New Zealand

America’s Cup: American Magic survive near capsize to split honours with Jimmy Spithill’s Luna Rossa

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Some saw only defeat, but for Team New Zealand skipper Peter Burling his second matchup of the opening day of the America’s Cup world series in Auckland delivered so much more than that.

It was undoubtedly a mixed day on the water for the America’s Cup defenders as the AC75 class made its competitive debut in pretty much ideal conditions on the Waitemata Harbour on Thursday. Emirates Team New Zealand opened with a commanding win (by 3min 13sec) over the challenger of record, Luna Rossa, but were then pipped by 12 seconds by American Magic in a thrilling match race to round out proceedings.

And, as Burling was happy to confirm afterwards, it was that second race that served up the biggest lessons for his team as they look to soak up all they can from their only four days of competitive racing against their rivals ahead of The Match in March.

American Magic, left, and Luna Rossa get close early in their race in the world series regatta in Auckland on Friday.

RICKY WILSON/Stuff

American Magic, left, and Luna Rossa get close early in their race in the world series regatta in Auckland on Friday.

That 3-1 record is the same mark that Emirates Team New Zealand ended on after predictable back-to-back victories over the struggling INEOS Team UK outfit that at least took a major step in the right direction with a much improved second day on the competition waters.

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American Magic’s response, after they had nearly capsized during a messy 12-second defeat to Luna Rossa to open the day’s racing, was impressive. They made the most of a messy pre-start, during which the penalties were flying, to open out an 18-second advantage at the first of eight marks that the Italians threatened, but were never able to overhaul.

Magic’s lead grew to 20 seconds at the second mark, was 14 at the halfway mark and just 5 seconds at the fifth gate as the Americans held a clear advantage downwind, and the Italians the slight edge upwind.

American Magic nearly ground to a halt after a near capsize in first race of day two in the America’s Cup World Series.

./Stuff

American Magic nearly ground to a halt after a near capsize in first race of day two in the America’s Cup World Series.

The Italians never faltered but they just could not haul in Barker’s crew in an engaging contest as they led by 16 seconds at the penultimate mark and half a minute at the finish.

Barker called the opening skirmishes “pretty unconventional” but felt his team came out well on top. “We got a nice start, had a good lead and we were able to keep a pretty tight race,” he said. “The course is very challenging and you’re never quite sure how much leverage to take. They never went away and kept it an exciting race.”

The veteran Kiwi also enjoyed the return to match-racing type head-to-head competition on the water. “It’s a bit like the old-school days. There’s quite a lot going on … this is all about learning for the Prada Cup and it’s nice to learn those lessons now.”

Team New Zealand also righted their faltering ship after Thursday’s surprise defeat to American Magic to post back-to-back runaway victories over Sir Ben Ainslie’s struggling INEOS Team UK. The Kiwis won the opening race by 1min 32sec in lighter 12-knot winds; then backed it up in the last race of the day by hauling in a missed start and 12-second deficit at the first mark and cruising to a 1:42 win.

Burling had Te Rehutai flying after Sir Ben Ainslie had schooled him at the start, getting the Kiwi boat in front by the second mark and easing clear with a decisive speed advantage throughout.

“We didn’t sail as clean as we did in the first one,” said Burling of an interesting second day’s r acing. “But it was good learning for us, good to run through the systems and get everything working to 100 per cent. We were happy enough.”

Earlier Luna Rossa had made American Magic pay for a suspected gear failure and near capsize on the opening leg as they spun out to an early 700-metre lead that proved decisive.

Italian co-helmsman Francesco Bruni intimated that the Americans’ problem might have been related to the foil cant system that failed Team UK on the opening day, though afterwards Barker was giving little away around the question of whether human error was involved in a sloppy tack.

Team NZ beats INEOS Team UK in the second race of the regatta on Friday.

Fiona Goodall/Getty Images

Team NZ beats INEOS Team UK in the second race of the regatta on Friday.

“It was a bit frustrating,” said Barker. “We had a nice position, but just didn’t come up out of the tack. That put us on the back foot. I was impressed with how we got back in the race a couple of times, so there were positives to take, but it was frustrating not to get the win.”

Asked whether it had been mechanical error, Barker said: “We’ve got to check. It seemed to work OK after that. These boats are pretty difficult at times and you’re never quite sure what the issue is. But if in doubt, blame the boat.”

Bruni confirmed they had some problems with timing at the start but felt they had sailed a “fantastic race” thereafter.

Emirates Team NZ’s first victory over the Brits was not all smooth sailing, with a messy turn at the top mark almost proving calamitous, and then a spectacular splashdown on the fourth leg also reflecting the fine margins at which these boats are sailed up over the 40-knot mark.

“I definitely got it a little wrong,” said Burling of the near mishap at the top mark. “I went a little too close and made it a bit hard. It was interesting at the start as well – we had a few issues there.”

Burling conceded he made a mistake on leg four when the boat thumped back into the water with some force. “It was tricky. There was not much breeze at the bottom but plenty at the top. It wasn’t a polished performance but we were happy to walk away with the win.”

America’s Cup world series, Waitemata Harbour, day 2:

Luna Rossa bt American Magic by 12sec

Team NZ bt Team UK by 1min 32sec

American Magic bt Luna Rossa by 30sec

Team NZ bt Team Uk by 1min 42sec

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