by Richard Crockett
Regrettably I battled to get into the app to watch racing last night. It appears that the sheer massive volume of people logging on caused some problems. Fortunately I missed the first race only.
From what I saw last night (Sunday), both Emirates Team NZ and Artemis are fast boats. Of that there is absolutely no doubt. Which is faster? Well only a betting man would put a wager on that as it’s so tight.
What the Kiwis have though is upwind speed in bucket loads. That’s when they are at their most lethal as they have an uncanny knack of coming from behind upwind, snatching the lead and then building on it. But that’s not all.
Their foils are very different to those of the Swedes. The Kiwis appear to have a broader range of conditions for their foils, whereas the Swedes look to have a narrower band. The difference in boat performance from one set of foils to the next is massive.
What is interesting is that the Kiwis have not been getting their starts right. They have been second to the 1st weather mark in every race against the Swedes in these semi finals. So they can improve their starting, but does that matter if they have speed to burn? Most of all though is that they ooze confidence, have loads of patience and always appear calm and collected – all race winning ingredients.
Having said that, in the third race last night (Sunday) they made a rare error which almost saw them lose the race – just edging ahead on the finish line by 1 single second.
Tonights (Monday) racing IS going to be good as the Kiwis have just one more race to win to be declared finalists and the right to sail against Oracle Team New Zealand.
“We were really happy to walk away from the day 4-2 up,” Burling, the young Kiwi helmsman said. “To get our boat around the track in the way we did and to take those couple of wins, is full credit to the whole team, and what they’re willing to give to get the job done here. We probably gave everyone a heart attack at that last mark there… but the way the boys ground the board down it’s full credit to the bikes and the design we have to get the power to get it down and hold on to the lead.”
“We saw in the semi finals that anything is possible,” Outteridge noted. “We’ll keep chipping away. We won’t change how we tackle the starts or the first mark approaches. We’re six for six there. It’s more what we do in the upwind legs to help keep them behind us…
“The boat’s going just fine,” Outteridge said. “I think if we can keep attacking the races the way we have been, and (keep) trying to control Team New Zealand as much as we can that’s the important thing for us to focus on.”
An even start saw Nathan Outteridge’s Artemis Racing gap off to the windward side of Burling’s Emirates Team New Zealand to take the high-speed option and lead into mark one for the fourth consecutive time in the series. At the bottom gate, the Swedish lead was just 5-seconds, with Burling keeping the pressure on, following Outteridge through the gate. On the first upwind, the Kiwis were able to get a couple of short splits, but Outteridge and tactician Iain Percy never allowed them to wander too far away, offering up a loose covering position, staying between Burling and the top gate. While Team New Zealand earned a split on the run, it wasn’t to the favoured side, and Percy and Outteridge sped away to a big gain. Burling again took a split at the bottom, rolling the dice on the final upwind leg. With a lead of close to 200-metres, Outteridge was content to sail his own race but a very poor tack near the top gate allowed Burling to close the deficit right up. The Artemis Racing boat reared up into the air coming out of a tack and crashed hard into the water. Burling and his Kiwis almost made the pass, but this time, Artemis Racing recovered – just in time – and protected through to the finish. The 15-second win sees the series tied at 2-2.
For the fifth time in five races, Nathan Outteridge and Artemis Racing led across the starting line and past mark one. There wasn’t a lot of engagement in the pre-start and Burling and Emirates Team New Zealand have yet to find an answer to get across the starting line with a lead.
Burling elected to take a split at the bottom gate and when the boats converged, Outteridge tried to slam a tight covering tack on the Kiwis, but Burling took the high road, pinching up to a safe and strong position approaching the boundary. When the boats tacked again, the Kiwis were in a powerful leeward position and with rights, Burling luffed hard, forcing Outteridge to tack. The extra manoeuver gave the lead to the Kiwis who soon crossed ahead to round the windward gate with a 13-second lead.
From there, it was straight-forward to the finish. Burling and the Kiwis extended to take the win and a 3-2 series lead, with Sweden retiring from the race as the Kiwis crossed the line.
Both boats crossed the starting line at speed in a neutral start, but with better pace and the leeward position on the reach to mark one, Artemis Racing’s Nathan Outteridge was able to push Burling well to windward of the target before turning downwind with a 3-second lead around mark one and then a 7-second lead through the bottom gate. The Swedish team is now 6 for 6 in terms of leading at mark one.
New Zealand followed through the gate but an early tack on the first upwind leg allowed the Kiwis a bit of separation and a slight gain on a left hand windshift. Halfway up the leg, Artemis Racing put a tight covering tack on the New Zealand boat, forcing them back to the right side of the course, and into a big split. Artemis Racing held a narrow lead and crossed ahead when the boats met at the top gate, but New Zealand took the favoured gate mark and sailed into the lead on the first half of the run.
At the bottom gate, Outteridge was less than 2-seconds behind and as the boats turned upwind the Swedish bows were just metres from the stern of the Kiwi boat. But in disturbed air, Artemis Racing was forced to tack away. When the boats next converged, Burling had again extended to a more comfortable lead, always sailing a closer angle to the top gate where he held a 16-second lead.
Just when the race appeared to be in hand for the Kiwis, the team appeared to lose control on the final gybe and the boat settled into the water, very slow. This set up a dramatic sprint to the finish, but Burling had the faster angle, crossing the line just over one-second ahead of the fast charging Swedish boat.
Despite trailing at the first mark in all six races, Emirates Team New Zealand has earned four points. Burling says the team has confidence in its speed around the race course to help overcome any early deficits.
Results after 6 races
Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Challenger Playoffs – Final
Race 1 – Emirates Team New Zealand beat Artemis Racing – 47 seconds
Race 2 – Artemis Racing beat Emirates Team New Zealand – 15 seconds
Race 3 – Emirates Team New Zealand win – Artemis Racing did not finish
Race 4 – Artemis Racing beat Emirates Team New Zealand – 15 seconds
Race 5 – Emirates Team New Zealand win – Artemis Racing do not finish
Race 6 – Emirates Team New Zealand beat Artemis Racing – 1 second