America’s Cup 2021: Dean Barker – Shades of San Francisco – how Team NZ can get back on top

OPINION:

If the first day of racing in the America’s Cup match was key to answering some of the big questions after a sustained period without competitive racing, today’s rematch could prove to be decisive for where the Auld Mug spends the next few years.

The teams would have had only hours to analyse where they sit relative to each other based on the first two races — and that’s never going to be enough data to truly understand your respective strengths and weaknesses.

For both teams, it’s going to feel like a blur from today — with racing every day until the first team reaches the seventh victory required to claim the America’s Cup.

It will be extremely hard to react, and the schedule could favour the team that comes out of the blocks firing today — especially if we have two or three days of similar conditions and they are able to convert that into points.

The Cup match could have shades of what we experienced in San Francisco in 2013 — we started the match feeling we were 100 per cent race ready, but we didn’t really have a lot left to improve on.

As most Kiwis know, Oracle Team USA came into the match a little bit at sixes and sevens in the early races but improved every day.

The big difference is that back then we had plenty of lay days, allowing Oracle to train, but when racing starts back today it won’t stop again until someone wins.

This means Team New Zealand will need to refine their race skills on the fly. I have no doubt that they will get better as a race unit and that they will be able to adapt quickly but whether they are actually fast enough to push Luna Rossa in light air remains unanswered — despite the Kiwis’ well-traversed work on their performance in those conditions.

While I was somewhat surprised by the 1-1 result on Wednesday, it underlined the importance of the start box. Luna Rossa let Team New Zealand off the hook in the first race — they had a good controlling position and pulled the trigger a bit too early.

In the race two start, Team NZ showed they will need to continue to avoid making unforced errors.

The mistake was down to time on distance, when they came down to push Luna Rossa late in the start sequence and put themselves straight on the back foot.

I found the approaches interesting — the Italians coming in aggressively as a starboard entry, while Team New Zealand took a more passive approach. As the breeze gets lighter it might play more into the hands of the port entry boat as the boat making the starboard entry has to do the extra manoeuvre.

It’s also a lot easier to burn up the time as the boats are going slower. All the port entry boat needs to do is a nice entry, one manoeuvre and then have good time on distance.

The starboard entry boat will have a lot more work to do today if the breeze is as light as the forecast says.

A lot has been made of Luna Rossa having an advantage in those conditions, particularly manoeuvring and being able to stay up courtesy of their extra foil area.

In my experience, they’re hard to race in light air as they can build out of a tack and have a very strong high mode. Unless you put them away at the start, it’s going to be hard in a very close race to be able to attack them.

For all the speed and excitement of these AC75s, staying on the foils in the conditionscould go a long way to finding a winner.

Heading into the Cup racing?

• Give yourself plenty of time and think about catching a ferry, train or bus to watch the Cup.

• Make sure your AT HOP card is in your pocket. It’s the best way to ride.

• Don’t forget to scan QR codes with the NZ COVID Tracer app when on public transport and entering the America’s Cup Village.

• For more ways to enjoy race day, visit at.govt.nz/americascup.

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