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LIVE UPDATES: THE 36th AMERICA’S CUP MATCH PRESENTED BY PRADA

On-The-Group Updates and Highlights from Auckland

📸 ACE / Studio Borlenghi

It’s been decided. Challenger Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli will meet Defender Emirates Team New Zealand to race for the oldest trophy in sporting history. The teams will sail 13 races, with the first team to seven wins claiming victory. This is an exciting time for North Sails as both competitors trust North Sails and our NTG family brands Southern Spars and Future Fibres to power their engine above deck. Our group has also supplied design talent and software to support the teams’ quest for the Cup. And for those of you who want to dress the part, North Sails is an official partner for event-branded clothing.

Racing begins March 10th at 1600 NZL time. Make sure to check your time zone if you’re watching remotely. North Sails will also be covering the Cup on this live blog and our social channels. Updates from Auckland below!

 

How to Watch

March 17, 2021, 1630 GMT

Kiwi victory over friends and rivals

 On 17 March, New Zealand became the first country to have twice won and twice defended the America’s Cup. The final scoreboard against Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli was seven races to three, nailed in just seven crazy days that sat at three points-even after day three.

When the Defender, Emirates Team New Zealand, first lined up against Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli on 10 March, it was impossible to pick the stronger team. Three days later, the even points still refused to answer: Who has the fastest boat?

Both teams were titans of sailing talent; Spithill and Burling are the two youngest skippers to have won the America’s Cup. Their skills delivered some of the best racing in America’s Cup history, especially races 7, 8, and 9, and in AC75- boats that will change sailing forever.

Both teams arrived to the America’s Cup finals with different sets of skills: Italy was race-hardened but, like the rest of us, knew little about its opposition apart from rumors of speed. New Zealand had collected and run infinite bytes of data on Luna Rossa through its simulators but was race-rusty. And, ironically, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli became the stone on which Emirates Team New Zealand sharpened its winning set of skills.

The final show played out on Course A in just over 10 knots of wind. Spithill wanted the right. He dove into the box and gybed slowly, hoping to lure Burling into a trap. Burling didn’t fall for it. He even took a slight loss to claim the windward hip of Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli at the start.

Before we could wonder if the Kiwis could live there, they tacked to claim the favored right-hand pressure from which they could bounce back with starboard rights. In match racing, this is gold. For the rest of the race, Burling handed the Italians the same tactics they had played so often in this America’s Cup: The Kiwis protected the right until they didn’t want it, then crossed tacks in a close flurry of foiling arms to take the left.

The first delta was just 7 seconds. Italy chased hard on the downwind leg; New Zealand gybed to stay in sync. At gate two, Emirates Team New Zealand’s gybe was a little untidy; Luna Rossa’s even more so, and the Italians kept both foils down too long for optimum speed. It was their last chance to regain the lead, and it didn’t just didn’t happen. From there, the Kiwis shut down the racecourse and sped downhill They won by 46 seconds and proved that Kiwis can fly.

America’s Cup 2021 was a clean battle on the water. And, at the end of it, the sailors genuinely appear to be friends. For viewers, it’s been like binge-watching an entire season of “Friends” in one sitting. Looking back, the weeks feel like one bike blur. So, to help, here’s our favorite moments from the last seven crazy days…

Race one was the one where, just after the start, Spithill attacked and just missed a penalty against New Zealand’s Te Rehutai: New Zealand’s point.

Race two was the one where Burling went for a hook in the prestart and missed. He followed Luna Rossa around the course and lost speed tacking into dirty air, but sprinted down the final run: Italy’s point.

Race 3 was the one where Italy did that impressive lee-bow tack, made it look easy, and dominated the rest of the race: Italy’s point.

Race 4 was the one where Italy would have liked another lee-bow tack but couldn’t live on Emirates Team New Zealand’s hip and tacked away. The Kiwis found a new mode and consolidated their lead when Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli did a bad tack at the top mark: New Zealand’s point.

Race 5 was the one where Emirates Team New Zealand sailed into a wall of air, parked and stopped in the prestart: Italy’s point.

Race 6 was the one where the story flipped, and Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli sailed into a wall of air and stopped in the prestart. The coincidence gave the world a lesson on boats that sail so fast they gybe back into their own wind shadow: New Zealand’s point.

Race 7 was the one where Italy’s jib was too big and proved to be more drag than drive: New Zealand’s point.

Race 8 was the one where the wind dropped and New Zealand was underpowered, gybed into Italy’s wind shadow and fell off its foils. Then, Italy fell off its foils. Everyone was on the edge of their seats. New Zealand recovered first: New Zealand’s point.

Race 9 was the one on Course C, where the lead swapped so many times our heads began to spin times and Italy defended most of the way around the course. But a lucky wind shift put the Kiwis back in the race: New Zealand’s point.

Race 10 was the one, as above, where both teams wanted the right but New Zealand got it. Game over, New Zealand’s victory.

In defeat, Luna Rossa was pure class. They congratulated Emirates Team New Zealand and felt good about their campaign.

Francesco Bruni: “We are sad not to win the Cup, but we lost it with honor; we lost it with dignity and we fight to the end.”

Congratulations to everyone in Emirates Team New Zealand– your victory was well deserved and we’re excited for what’s next.

March 16, 2021, 1300 GMT

Did that really happen? Yes it did.

The superyachts’ horns blared more loudly than usual as the AC75s left the dock in Auckland because the Auld Mug was on the table – if Emirates Team New Zealand won both races on day six, they would win America’s Cup 2021.

Going into the day, Emirates Team New Zealand had 5 points, and Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli had 3. There was a third character in the race though: the venue, Course C. Jimmy Spithill described the track as a tough race track that he knew promised some action. “It’s a dynamic course,” he said. “And things can change and happen very, very quickly.”

📸  ACE | Studio Borlenghi

Over the course of the ninth race, the lead shrank and stretched and swapped an almost infinite amount of times, but it meant nothing if Emirates Team New Zealand was unable to cross in front and take control, or if Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli couldn’t hold on. The race was loaded with a tough three years, including the bravery to start a new class. As the race unfolded, a sense of immense respect between the two teams began to shine bright. With everything on the line, the America’s Cup 2021 was delivering some serious fun.

Racing, it was clear the skippers’ nerves were as tight as carbon fibre– no one knew if the breeze would hold or flick around the compass. As the race unfolded, every tack and every gybe had to be just right. The result? Both teams were nailing every move perfectly; it was a true do or die moment.

📸  ACE | Studio Borlenghi

At gate one, the Italians were one second ahead of the Kiwis. Coming into mark two, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli had starboard advantage and gybed on top of Emirates Team New Zealand. It was an aggressive move because it needed to be. (Being aggressive was quickly becoming the only clear way to win this race.),. Luna Rossa dumped exhaust on New Zealand’s sails and extended the lead around the mark.

On leg four, the Italians protected the left and the Kiwis split at the gate to sail the opposite side of the course. That led to New Zealand taking the right on the fifth leg, wide apart on the opposite side of Course C. Only from the helicopter could you see what was about to happen. Then the wind flicked right. And with it, the race changed and perhaps the destiny of the America’s Cup. The Kiwis sped home to win by 29 seconds.

📸  ACE | Studio Borlenghi

Even the wind decided that was enough excitement for one day. Race director Iain Murray postponed then abandoned race 10.

So, Jimmy Spithill, how does it feel to have Emirates Team New Zealand on match point?
“I feel excited,” he said. “We live to fight another day.”

March 15, 2021, 1530 GMT

As close as it gets

Day 5 of the 36th America’s Cup may go down in history as one of the event’s most thrilling days on the water. The teams arrived at the start line with three wins each. Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli was armed with tools gathered through the Prada Cup: their high mode, their understanding of the AC75’s wind shadows and slick moves to execute match racing tactics at high speeds. Meanwhile, Emirates Team New Zealand is learning on the fly (although at a rapid pace), honing their skills, and uncovering their secrets weapons as the series unfolds.

When we sat down to watch race 7, we all knew it would all come down to the start– as it had for all the earlier races. However, if previous editions of the America’s Cup have taught us anything it is: never get comfortable with your predictions.

📸  ACE | Studio Borlenghi

In race 7, the Italians crossed the line with a click more speed and began to build their advantage, but pretty soon Emirates Team New Zealand took a nip at Jimmy’s heels. It was a luff that didn’t stick but also didn’t damage the Kiwis’ leg 1 strategy. Next, New Zealand began to engage in a tacking duel near the top mark, and as commentator Ken Read remarked, a match race broke out. Something big was brewing and the Kiwis were flexing their badass attitude.

Quickly, as the Kiwis gained more and more momentum, it appeared as Luna Rossa was caught off-guard. Compared with Emirates Team New Zealand’s, Luna Rossa’s headsail was bigger and, in the 10-plus knots, this was a drag, literally.

In leg three, the Kiwis picked a right hand shift. Their smaller, flatter jib was perfect, and they soon had a VMG of up to three knots faster.

Suddenly, the boats were neck and neck in the fight; both boats played tug of war as they headed towards the gate, with the advantage. But soon New Zealand pulled away in what was the first lead change of the 36th America’s Cup.

Emirates Team New Zealand won the race by 58 seconds and proved they can win the finish without winning the start.

But Jimmy Spithill knows how to bounce back. “You’re either winning or you’re learning,” he said. For race 8, the wind dropped to 7 knots; the Italians’ jib was back in its happy place and Emirates Team New Zealand was now caught with a jib too small.

The Italians seemed to be in control but, again, the Kiwis pulled out a new speed mode. On leg two, the Kiwis sped downhill on a promise to make the first downwind pass of the America’s Cup. They threw a gybe to take Luna Rossa to starboard – and five million Kiwis nearly stopped breathing: New Zealand was off the foils. They had hit the Italians’ jet-wash and a lull in the breeze. Emirates Team New Zealand limped back upwind to generate apparent wind, but their jib lacked the power to lift them up.

Meanwhile, on Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli everything was peachy. Their lead grew to 2300m and soon nearly 4 minutes separated the two boats. Then, on approach to gate three, the breeze went soft. As Francesco Bruni said later, “There was one tack that you couldn’t miss and we missed the wrong one.”

Italy was down, and just about every Italian heart sank with it

Although Italy eventually recovered flight mode, it was too late to stop the Kiwis as they finished 3:55 minutes ahead.

On day six, New Zealand could win the America’s Cup, but Bruno Troublé asked Jimmy Spithill if he could still win it.

“There’s no doubt in my mind, Bruno, absolutely no doubt in my mind.”

March 13, 2021, 1400 GMT

When AC75s trip up in their own shadow

Day 3 of the 36th America’s Cup was brutal. In race 5, a light breeze from the East blew across the Hauraki Gulf, Emirates Team New Zealand entered the pre-start of race five and did a hard turn looking assured and aggressive. Then, panic in flight controller’s Blair Tuke’s voice as he realized what was happening: the Kiwis hit a roadblock and couldn’t recover. Giving Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli a strong start and an easy path to victory. 

Heading into race 6, the roles were reversed. Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli sailed confidently into a hard turn then, panic from Jimmy Spithill: “Come on, boys, we’ve got to get it going.” Luna Rossa, star of the starts, was dead in the water. And, this time, Emirates Team New Zealand sailed to an easy victory.

📸 © ACE | Studio Borlenghi

By the end of the day, we were exactly where we started with both teams tied 3 to 3. Unlike previous America’s Cups, we are no closer to knowing who will lift the Auld Mug than we were however, we do have a new question to mull over, as Nathan Outteridge pointed out, will event come down to being won, not by the fastest boat but, simply, the best sailor(s)? 

But Day 3’s strange coincidence revealed another AC75 phenomenon: the boats can trip over their own shadow.

“The wind shadow is so much more than we’ve experienced before,” Spithill said later. “I think in the lighter air, you go through your own wind shadow because you’re coming through from above. Both teams found themselves trapped in a bubble and it’s very difficult to get out of it.”

Spithill is explaining how when both AC75s sailed deep into the start box, they created a disturbance in the air which drifted downwind at 10 knots. The AC75, sailing at 35 knots, gybed and turned back towards the line just in time to meet the air they had just disturbed. On a slower boat, the disturbed air would have passed in front, but the AC75 is fast enough to catch it.

Meanwhile, in the closest America’s Cup in decades, Emirates Team New Zealand continues to hone their skills against the Italians. Although Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli led by around 200m for most of race 5, the Kiwis held the gap and found new strength in light airs, even as the Italians dumped dirty air over their shoulder.

When the roles were reversed in race 6, the Kiwis’ lead over the Italians extended significantly and the rich got richer. “We showed what we could do when we’re ahead,” said Burling.

Despite not being any closer to knowing the result after six races, Spithill is loving every minute. “It’s just such a fascinating time,” he said, “because it’s a completely new style of boat and we are dealing with the defender who’s the best in the world. You could have a day off after every race just to get through all the data.

“Let’s hope this America’s Cup goes down as one of the best fights on the water.”

March 12 2021, 1400 GMT

Who has the fastest boat?

America’s Cup number 36 continued to play coy as we clamoured for answers to questions that day one had failed to answer: Who has the fastest boat? Is Emirates Team New Zealand sticky in the light? Does foil size matter? And day two has only confused things, like a Whodunnit that feeds out clues then disproves every theory.

Initially, race three seemed straightforward. The wind was under 10 knots which, according to the evidence presented, would favor Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli. The Kiwis crossed the line with Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli in its dangerous, high mode on the Kiwis’ windward hip. When Emirates Team New Zealand tacked at the boundary, Luna Rossa was ready. It performed a superb lee bow tack.

America’s Cup Match - Race Day 2
📸 ACE | Studio Borlenghi

It’s a move that looks easy when it works, but the boats’ relative positions have to be right. The Italians nailed it. In light breeze, the lead boat’s wind shadow has an even worse impact than on windy days and it was costly. The Kiwis were forced to eat their dust.

For the rest of race 3, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli played their strengths: better speed upwind and bigger foils that served them well in a tacking duel in leg three. Since boats on an America’s Cup course spend more time sailing upwind than downwind, Luna Rossa banked precious metres that far outclassed the Kiwis’ edge downwind. By the final delta of 37 seconds, New Zealand had sailed nearly 1.5km further than Italy.

Race four: The breeze had dropped as Kiwi supporters braced for a repeat performance. Once again, our heroes sailed towards the left-hand boundary with the Italians on the Kiwis’ hip, ready to pounce. But then the Italians tacked away, unable to live there. This was new. The Kiwis had found their light-wind mode.

America’s Cup Match - Race Day 2
📸 ACE | Studio Borlenghi

In the closest racing seen so far, the boats battled a tacking duel and swapped the advantage several times, but the Kiwis still led at the first mark. Downwind, Luna Rossa hoped for a passing lane as Burling drawled, “It’s looking good here, so we may as well keep going.” Then his cell phone rang: it was his boss reminding him that, seriously, this was the America’s Cup.

The climax came as Luna Rossa gybed for the layline on approach to gate 2 and for the first time in a while, put a foil wrong. They dropped their foil late and mid-way through the turn, and a great swathe of spray announced a big slow-down. Emirates Team New Zealand extended their lead all the way to the finish.

That leaves both teams on two points each.

They say the answer’s easy but it’s the question that’s the trick. For America’s Cup 2021, if we want the right answers, we have to start asking different questions.

📸 ACE | Studio Borlenghi

March 10, 2021, 1630 GMT

The Anticipation is Over

Simply put, the first day of the 36th America’s Cup was a very loaded rematch. 21 years ago, Challenger of Record Luna Rossa met Defender Team New Zealand in the America’s Cup. Team New Zealand swept the series 5-0. Then, four years ago, Jimmy Spithill was helming for ORACLE TEAM USA when he lost the America’s Cup (as well as his mantle of being the youngest skipper to win the Auld Mug) to Peter Burling. The Kiwis only gave one race up to Team USA. But last night, the teams and the helmsmen met again to battle it out for sports’ oldest trophy, and it’s safe to say the Italians and Spithill are out for revenge.

A lot has happened since their last meeting in December, at the 2020 ACWS; for example, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli became race-hardened in two serious matches to grab the PRADA Cup and make it to the America’s Cup finals. Emirates Team New Zealand, on the other hand, has been training on their own, and at times against a four-engined chase boat.

📸 COR 36 | Carlo Borlenghi

Race one, Emirates Team New Zealand roared into the box fueled on a breeze of 12 knots. The teams flirted mildly, then both nailed their time on distance to the start line. After clearing the line, the Kiwis were to windward with a slight advantage. In true Spithill style, Jimmy threw a luff attack at Burling just off the start, with the hope to throw the young skipper off his game. The tactical gamble failed and a rare error of judgment decided the race.

For the remainder of the race, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli followed Te Rehutai around the course as skippers, commentators, local spectators, and fans around the world tried to gauge which boat was faster. But, even by the races’ end, the question couldn’t be answered simply by the final delta of 31 seconds in ETNZ’s favor, because it wasn’t until the final leg did the Kiwis shake their Italian shadow.

It was first blood to Emirates Team New Zealand, but Spithill wouldn’t make the same mistake twice.

Race two was the second date. It was Emirates Team New Zealand’s turn to miss-time the attack– this time in the pre-start. Just as they crossed the start line, ETNZ tacked to escape, but the Italians immediately tacked to match. They then defended diligently for the rest of the race.

📸 COR 36 | Carlo Borlenghi

Burling and crew pulled some moves to try and get out of phase, but they also made mistakes under pressure, like tacking early and into dirty air. For the majority of the race, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli held a 200-plus meter lead. It wasn’t until the final leeward gate did Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli open the door slightly when they had to execute two extra tacks to restore its cover on Te Rehutai. Hope rose again on the final leg as the Kiwis reduced the Italians’ lead to 70m, but the Defender ran out of runway and finished seven seconds behind.

Yesterday’s reunion indicates the boats are similar in speed, but perhaps the Kiwis are a little race-rusty and the most concerned about their next date with the Italians.