It’s been almost impossible to follow the action here in Auckland due to my obligations with Greek Challenge and unfortunately this is reflected on the quality of coverage by Valencia Sailing.
I’ll take off my Greek Challenge hat and put the usual Valencia Sailing one, trying to report as fairly as possible. First of all, it’s without any doubt nice and encouraging to see all America’s Cup sailors back in action, engaged in high-level racing after more than 18 months. All 10 teams have been now practicing for a week and crews are vying for the real stuff, a little bit more than 15 hours away.
Wind conditions have been quite erratic in the last days. On Tuesday teams didn’t practice because there was too much wind. As a result, Wednesday was not the closing practice day but and Thursday teams alternated aboard the BMW Oracle and Emirates Team NZ boats, trying to squeeze in as much training as possible. Unfortunately, there was no fresh breeze and, especially on Thursday, the crews had to make do with very little wind.
The only race I followed was Greek Challenge against BMW Oracle. Similarly to what has been taking place so far, the two teams had one test start and then a full race, both won by Greek Challenge. The Greeks were sailing on USA-87 while the Americans were on USA-98. How important are the results? Do they mean anything? As it can be seen by the pictures, conditions were at time excruciatingly light. The race course was set right off the Auckland harbor with the weather mark set almost off the harbor beach. Greek Challenge hit the starting line with a small advantage but lost it during the first beat as Gavin Brady opted for the left hand side of the course and helmed the boat close to the shoreline. BMW Oracle instead gained an advantage by staying in the center and rounded the top mark several boatlengths ahead of the Greeks.
Nevertheless, Greek Challenge staged a remarkable recovery in the first run by opting for the right side while Coutts helmed close to the shore. Greek Challenge rounded the leeward mark clearly in the lead but halfway up the second beat the two teams abandoned racing since the breeze had completely died.
I wasn’t present when BMW Oracle and Team Origin practiced on Wednesday but according to the reports from that race, Ben Ainslie beat Russell Coutts convincingly. Is Coutts taking the practice races easy or has he lost his magical touch? We’ll know in less than a week.