America’s Cup - Report
America’s Cup Final Report
March 22, 2021
Yanmar Holdings Co., Ltd.
YANMAR, the Official Marine Partner of the 36th America’s Cup brings you pro-sailor Sam Gilmour from Yanmar Racing who will present a series of articles breaking down the details of the America’s Cup racing and giving us his unique perspective.
By Sam Gilmour of Yanmar Racing
“The America’s Cup remains New Zealand’s Cup!” were the words of renowned New Zealand commentator Peter Montgomery as Emirates Team New Zealand crossed the line for the final time to win the 36th America’s Cup.
The home crowd celebrations went long into the night as their countrymen defended the oldest trophy in world sport.
Helmsman Peter Burling, along with trimmer Glenn Ashby and Flight Controller Blair Tuke, have pulled off an incredible performance following four years of intense preparation.
Considering the state of restrictions around the world, New Zealand has been extremely fortunate to host the event with so few issues, although a COVID-19 outbreak just days before the event kicked off threatened to derail everything.
Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli proved to be a worthy opponent after breezing through the challenger trials, although many behind the scenes expected Team New Zealand to be dominant in the lead up to the racing.
Both teams were tight-lipped in the final days of their preparation, so new information on their form proved difficult.
A number of technical upgrades on the boats were being trialled, particularly by Team New Zealand, who showed off a mainsail dubbed the ‘Batwing’, due to the cutaway in sail area at the head, leaving two batten tips poking out.
The New Zealanders were also trialling a ‘Whomper’, a super large sail to be used in case conditions were un-foilable.
Luna Rossa, having been in their ‘race configuration’ for a month already looked to be fine-tuning, making subtle changes to their foils and systems. Their success thus far had been through dominance on the start line and a slight speed edge over their opponents, so were looking to continue to work on this as their advantage heading into the America’s Cup match.
The day was upon us. Suddenly everything was put aside, and the teams had just one goal in their minds – to get points on the board.
The look of focus on the sailors as they left the dock was remarkable. They had been preparing for this moment for so long that it clearly meant everything. I think this is part of what makes sport so appealing to so many – emotions are at their purest and everybody can relate in some way to the athletes.
Race Day 1 – 10-13 knots
The opening duels of the regatta both came down to the starts. In the first, Luna Rossa mistimed their speed build on the start as Team New Zealand came rumbling past.
They were ultimately rolled (overtaken) and attempted a high-risk luff to force a penalty. After the protest was immediately dismissed by umpires, Team New Zealand sailed relatively uncontested, getting out to a quick 200 metre lead and maintaining it for the course of the race.
In the second, the story went the other way. This time Team New Zealand slipped up at the start approach and allowed Luna Rossa to go relatively unchallenged around the course. With that, the scores were level 1-1.
It became obvious that lead changes would be difficult. The teams were tightly matched in performance, so getting ahead at the start meant a lot to the outcome of the race.
In the words of Peter Burling at the press conference after racing “I think one thing that today did show is that if you get behind at the start it’s pretty hard to get past.”
Interestingly, the boats were much closer in performance than what was anticipated – this was going to be a tough one to call.
Race Day 2 – 7-10 knots
Another enthralling start in race three, which saw the teams jostling for position at the start in lighter conditions than day one. This time, the teams got off to a relatively even start with Luna Rossa separated up on the windward (right) end of the line. It was a drag-race out the boundary, before Luna Rossa managed to tack into a strong leeward position next to Team New Zealand.
As their disturbed air began to impact the New Zealanders, it wasn’t long before a lead was established. From there, Luna Rossa led to the finish. Scoreboard; 2-1 to Italy.
Once again, Luna Rossa started to windward, although this time, not managing the gap between the boats. It was a subtle but important difference that meant Team New Zealand were able to force them to tack away early. When the boats came back together following the first split, New Zealand was ahead.
They never really looked back and a few mistakes by the Italians who came close to falling off the foils blew the lead out to over a minute at the finish. Scores were now 2-2.
Race Day 3 – 6-9 knots
We saw even lighter conditions for race five and on this start, there was a slight weakness from the New Zealand outfit, who came off their foil for a brief moment in the start.
This was the risk of the foils they use (which are smaller in size), manoeuvring in light air always going to be difficult.
Luna Rossa made the most of it, taking the win after a clean race from start to finish.
Race six was the first major starting mistake by Luna Rossa. Jimmy Spithill put the boat into a slow gybe, killing much of their boat speed and almost coming off their foils. They simply weren’t able to get going after this, missing the start by some margin and giving Team New Zealand an easy win from the outset.
Finishing day three at a 3-3 deadlock meant everything was still to play for. Perhaps there was a slight speed advantage to Team New Zealand in some of the races, however so far, whoever had won the start, won the race.
Race Day 4 – 5-10 knots
An interesting difference between teams today was the smaller jib that Team New Zealand were using compared with Luna Rossa. The smaller sail means less drag at high speed, however more difficulty with gaining power in the lighter air. If Team New Zealand could make it work, it would be a big performance advantage around the course.
Off the start, Luna Rossa dominated, however Team New Zealand kept the race tight, just 8 seconds off the lead at the first mark rounding. An incredible tack rounding by the New Zealanders produced a split up the course, so when the shift went their way they were in front.
It was the first overtake in seven races and the team’s lead extended all the way to the finish. Team New Zealand had found a speed advantage.
Again, a strong start by Italy saw the team take first cross and the lead into mark rounding one. This race however, proved dramatic for both teams as the breeze dropped steadily throughout the race. On leg two, Team New Zealand fell off the foil and soon, Luna Rossa had opened up a 2000 metre lead – close to 5 minutes.
Then, with Luna Rossa rounding the top gate for the final time, they stalled the boat and fell off the foils. In very light air, they just weren’t able to get going and, from five minutes behind, Team New Zealand were able to claw the lead back and take over the lead. For the Italians it was heartbreaking, as an almost-certain win turned to a loss and with it the America’s Cup slipping slightly out of their grasp.
Race Day 5 – 8-14 knots
With Luna Rossa’s backs against the wall, they needed to fight to keep themselves alive in the series and fight they did!
In the closest match of the event, just one second separated the boats at mark one. There was nothing between the boats coming into mark two, with Luna Rossa sailing New Zealand off the course to maintain a lead.
Team New Zealand looked to have a slim advantage in speed on the upwind, however Luna Rossa was able to hold the lead for the next lap, still with nothing between the boats.
However, the control shifted when Team New Zealand were able to pick up a big right hand wind shift on the final upwind of the race, overtaking Luna Rossa and enabling the New Zealanders to exploit the speed advantage they had, sailing away for a win. Another painful result for Italy, who were looking so strong for the opening stages of the race.
Race Day 6 – 8-12 knots
Win at all costs for Italy. Match point for New Zealand. Race ten saw the perhaps closest start of the series, with New Zealand tacking away to the right, and with Italy continuing to the left. This time, it was to New Zealand’s advantage, coming back ahead on the first cross.
Once again, their speed advantage was at full display, extending all the way throughout the race. As they reached a lead of 500 metres, it became completely one sided that New Zealand sailed away for the win.
With that, it was all over! The America’s Cup was won once again by New Zealand and the team became the holders of The Cup for yet another edition.
Where Was the Cup Won and Lost?
The innovation of the America’s Cup is always incredibly sophisticated and often doesn’t come into the public eye until after the event has been won and lost.
In this edition of the America’s Cup, a number of details have already been discussed with regards to where Team New Zealand gained an advantage:
- Foils – the foils Team New Zealand produced were smaller and much more aggressively designed than the other teams. It gave the team a higher speed potential, however needed to be sailed perfectly to be utilised effectively.
- Control Systems – still a detail that is hidden behind the scenes, the control systems are a critical component that help these boats fly. A wide design scope meant that teams have been able to differentiate systems greatly. With some luck we will have an indication on the differences between boats soon.
- Aero/hydrodynamics – The entire package of the Team New Zealand boat was particularly impressive, with the crew almost hidden from sight when sailing and the foils piercing the water to reduce drag at speed.
- Simulators and Artificial Intelligence – Already, teams have been claiming that their advanced simulators were able to rapidly test new developments before they were implemented on the boats.
What to Expect Now?
As it happens, Team New Zealand have already announced the next challenger of record for the America’s Cup – the Royal Yacht Squadron which is the club represented by INEOS Team UK. With this challenge, they have laid out some of the basic rules of the next America’s Cup, including:
- Continuing with the same yacht class (AC75)
- A strict nationality rule whereby 100 % of the sailors must be residents of the country they represent
- Each syndicate may only build one boat
More rules and a protocol outlining the details of the racing will be announced in the upcoming months. Interestingly, these rules will mean that teams will become very much ‘national’ sides.
Normally, we have seen 3-4 years between editions of the America’s Cup, so I look forward to more specifics as they come. Rumours are already beginning to swirl with regards to what exactly will happen next, all part of the allure of the America’s Cup!