Day 2 of the second AC37 Preliminary Regatta once and again dawned hot and sunny on the Red Sea… but everything else was different. The forecast was for a 13-15 knot north-west breeze, with the water a lot choppier, in stark contrast to the previous day. Staying on the foils would not be a problem.
Race 4 quickly turned into a tale of two dogfights, with INEOS Britannia sailing almost the whole race just a few meters on the gain line from Alinghi Red Bull Racing. In the end, Ben Ainslie, Team Principal and skipper, and his team edged it on Leg 5, and came home in fourth. Meanwhile, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli benefited from a pre-start penalty for France and a touchdown by American Magic to escape into an unassailable lead. It left Emirates Team New Zealand to fight it out with American Magic for the remaining podium places.
It was a brutally frustrating start to the second race of the day for INEOS Britannia as they joined half the fleet over the line early. There was confusion over when the penalty was cleared and by the time it was clarified the British team were at the back of the fleet. Ben Ainslie and his crew passed American Magic on the second leg, and then took fourth from Orient Express, before losing both places again after incurring a penalty for tacking to close to the French team.
The battle continued upwind with the British getting past the French again, and this time holding it to the finish. Meanwhile, Emirates Team New Zealand took a great final shift into the finish to snatch the win from Luna Rossa.
It was another challenging start in Race 6, with the British team fouled by the Italians and fighting for fifth place up the first leg. The second leg saw the team move up to fourth, opening up another dogfight with Luna Rossa. It was at the end of lap two that the Italians got a good wind shift into the bottom gate and were able to cross ahead and round in front of the British team. It forced Ben Ainslie's team into an extra manoeuvre and let the Italians escape into a solid fourth.
The British team came home fifth, with Emirates Team New Zealand recording another win, this time from American Magic. The results leave Emirates Team New Zealand already into the final Match Race, with Luna Rossa favorites to join them. INEOS Britannia and Alinghi Red Bull Racing will challenge them, as well as contesting the final places on the podium in the two fleet races tomorrow.
“We had cracking conditions out there today, perfect for these AC40s, but it would have been even better if we were at the front of the fleet,” commented Ben Ainslie. “We just made too many mistakes in key moments, particularly on the start of the second and third race. That being said, it was a great spectacle for the America's Cup.
“The team still has a huge amount to learn and figure out, but there are definite signs of improvement. We have certainly made a massive jump forward compared to where we were in Vilanova. There is still an outside chance of getting into the final race tomorrow, but we need two good clean races, and that would finish off the regatta on a positive note.”