Emirates Team New Zealand have won a dramatically tough America’s Cup Preliminary Regatta Jeddah presented by NEOM.
Peter Burling, Nathan Outteridge, Blair Tuke and Andy Maloney were the dominant crew all week, winning five of the eight fleet races. But in the end that counted for nothing in the winner take all match race final, which the kiwi crew won the start of, before illustrating text book match race tactics, leading Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli around the course and taking the regatta after a spectacular nose dive from the Italians rounding the final mark putting an end to the race.
Helmsman Nathan Outteridge was ecstatic with the win here in Jeddah.
“It feels great, a lot of effort has gone into this, so as a team we are obviously very happy to get the win that we didn’t get at the last event. It is a massive team effort with a huge team behind us all. You only see four of us on the race boat, but there is a vital team behind us that has created this class and this event.”
Like a newly discovered sailing secret, Jeddah again delivered near perfect conditions on the final day of racing on the Red Sea. As if on request, a steady 15 knots from the Northwest arrived for race time to provide some stunning AC40 action.
With Emirates Team New Zealand already qualified for the match race final yesterday, the first fleet races were an opportunity for the team to find their groove for the final race that mattered.
In the first race of the day, Burling and his crew finished third- following NYYC American Magic and the Italians who showed dangerous speed, stretching their legs in front and sailing into the final match race joining the Emirates Team New Zealand with one fleet race to go.
The eighth and final fleet race of the America’s Cup Preliminary Regatta presented by NEOM was yet another arm wrestle in increasing seas states challenging the trimmers and their accuracy in their gybes. Ultimately it again was a now familiar sight of Emirates Team New Zealand grinding out a lead and extending around the track in a perfect way to prepare for the final match race taking their 5th race win out of 8 fleet races.
“It was nice to tidy up a few things in the second fleet race, it felt like we did a nicer job of it than the race before.” said Peter Burling before the final match race.
“The waves are a bit of a balance on how hard you go versus how easy you take it. A lot of the challenge is speed in manoeuvres and getting around the course cleanly. Now we have one boat to worry about in the final pre start start rather than five so we will see how it goes. But we will give it our all to win the match race.”
The final match race Emirates Team New Zealand entered on Port, the Italians on Starboard.
Burling and Outteridge dominating Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli team in the prestart luffing the Italians over the start line, getting a penalty on them and leading off the start line. But as has been typical all week, the Italians were always fast and hot on the heels of Emirates Team New Zealand. A 2 second lead at the first top mark and 1 second delta at the second gate, inches were not give. The race decided with the Italians getting too high in the final bear away, resulting in a huge nosedive stopping them in their tracks.
A smiling Outteridge summarise what has been one of the most spectacular regattas of racing seen in a long time, “It has been really challenging conditions out here. It’s what we love as sailors, we were just happy to put together some clean laps after the first race and then we sailed more accurately and faster and shut that final race down against Prada.”
Final Fleet Race Standings:
1. Emirates Team New Zealand, 64pts
2. Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, 49pts
3. Alinghi Red Bull Racing, 35pts
4. NYYC American Magic, 28pts
5. INEOS Britannia, 26pts
6. Orient Express Racing Team, 20pts
Emirates Team New Zealand nail the start, leading the fleet back in on starboard and hitting the line at full pace, heading out to the port boundary with Orient Express Racing to leeward and a pack to windward including Alinghi Red Bull Racing, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli and NYYC American Magic. Playing the middle left, the Kiwis keep just ahead and round the starboard gate just ahead of the French with the Italians and Americans close behind. Down the first run, Emirates Team New Zealand stack the first gybe out on the port boundary (looking downwind) and are overtaken by Orient Express and Luna Rossa. The Kiwis get flying again but the conditions are really deteriorate ng with a big swell making manoeuvres, particularly gybes, incredibly difficult. Orient Express get a penalty for being too close to Luna Rossa and the door open up for the Italians at the first leeward gate just ahead at the split gate with NYYC American Magic.
The Italians hit the starboard boundary and show great upwind boatspeed to seize the lead as the wind just comes off its afternoon high. American Magic come back into engage from the port boundary and it’s a close pack at the top of the fleet with Emirates Team New Zealand pushing hard in third to try and get into the reckoning. The Italians split from the pack and played the right side of the course seeking clear air and able to pick their windshifts and timing on tacks. At the second windward mark, Luna Rossa had built their lead to almost 10 seconds and streaked off down to the port boundary for the first gybe that they executed brilliantly. No mistakes down the second run, everyone decided to minimise manoeuvres, Luna Rossa had their AC40 on rails, sailing it on the ragged edge and keeping the power on. Heading round the final port gate, the Italians again preferred the right side of the course with NYYC American Magic splitting gates in second as the Kiwis rounded astern by a distance of their likely competitors in the Grand Final. Luna Rossa was on fire and stretched into a 170 metre lead, building and building with a dynamic mode that the rest of the fleet had no answer for. Rounding the final windward mark at the starboard gate, it was almost a procession, a coronation if you like, with Luna Rossa some 13 seconds, a lifetime at this level, ahead. American Magic rounded second behind the Italians whilst Emirates Team New Zealand elected to do something different, rounding the starboard gate – a move that the Italians and Americans covered off after a smart gybe over to the right side of the course. By the finish, it was a masterclass from Luna Rossa as Ruggi Tita and Marco Gradoni brought the Italian AC40 home some 160 metres ahead, confirming their place in the Grand Final. Incredible pressure management, perfect racecraft and dynamic upwind boatspeed with both pace and point. The final is going to be one heck of a battle.
The final fleet race here on the Red Sea in Jeddah saw NYYC American Magic over the line early and forced to give up 75 metres on the fleet to unwind the penalty. Luna Rossa port tack started behind the fleet and headed out to the right side, quickly followed by Emirates Team New Zealand and INEOS Britannia. Alinghi Red Bull Racing got a storming start, played the middle and seized the lead halfway up the first leg with real pace and managed to just stay ahead of Luna Rossa who had speed to burn upwind once again.
The Swiss elected to to take the port gate at the top of the course leading from the Italians whilst the Kiwis headed out to the starboard gate and split the downwind leg. When the fleet converged after respective gybes on the boundary and with a lightening breeze, it was the Swiss who had gained with the Kiwis pushing hard in second. A poor gybe by Alinghi Red Bull Racing was the first unforced error but they saved it but suddenly the door was open for the Kiwis. INEOS Britannia almost capsized on their gybe downwind and whilst rounding the starboard gate, the Swiss got loose whilst the Kiwis rounded smoothly. Upwind it was a three-way battle with Emirates Team New Zealand stealing into the lead having come across on starboard tack and Alinghi Red Bull Racing and Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli paralleling each other and keeping close. The Kiwis slam tacked on the chasing duo halfway up the beat and by the second windward mark it was desperately close with the Kiwis selecting the starboard gate rounding with the Swiss just behind. Luna Rossa took the port gate and split the downwind tactics going right (looking down the course) that seemed to be a losing move.
Emirates Team New Zealand were electric downwind, dancing a high but devastatingly fast flight on the ragged edge – a mode they have worked so hard on in training. Hitting speeds in excess of 40 knots, the Kiwis selected the left-hand port gate to play the right of the course upwind with Alinghi Red Bull Racing just behind. Luna Rossa rolled the dice and took the starboard gate at the leeward mark and headed out to the port boundary. The rich got richer and Emirates Team New Zealand nailed the tactics and the boatspeed to stretch into an unassailable lead. Alinghi Red Bull Racing optimised their final fleet race in the AC40 class and covered Luna Rossa determinedly. On the approaches to the final windward mark, the Kiwis kept a loose cover on the trailing pack, heading out to the left side of the course before taking the starboard gate exit and headed off cleanly downwind after a super-fast bear-away. The Swiss followed some 15 seconds behind with a handy lead over the Italians. It was no mistake down the final run for the slick Kiwis who nailed their two angular, considered lay line gybes – unlike Luna Rossa who had a poor one and fell off their foils on their first attempt.
At the finish it was Emirates Team New Zealand winning their fifth race out of eight in the regatta with Alinghi Red Bull racing securing their third place overall with a great second place. Luna Rossa with nothing to lose, retired from the race so NYYC American Magic sailed across to get third place. Now to the Grand Final – winner-takes-all – Emirates Team New Zealand versus Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli.
GRAND FINAL MATCH RACE
Emirates Team New Zealand versus Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli – it’s a rivalry that stretches back to AC36 in Auckland. Back then in 2021, it was Emirates Team New Zealand that won but the crews have changed and it’s all on in a do-or-die battle for bragging rights going into 2024 and the 37th America’s Cup in Barcelona. Three laps to decide the winner, Emirates Team New Zealand elected the port entry and entered at 2 minutes before circling in the push position before seizing the windward advantage and then leading back into the line and securing a penalty on Italy for not keeping clear. The Kiwis pushed the Italians over the line on a horrible angle that required two manoeuvres to get out of whilst at the gun, Emirates Team New Zealand hit the pin end of the line bang on. Italy started some 40 seconds down. Full control on the first upwind to Emirates Team New Zealand.
However the inherent upwind speed of the Italians brought them back into the race and the two split tacks at the halfway point. With the Kiwis preferring the right side of the course whilst Luna Rossa made gains out to the left. Coming back, the Kiwis let the Italians go right but Peter Burling came back and slammed a tack on the Italians bow and set up to leeward to try and gas and force them off. At the windward mark, it was a split gate with nothing to choose between the two boats. The Kiwis took the port gate, whilst the Italians took what looked like the favoured left side (looking downwind) and sailed right on the edge of control with a high ride height. As the two came back, it was desperately close, but the Kiwis crossed and headed out to the starboard lay line and starboard gybe advantage whilst the Italians hit the starboard boundary before gybing back on port. The gain was a boatlength to the Kiwis and they took the port exit gate to head right upwind whilst the Italians headed left. With minimal shifts, it was all about pressure and with the starboard tack advantage, the Kiwis bounced the Italians to the left side and started to consolidate their lead at almost 90 metres in the difficult sea-state. Having controlled the right, Emirates Team New Zealand kept it textbook with a neat cover into the second windward mark and selected the port gate, with the Italians just behind by some 40 metres.
The Race Management told the teams that a single leeward mark was in place for the next downwind which limited the options at the leeward gate and Emirates Team New Zealand headed right before a smart gybe to leeward of Luna Rossa who were heading over to the starboard lay line. When the two gybed back, the Kiwis easily crossed and set up for a starboard gybe lay line into the singular leeward mark that they left to starboard rounding fast on just one foil – superb exit whilst Luna Rossa went for a double board rounding. That was the move of the tournament for sure and put Emirates Team New Zealand into a 100-metre lead but crucially a windward position, gassing the Italians. No mistakes up the final beat, the Kiwis went tack for tack and extended with Luna Rossa’s options limited.
At the final windward mark Emirates Team New Zealand selected the port exit and rounded smoothly some 11 seconds up but the moment of the race was Luna Rossa splashing down spectacularly after losing their rudder on the bear-away and nose-diving. Game over for the Italians. Emirates Team New Zealand sailed off, kept it together, gybed beautifully, made no mistakes and won the America’s Cup Preliminary Regatta Jeddah, presented by NEOM.
To rapturous applause, the Defenders of the America’s Cup recorded their sixth race win out of nine. They were the dominant force in the regatta, the benchmark that everyone aspires to. Outstanding sailing from Peter Burling, Nathan Outteridge, Blair Tuke and Andy Maloney