With the 10 March being the first official day of the 36th America’s Cup, anticipation and speculation coursed through the circuit like electricity. Could Emirates Team New Zealand hold on, living up to the heritage of the team? Or could Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli manage to break a 21-year curse and finally grasp the America’s Cup for the first time.
Given the previous delays due to COVID-19, the opening day was going to be, at its very least, cathartic. But as the second race came to a close earlier this week, the spectacle we saw was reflective of something even more valuable: a series to remember.
As both vessels pulled into the pre-start, a north westerly oscillating between 12 and 14 knots, questions were abundant. Would Luna Rossa be fast enough to be competitive? Or could the success they discovered in in the round-robin and Prada Cup Final be replicated?
As both teams drew ready for pre-start, signalling the start of the 36th America’s Cup, the story was looking to be the former – Team Emirates New Zealand managing to pull an early lead.
An early protest from Jimmy Spithill at the first tack suggested that lead could be cut but the gamble didn’t pay off. Instead, the call went in favour of Team New Zealand, resulting in a 14-second gap at the first gate.
That lead didn’t change for the entire race with Emirates Team New Zealand managing to win by a commanding 31-seconds. But Luna Rossa also managed to hold on, cutting that lead down slightly by 100 metres in the second half of the race. But more importantly, they didn’t give up chasing.
“We were really happy with the pre-start and the way the whole team has got the boat in good shape,” said Peter Burling on his side’s victory.
“We had our good moments during the race,” added Luna Rossa’s Francesco Bruni. “I think it was the second upwind and from there on we were in phase and we caught back a bit.”
The resounding victory of Emirates Team New Zealand in the first race suggested that this series was moving in one particular direction. But as both sides pulled into the pre-start for Race 2, Luna Rossa defied the naysayers with an immaculate start that blossomed into a 14-second lead at the first gate. A gain only complemented by a slight, but costly, error by Emirates Team New Zealand.
Echoing Race 1, Luna Rossa commanded the race for its entire duration – building to a 24-second lead at the fourth gate. But in what can only be described as cinematic, Emirates Team New Zealand closed that gap by half following the fifth. The race becoming incredibly close until the last 100 metres as Luna Rossa held on to win by only seven seconds.
“We thought the boats were pretty even today and it felt like you had to do the right things, sail the shifts and we made a few mistakes which you could say was rust, or just a mistake,” said Burling, adding. “I’m pretty happy that we’ve got a tool here that we can win this thing with.”
Regardless of what side you land, the winner so far this America’s Cup has been sailing. A victory that looks set to continue if Races 1 and 2 are any indication.