America’s Cup, Preliminary Regattas day 2: Boredom and judges’ decisions win out

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The highlight crossing of the first race between Luna Rossa and Orient Express Team France

UPDATE 11 P.M. – RED MOON READMITTED TO THE RANKINGS

The Jury accepted Luna Rossa’s official protest and awarded the Italian team second place in the first race, fourth now in the overall ranking. It would appear that the Committee’s failure to report Luna Rossa’s irregular departure has been confirmed.

America’s Cup – Preliminary Regattas

After a deluge on the opening day, with the program cancelled due to bad weather, the sun returned to the Catalan town of Vilanova, where the first Preliminary Races of this America’s Cup 2023-2024 were staged. However, difficult day due to very light wind conditions affecting the race course.

RACE 1 – Vilanova Preliminary Regattas.

The AC 40 Luna Rossa in the air during the first race of the day at Vilanova

Wind around 6-7 knots and difficult foil conditions for the whole fleet since the pre-start. The only two AC 40s that manage to start on time are American Magic and Luna Rossa, lagging behind all others. Team New Zealand despite starting late came forward at the first crossing, taking a small lead over a trio consisting of Orient Express Team France, Luna Rossa and American Magic. The quartet of boats, with Alinghi and Ineos lagging behind, came in with small gaps and constant changes of position until the first windward gate. First to turn the upwind gate is Emirates Team New Zealand, which, however, falls off the foils and experiences a poor approach to the aft side.

Luna Rossa managed to take the lead midway through the first run but in turn stumbled from the foils in a weak wind with all the AC 40s in displacement. Not an exciting moment of the day, with the Committee reducing the trial to the second side, with the finish at the first aft gate, with Luna Rossa in the lead heeled by the French and American Magic. Instead, the Kiwis seem to be giving up the displacement mode by insistently trying to sail sideways to get back on the foils. Sensational crossover at the end of the stern, with the French appearing to force entry on the left tack against Luna Rossa on the right tack.

Oriente Express closes the gybe, Luna Rossa at this time does not keep away and takes a penalty.

The reading would seem clear, but the Jury, in a surprise decision awarded a penalty to Luna Rossa with Team France going on to win the event. Luna Rossa second, American Magic third. The Jury’s interpretation would seem to regard the French gybe as having ended before the crossing, and Luna Rossa would have committed a foul by overtaking and not keeping away.

America’s Cup Yellow final – Irregular start by Luna Rossa

Yellow on the finish with the Race Committee upsetting the rankings by informing Luna Rossa that her start was not regular, as she did not enter the pre-start zone with her entire hull before tacking and starting upwind. Last place for the Italian crew, basically declared OCS at the end of the regatta.

The rule states that boats can stay over the starting line during prestart, as long as they return with the entire hull before 0 and then start upwind. It is unclear whether there was any communication from the committee immediately after the start regarding Luna Rossa’s position, a discriminating factor in assessing the position of the Italian team, which in fact was readmitted to the rankings in the evening.

RACE 2 – Team New Zealand’s Hump Shot.

Wind still very light at Vilanova with the America’s Cup Committee forcing their hand and giving a start anyway, with the AC40s immediately struggling in prestart to stay on the foils, including Luna Rossa. Decision to run the second regatta that appears a bit forced given the weather conditions.

Start in displacement mode for almost all of the AC 40s with the French still very well in, followed a few lengths behind by American Magic. Only Alinghi, although also far behind the line, manages to start on the foils, the only boat to do so. Within a short time, in fact, Alinghi took the lead in the race and began to dig a large gap from the rest of the AC 40 fleet, going into a solo breakaway.

Moving up on foils Team New Zealand, with Luna Rossa remaining in displacement in last position. The Kiwis quickly catch up on the Swiss crew, which meanwhile falls off the foils midway down the first stern. The Kiwis closed the gap and overtook Alinghi by taking the lead in the race, with the other AC 40s far behind. The Race Committee shortened the course with a finish on the third side, with Team new zealand launched toward victory in the second race of the day.

The tally is thus one win each for Orient Express and Team France, with Luna Rossa coming back from an up-and-down day, with the first race conducted well, and a last-place finish in the second race when the Italian crew never managed to get on the foils. Not a lucky day for the Italian team, perhaps with some smears, but in general these were not two significant races from the point of view of technical content and for an overall evaluation on all the teams.

Spectacle in any case rather revisable in these first two trials of the Preliminary Regattas: in these wind conditions the foil boats are confirmed to be really difficult to steer and the races lose spectacle and technical content.

Mauro Giuffrè

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