The 36th match for the America’s Cup remains just that, a match. Defender Team New Zealand and Italian challenger Luna Rossa won one race each on the second day of racing Friday at Auckland to be tied at 2-2 in the best-of-13 race series.
America’s Cup matches, over 170 years, haven’t typically been close but this contest seems likely to remain so as long as the wind stays light and starts remain hugely influential.
Luna Rossa won the start in the first race Friday and took the race by 37 seconds; Team New Zealand took the start in the second race and won by 63 seconds.
All four races in the series so far has been won by the team with the advantage of port entry at the start.
From that position, the teams have been able to take a controlling position off the start line, create an early lead and defend it.
The wind fluctuated between eight and 10 knots on the race course Friday but there were no significant shifts which could allow the trailing boat to overtake.
Without a passing lane, the team behind had to go searching for a boost and that often played into the hands of the leader.
Luna Rossa sailed a flawless first race and extended on the upwind legs to win decisively.
Team New Zealand gained a slight advantage off the line in the second race and looked much stronger with its nose in front.
It was helped by a major blunder by the Italians near the end of the third leg when Luna Rossa almost sat down after a poorly executed gybe.
New Zealand’s nine-second lead at the top mark turned to 34 seconds at the bottom and extended at every subsequent mark.
One thing is evident so far.
Neither team has a significant speed advantage in the light winds and as long as those conditions continue — as they are expected to do so over the weekend — the starts and the early lead are likely to be decisive.
“In this light air, the gas of the lead boat is such a big impact,” Luna Rossa co-helmsman Jimmy Spithill said.
“I’m still not convinced it’s just the entry that’s doing it.
“We’ve just got to go back and have a bit of a look at it.
It’s the first time in a long time we’ve had these two boats together in the lighter range and again both boats proved they could win races.”
Luna Rossa had the favored port entry to the start box in the first race and used it well.
Team New Zealand started at the pin end with Luna Rossa above it to windward as the boats crossed the line side by side.—AFP