America's Cup - will wind factor blow open deadlock?

Newstalk ZB / NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 14 Mar 2021, 9:59AM
(Photo / NZ Herald - File)
(Photo / NZ Herald - File)

America's Cup - will wind factor blow open deadlock?

Newstalk ZB / NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 14 Mar 2021, 9:59AM

Locked 3-apiece, Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa will be looking to the weather gods - and the possibility of strengthening winds - as a key factor in the coming days.

The America's Cup rivals return to the Hauraki Gulf today for two more races and what could be a decisive day of foiling - they each need to win four more races in the best-of-13 series to lift the Auld Mug.

The first six races have been in lighter airs - with the leading boat at the start gaining a massive advantage - and those breezes are set to continue today and tomorrow. But the regatta deadlock might be broken if a low-pressure system moves in this week.

Today's weather may not be as superb as yesterday, but it's again expected to smile on America's Cup sailors and spectators.

The on-water spectacle took place under bluebird skies in Auckland yesterday, but a weak, warm front may bring a few showers to eastern parts of the city late this afternoon, MetService meteorologist Andy Best said.

"It's not a major, but it does mean we'll see a few showers developing."

Wind won't be an issue – a 10 knot sou-easter is expected to rise to 15 knots by the time Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa are on the water for the 4.12pm and 5.12pm races.

Swells would be around half a metre and a high of 25C is forecast, Best said.

Winds will be lighter for the next day of racing on Monday, with a nor-easter reaching only 10 knots by race time, again 4.12pm and 5.12pm.

The minimum wind speed for racing the foiling monohulls used in this America's Cup is 6.5 knots. The sea swell is expected to be half a metre.

Again, cloudy periods may be punctuated by the odd shower and, again, it'll be warm - a high of 25C is forecast, Best said.

Beyond tomorrow, though, we could see some strengthening winds. Both Team New Zealand's Peter Burling and Luna Rossa's Jimmy Spithill have acknowledged a low sitting off the east coast of New Zealand. That could push the current high away, and with it bring some stronger breezes.

Higher winds are likelier to allow a trailing boat more opportunity to push past the other. Right now, the leading boat, in lighter airs, has a massive advantage, casting a hugely disruptive wind shadow in the lighter airs.

Tens of thousands of yachting fans soaked up the high-pressure stakes of day three of racing for the America's Cup yesterday – watching on as some "Italian Magic" initially unfolded on the Hauraki Gulf, before the holders hit back.

The army of supporters soaked up vantage points both on the water alongside the race course, as well as packing out the official America's Cup Village at the Viaduct, and nearby hospitality businesses, as Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli continued their battle for yachting's prized trophy.

The scoreline in the best of 13 series was locked 2-all after Friday's at-times very tense racing.

And by the end of yesterday's duo of races, the score remained locked at 3-3.

The Italians initially won the opening race after taking advantage of a calamitous Team New Zealand showing in the pre-start jousting.

But Team New Zealand hit back in stunning style in the second race of the day, this time making the most of Luna Rossa's own pre-start woes to power away.

Yesterday, the excitement was in the air from mid-morning as fans flocked to the official Village.

Out on the water, an estimated 3000 boats headed out to seek good vantage points.

At the Village, many fans were decked out in black clothing and face paint to support Team New Zealand.

And as through the earlier Prada Cup series, and first two race days of the America's Cup, a hearty contingent of Luna Rossa fans also decked themselves out in Italian colours and team gear of the challengers.

The influx of fans was good news for hospitality operators at the Viaduct, with the return to level 1 meaning earlier crowd size restrictions were lifted.

Those on the water on race days were warned to stick to the rules after a race start on Friday was abruptly halted due to a spectator craft going on to the race course.

Regatta director Iain Murray said racing required extra work from off-shore race management because one whole side of the chosen course will be off-limits due to its proximity to undersea communications cables.

Maritime NZ is also undertaking a large and ongoing operation this weekend to monitor the masses, ensuring everyone on the water is aware of speed and safety rules as well as the law around charging passengers.

Compliance manager Neil Rowarth said that because of the anticipated large crowds it was important everyone showed patience and courtesy.

With a large number of new boaties on the water for the spectacle it was important to reinforce safety messages, Rowarth said.

"People having the right gear, knowing the rules and the conditions and being courteous will be key to everyone watching the racing safely and getting home safely."