American Magic in Auckland
The American Magic boat Patriot took home runner-up honors in the four-boat round-robin, 12-race World Series event held right before Christmas week in Waitemata Harbor. The planned single day “Christmas Race” was cancelled due to light winds. The Defender Emirates Team New Zealand, won the World Series event with a record of 5-1.
Patriot, with New Zealander Dean Barker at the helm, bested the New Zealand boat Te Rehutai in one race and lost to them in another. The Americans won two races against the struggling UK boat, Britannia; and split two close races against the Italian boat, Luna Rossa, which was driven in tandem by Australian and former America’s Cup winning skipper Jimmy Spithill steering from the starboard side and Italian sailing rock star, Francesco Bruni, steering from the port side.
“Each opportunity you get to sail against another team presents challenges and problems that you see in your shop,” said Terry Hutchinson, Skipper and executive director of American Magic. “We'll go out [sailing] and try to answer some of those tomorrow.”
American Magic was fortunate enough to compete in multiple tight races during the ACWS, which put its AC75 and personnel under significant pressure to perform. Patriot’s battles against Te Rehutai and Luna Rossa enthralled many in the press and public, as foiling monohull racing of this scale was previously unseen in the sport.
“The fact that the racing is as close as it is so quickly in the first generation of boat is pretty impressive,” said Hutchinson. “It speaks volumes of the design teams, the engineers, and the build teams behind the sailors that are out on the water. [The AC75s] are incredible pieces of equipment.”
Now, it’s a matter of refining equipment, technique, and crew as the three challengers use the next three and a half weeks to get ready to contest for the right to race against the New Zealanders when it all counts with the actual Cup races scheduled to start on March 6.
Annapolis native Hutchinson expects to see “big gains in aerodynamics and hydrodynamics in Patriot. It’s a matter of continuing improvement as we get closer to the start of the Prada Cup. All the teams are competitive. We’ve all come here looking for the same thing. Time will tell who has done the best job of preparation and execution.”
It is hard to handicap the challengers at this time.
American Magic was the only challenger boat to edge out the Kiwis, but American Magic’s classic duals against Luna Rossa proved the Italian boat is a force to be reckoned with. “They are strong in light winds; we are a bit better in heavier winds. We’ll see what happens down the road,” says American Magic helmsman Dean Barker. “It’s anybody’s guess who will end up the challenger. What is certain is… if you drop off those foils, you’re dead in the water.”
UK skipper Sir Ben Ainslie vowed to “do everything we can to be competitive in the next go-round of races.” Britannia was beset with a number of technical and design issues that relegated them to last place in the regatta. One jaded British journalist called the design of the British boat “the worst thing to come out of the UK since the White Star line.” Not to be dissuaded, Ainslie vows to be competitive in three week’s time. “You don’t work three years plus to come in last.”
The Defender, Emirates Team New Zealand, will not experience additional preliminary racing unless more opportunities are agreed on by the teams. Team New Zealand helmsman Peter Burling suggested that the team would not be resting on its laurels. “We may take Christmas morning off… but other than that, we’ll be out there everyday refining our approach and doing all we can to retain the Cup.”
New Zealanders crowded the waterways and numerous shore viewing venues cheering on the hometown favorites.
There were few, if any, spectators from anywhere else but the host country. New Zealand’s borders are closed to all but critical purpose visitors. Each competing America’s Cup team was required to spend two weeks in quarantine upon arrival in New Zealand. There are currently no community-based Covid-19 cases in the country, an achievement the New Zealand government is hoping to perpetuate.
A month of round-robin racing to determine the Challenger will begin on January 15.
By Craig Ligibel