OK so to all my friends and rellies in the UK, I’ve just phoned you all to wake you up because it is wrong for you to miss the excitement happening downunder. You can be proud to know that Britannia ruled the harbour cat’s paws on the Hauraki Gulf today.
It is hard to know where to start except that the Queen herself was among the supporters, with a nice pastel-green number, on the back of a spectator boat and she had her wave just perfect. Well, maybe it was a person wearing a mask to look like Queenie, bless her, but at least it wasn’t a medical mask and it certainly gave the British boat the turbo charge they needed.
How else can anyone explain today?
A quick wrap up for my friend who keeps texting me for a post:
Race one, beautiful breeze of around 15 knots, sunny skies, happy spectators and all went well for the race officials, too. UK versus USA: I mean, even allowing for UK having picked up the pace in the last three weeks, it was a foregone conclusion, right?
UK won the start, won the first cross, went around the course in perfect poise. They totally owned the fresher breeze on the right hand side of the course, leaving USA the crumbs on the left.
The lead grew and grew. UK twice came flying into the downwind mark executing a hard U-turn that actually made wheelie sounds like car chase movies. Even Aussie commentator Nathan Outteridge was impressed, saying things like: ‘Wow, that’s just about the hardest move you can do.’
The delta drew out like chewing gum at the skating rink to more than a minute, and American Magic sailed a flawless race but just couldn’t catch up. Final delta stayed on the wrong side of a minute, wrong for USA, that is.
Race two, UK had to change their human grinders and hit the race track again, while USA got a tow home. Hmm, it was odd that they didn’t go straight back into training, but perhaps they thought their time was better spent going over the numbers and making some changes.
This time, Ineos UK was up against the street fighters: Jimmy Spithill and Francesco Bruni, so there was likely to be blood drawn in the prestart. And, it seemed Ben Ainslie was up for it, but he didn’t need to be. As Spithill said later, Prada Perelli thought they were early and started killing time but then the breeze softened and now the Italian boat was trying to make up time.
But, UK was all over it in a strong windward position well clear; the breeze didn’t soften for them. They were the windward boat and ahead, they were gone. As in race one, Ineos UK was carrying a smaller jib than their competitors, indicating that some of their newfound speed comes from improved efficiency in sailing and foiling.
For much of the race UK sailed the wind shifts and pressure, not even bothering to cover as per the match race textbook, and extended the lead to 600m, but Prada did take a bit out of them by spending time on the right hand side’s stronger pressure. Spithill is the king of comebacks – not just that famous one in San Francisco, but in many races; he and Bruni kept the race closer than USA had and briefly engaged in a tacking duel but there were no mistakes in UK’s dance moves, no passing lanes on the course.
All this from the team that, just over three weeks ago, failed to put a single tick on the scoreboard in the America’s Cup World Series.
For a while it looked like Spithill/Bruni might pull a bunny out of a bowler, but on the final mark, they went over to the left where it was definitely lighter breeze. I’m not sure why they did that, but it didn’t work for them.
The final delta was 28 seconds.
Two slapping wins on day one for UK, looking like a walk in Hyde Park. So, my Pommy friends, aren’t you glad I phoned you?