With the start once again playing the decisive role, Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa each won a race at the America’s Cup in Auckland, New Zealand.
The series now stands at two races each for Team New Zealand, the cup holder, and Luna Rossa, the Italian challenger. The first team to win seven races takes the Cup.
Fears of a delay or cancellation arose before Friday’s first race, both because of light winds and a technical issue on Luna Rossa. But when the race was set to begin, the cause of the delay turned out to be something fixed far more easily: a few spectator boats had strayed onto the course.
When the race finally began, both teams tacked immediately after an even start. Spectators held their breath, knowing the maneuvers might well decide the race, as they did in the first two on Wednesday. It was Italy that got the best of the tack, taking a lead of only a few seconds.
But a lead like that at the start has been enough to win at the America’s Cup so far. With New Zealand forced to maneuver away, Italy built a lead that held up through all six legs. Luna Rossa eventually won by 37 seconds.
In the day’s second race, New Zealand gained the slight edge at the start, and benefited when Luna Rossa made a bad jibe. Almost as soon as it began, the race was effectively over.
Although the day was even, New Zealand’s crew may have been happier with that split, as prerace chatter had suggested that Luna Rossa would be the better boat in very light winds, like Friday’s conditions.
“That was a really good race for us,” Blair Tuke, the flight controller for Team New Zealand, said after the second race tied the series at 2-2. “Got off the start line slightly better than the race before.”
New Zealand is the Cup holder after defeating the United States off Bermuda in 2017. This year’s races are being contested with 75-foot monohulls — fast, spectator-friendly boats that can fly above the water on hydrofoils as fast as 60 miles an hour. “I truly believe we’re the underdogs,” Luna Rossa’s Australian helmsman Jimmy Spithill said, “but as we’ve shown, we can win races.”
The racing will continue all weekend in Auckland, and most likely with bigger crowds in attendance after New Zealand’s government lifted a series of strict lockdown restrictions on Friday.
“Looking at the score line, it’s great news for the event, for fans of both teams,” Spithill said. “But you’re taking on Team New Zealand at home, and they’re the favorites.”
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