If the America’s Cup is the Formula One of matchracing, then Saturday 16 January was like rationing the fuel for the race cars and hiding the pit stops.
In such conditions, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli and Ineos Team UK were lucky to be racing only once. Both only just finished, thanks to a shortened course, with wide margins over their opposition.
The big question of the day was whether Ineos UK could take yesterday’s stellar performance to light air conditions. Yes, it could. All boats struggled; the breeze bottomed out at 3 knots mid-race, and boat speed was even worse, but the boat that logged the most flight time won the race.
Today was a demo in the evolving strategies of match racing AC75s. Strategically-speaking, they were foils with boats attached instead of boats with foils attached. Every concession was made for the foils to get the required speed to fly. It was better to be flying at 30 knots in the wrong direction than stodge along at two knots in the right direction, because if a boat fell off its foils it might be a week, in Prada Cup-time, before it recovered.
In flight, a boat had options and could attempt to link the puffs together, like stepping stones, or gybe its way down a skinny line of breeze to keep some fuel in the tank.
In both races, the two boats barely acknowledged each other, even in the pre-start. The biggest challenge was the 45-minute time limit.
Weather skills, sailing skills and flying skills all mattered, but mostly the teams had to be masters of mindfulness, and not just because it’s trendy. The stress levels were 10 years of monthly sales meetings cramped into just 45 minutes and chapter three of the AC75 operator’s manual was being written right before our eyes.