Day 5 of the America’s Cup presented by PRADA 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 score board 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.
Race 7 – Emirates Team New Zealand beat Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli
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.
Race 8 – Emirates Team New Zealand beat Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli
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 were 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.