead. Turning a 10 second deficit into a 19 second lead, they used the width of the course to extend. A left hand wind shift made legs 5 & 6 easier to defend, and Emirates Team New Zealand stayed focused leading by 900 metres, and winning Race 7 by 58 seconds.

Asked how big a deal it was for the team to win Race 7, Te Rehutai skipper Peter Burling said “every race is big - we are pleased with our learning. We almost got them off the start – it was close, then we just kept digging deep and gave ourselves an opportunity, it was great to get a pass – and then to extend was pretty pleasing as well.”

RACE 8 Featured the biggest moments of the 36th America’s Cup presented by Prada so far – and one of the most astonishing races in recent America’s Cup history. Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli did well at the start then sailed high forcing Emirates Team New Zealand away to the unfavoured right side of the course. Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli stretched it out with their bigger jib as the breeze got lighter. With the Italians ahead on Leg 2, Emirates Team New Zealand were gaining, but halfway down the leg gybed in bad air then dropped off their foils – seemingly a disaster for Burling and his crew.

Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli sailed away at 33 knots extending their lead to 2,300 metres as the Cup defenders struggled in displacement mode - but in these light and patchy conditions nothing was certain. What followed was a testament to the resilience, skill and patience of the entire crew on Te Rehutai. Focusing on boat speed, they slowly accelerated, eased the boat out of the water, and kept it that way – fully aware that one mistake would mean painful minutes back in displacement mode trying to recover.

Ahead by 4 minutes and eight seconds on leg 3, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli tacked high on the course, and in the soft conditions struggled – then dropped off their foils and that was the beginning of the end for the Challengers in Race 8. Struggling to build speed in the patchy conditions they rounded the top gate in displacement mode at 6 knots then sailed out of the course boundaries receiving multiple penalties for doing so, trying everything they could to accelerate. Suddenly it was game on again as Emirates Team New Zealand tacked back up the course in hot pursuit at 22 knots knowing full well the risks of one mistake as the conditions softened even further.

With the breeze dropping, the race committee shortened the course to five legs, and with Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli reaching back and forth to try to gain speed, Burling nailed the critical tack at 20 knots, sailed through the top gate and headed downwind at 30 knots – but it was far from over.

With conditions firmer further down the course Emirates Team New Zealand used every ounce of skill in their after guard to spot the breeze and sail to it. With Te Rehutai’s hull just touching the water in the downwind gybes they managed to stay flying, and round the bottom gate 2500 metres ahead for the final upwind leg. The closer they got to the finish line, the more the nerves increased with the spectators and fans ashore. Heading out to the top right-hand side, Burling nailed it, over-standing the lay line to head in fast to cross the line at 29 knots, winning Race 8 by 3.55.

For Jimmy Spithill on Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, Race 8 was a tough result, “we were out in front, but it was never in the bag - we came to the top of the course, it went light, we fell off the foils and were stuck for some time...”

Flight controller onboard Emirates Team New Zealand Blair Tuke commented, “We made a costly error gybing behind them – but we just stuck at it. We were on the wrong sized jib and all the boys went right to the end there. A huge effort from the team. We knew there was a chance they could come off the foils and we just kept on going.”

To be behind at both starts and win two races today was a phenomenal effort from Burling and his crew onboard Emirates Team New Zealand who head into tomorrows race day with a 5-3 lead to Race 9 & 10 in this phenomenal event, and another massive day ahead for both teams.

Published in America's Cup
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