Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) has bested the Italian challengers again today in their third
meeting on the water. This time the Italians lost by over seven minutes, their
greatest losing margin yet in the pair’s three races together. This victory secures ETNZ with a place in the finals.
But this time the Italians have an excuse– a race that was perhaps doomed before its start when early this morning their flashy chrome AC72 ran aground while docking out.
“We launched the boat, as per normal, and this morning was a very big tide” says Wade Morgan, grinder/foredeck of Luna Rossa. “So very low [tide], we haven’t experienced that there, and we bumped the bottom of the chain. I’m not exactly sure what we touched. We scratched the back of the port rudder. Something that, on a slower boat, probably wouldn’t be that important. But clearly, the surface finish is something that is very important on a boat like this.”
Luna Rossa team members were forced to drop the rudder out and scramble to repair it, filling and sanding the scratches and cutting their pre-race time on the course short. While it may not have decided the race, it certainly played a significant role in their loss.
ETNZ has had little competition in the opening races of the round robin series. Team members admit that it would be better if they had some competition on the course, but they are getting used to racing against themselves and certainly improving. The Kiwis are mastering the foiling gybe, a crucial element for the downwind performance of the AC72’s.
Despite the one sided competition right now, interest in the large boats on the bay and the red tents lining pier 27 and Marina Green seems to be growing finally. “We had our biggest weekend so far,” says event America’s Cup Event Authority CEO Steven Barclay in press conference before the race. “About 40,000 showed up over Saturday and Sunday.”
Drama over the past month has centered around teams Luna Rossa and ETNZ protests over the 37 safety recommendations issued by regatta director Iain Murray and an independent panel of reviewers assembled following team Artemis’ May 9th accident. The recommendations, released May 22, were protested over a month later by the two teams – specifically the new requirements for the rudder winglets and amendment to the weight rules of the boats.
An independent jury sustained the two team’s protests and allowed them to proceed with the original class rule, forcing Murray to re-approach the Coast Guard with the new changes and again request permission to race on the bay with the amended recommendations.
According to event CEO Steven Barclay, coast guard approved the new conditions at 11 am Sunday. “The coast guard is happy, I don’t want to get the supplement numbers wrong now, but supplement three in his [Iain Murray’s] communication with the coast guard regarding the bits that he couldn’t implement before” explains Steven Barclay. Those bits being the rudder winglet and weight issues.
|Author Sketch- Event CEO Steven Barclay speaks to the media|
To prevent further issues should teams launch new complaints, the event authority has made a slight protocol change. “To make it really simple, so that we can all understand this. Rather than Iain specifying exactly what has to happen, now he has put the onus on the teams to convince him and the coast guard that what they are doing achieves the same objective. And as I have said, the coast guard and the teams now have done that. If anything changes they will have to re-convince the regatta director and the coast guard. But as it stands today, everyone gets a tip.”
Perhaps this will deter team complaints, and certainly take some of the pressure of Murray and Barclay.
While team Artemis officially launched Big Blue yesterday, they were not out on the water today as promised. The team should be out practicing tomorrow.