The AC World Series – Naples opened in spectacular fashion on Wednesday as strong winds and big waves created thrilling racing conditions. The AC45 catamarans, powered by their powerful wing sails, were leaping out of the water, launched into the air by the heavy sea state.
“It’s cool, the sailing is pretty awesome, you can’t complain when you’re sailing in conditions like that,” said Emirates Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker, who sits at the top of the leaderboard after two fleet races. “But it’s very challenging for the boats and very taxing for the crew. The goal was to get back to the dock in one piece, which we did – it’s nice to be back in good shape.”
Barker and his team clawed back from deep in the fleet in race one to finish in third place. In the second race, they were able to secure a win, putting them on equal points with ORACLE Racing Spithill who also have a 1-3 on their scorecard. Barker’s team gets the nod on the tiebreak by winning the last race.
Close behind are two teams who put in an outstanding performance on a challenging day. Team Korea, with young skipper Nathan Outteridge sailing his very first AC World Series regatta posted a 4-2 to sit equal on points with Energy Team, who mirrored their score.
“We couldn’t expect much more than that,” Outteridge said. “The big guns are ahead of us. But we’re overachieving compared with expectations, so we’re very, very happy.”
Not surprisingly in the difficult conditions, there were teams who finished the day less content. Terry Hutchinson was leading his Artemis Racing team to a solid second place in the first race when both bows buried in impressive fashion as he rounded the top mark. The front of the boat kept going down, the wind pushing the wing over, until they capsized.
“It was a balance between racing the boat hard and not putting ourselves in a position of risk,” Hutchinson explained. “I don’t really feel like we put ourselves at risk but still we ended up on our side. It’s just very frustrating… Luckily no one’s injured, but the wing is absolutely broken… It’s a real bummer, the boat was so well prepared and sorted for the regatta, and we’ve been going well in training, so all in all a pretty big disappointment.”
China Team too suffered minor damage to its wing and didn’t finish the first race, or start the second. ORACLE Racing Bundock suffered some damage to one of its hulls after flying off a wave and landing hard in race one, which ended their day. But skipper Darren Bundock said he was confident his shore team would have them ready to race for Thursday.
Both Luna Rossa crews, making their AC World Series debut turned in solid, if not spectacular performances to sit mid-fleet after the first day.
The program for Thursday starts with Match Racing, the pairings determined by today’s results, followed by two Fleet Races and the Fleet Racing Championship continues. The first Match Race start is 1330 CEST.
Race One – ORACLE Racing Spithill was fast out of the blocks, taking an early lead which James Spithill would extend to the finish. Things didn’t go smoothly for others, though, with Artemis dropping from 2nd and then capsizing at the final turning mark. China Team also failed to finish, but Emirates Team New Zealand made a late charge up to 3rd place, just behind Energy Team in 2nd.
Race Two – Battle scarred from the opening round, just six boats made the start of Race 2. Again ORACLE Racing Spithill led off the start but by the first turn at the bottom of the course, Emirates Team New Zealand snuck inside and moved ahead. Still, at least Spithill looked safe for 2nd place, and in the large waves and big wind gusting close to 25 knots, played it uncharacteristically safe down the final run to the finish. Nathan Outteridge, on his first day skippering an AC45 in competition, pounced on his fellow Australian’s conservatism, searing down the final run and overtaking ORACLE on the last turn to the finish. Team Korea crossed second, and lie in 3rd overall after today’s two heats, behind the Kiwis and Spithill who end the day tied at the top on equal points.
Provisional Standings after Day One:
1. Emirates Team New Zealand (Skipper: Dean Barker)
2. ORACLE Racing – Spithill (Skipper: James Spithill)
3. Team Korea (Skipper: Nathan Outteridge)
4. Energy Team (Skipper: Yann Guichard)
5. Luna Rossa – Swordfish (Helmsman: Paul Campbell-James)
6. Luna Rossa – Piranha (Helmsman: Chris Draper)
7. ORACLE Racing – Bundock (Skipper: Darren Bundock)
8. Artemis Racing (Skipper: Terry Hutchinson)
9. China Team (Skipper: Fred Le Peutrec)
The 34th America´s Cup consists of three main stages – the America´s Cup World Series, the Louis Vuitton Cup and the America´s Cup Finals. Each AC World Series regatta will be a combination of practice and championship racing, with additional practice sailing on-site ahead of each event.
Photos / Videos: Americas Cup & © GILLES MARTIN-RAGET / ACEA
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