Team to beat? Barker stuns Burling in America's Cup classic

Author
Christopher Reive, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 17 Dec 2020, 6:37PM
Team New Zealand trailing American Magic during the final race of the first day of the World Series. Photo / Dean Purcell
Team New Zealand trailing American Magic during the final race of the first day of the World Series. Photo / Dean Purcell

Team to beat? Barker stuns Burling in America's Cup classic

Author
Christopher Reive, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 17 Dec 2020, 6:37PM

American Magic have made an early statement on the America's Cup stage, following up their first-up demolition of INEOS Team UK with a solid victory over the defending Team New Zealand.

In the final race of the opening day of the America's Cup World Series, Dean Barker's crew were hard to fault from start to finish; beating Team New Zealand at the start, matching them manoeuvre for manoeuvre and sailing a smooth race.

It was a different story for the Kiwi outfit, who made a slow start and struggled to stay up on their foils in a race which was a far cry from the performance they had in their first-round win over Luna Rossa.

Team New Zealand coasted into the starting box against American Magic, keeping a fair distance away from their opponent and while American Magic flew into the starting line, the Kiwis struggled to get up on their foils for the start of the race.

Once they did, however, Peter Burling and co had a slight speed advantage and began to close the gap.

Facing a slight deficit of 15 seconds after the opening leg of the race, the Kiwis maintained the distance down the second leg, but splashed down while tacking around the marker and went from trailing by 200m to trailing by 400m.

The mistake proved costly down the third leg as American Magic held a 26-second lead halfway through the race.

Team New Zealand were able to make up six seconds on the fourth leg and, with two legs to go, the final race of the day proved to be the competitive spectacle people were hoping to see.

After a fifth leg that turned into a tacking duel, Team New Zealand managed to get the inside track around the marker, drawing a penalty against the Americans in the process, providing the opportunity to take the lead for the first time in the race.

Whatever lead they had was shortlived, as they again touched down and lost some speed for just long enough for American Magic to sneak back ahead of them.

Down the final leg, things were neck and neck between the teams – with just 12m separating them inside the final 900m of the course.

Ultimately, American Magic found the right wind and burned off Team New Zealand late in the final leg to claim a 12-second win.

It was the second win in as many races against the Kiwis for Barker, after the Yanks beat the host in a practice race earlier in the week.

Team New Zealand made a big statement with their crushing opening win against Luna Rossa. Photo / Dean Purcell

Team New Zealand made a big statement with their crushing opening win against Luna Rossa. Photo / Dean Purcell

In their opener against Luna Rossa, Team NZ led from start to finish, and the race looked over at the first mark.

Te Rehutai crossed the line a staggering 3:13 ahead of the Italians, in what was an absolute, good old-fashioned smashing.

The New Zealand crew was faster upwind, quicker downwind and better with their transitions in a result that will send shock waves through the Challenger fleet.

The boats made an even start, though Burling had got over the top of Jimmy Spithill in the last period of the pre-start.

There was a big split early on – well as large as possible with the narrow boundaries – and Team New Zealand made good ground on the left-hand side of the course.

They made further gains – as the Italians struggled to stay on their foils – with plenty of positive talk on the Te Rehutai.

Team New Zealand had a 41-second lead around the top mark, and extended further downwind, reaching speeds of more than 40 knots.

They were more than a kilometre ahead at the bottom mark and the race already seemed a complete mismatch, with the local boat more than a minute ahead (1:13).

The Italians weren't exactly slow – they hit 45 knots during the downwind leg – but couldn't make an impression on their opponents.

Team New Zealand held a 1:15 lead when they went around the top mark the second time, and were flying at 47 knots when they completed the second lap.

Nothing had changed at the bottom mark (1:17) and it was obvious that Team New Zealand have something special under the hood.

Their advantage was 1.3 kilometres as they rounded the mark for the last time (2:38), and it was a procession to the finish.

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