America’s Cup 2021: The Secret Sailor – The uncomfortable truth for Peter Burling and Team New Zealand v Luna Rossa
11th March 2021

The Secret Sailor is an internationally acclaimed yachtie with a strong history in the America’s Cup.

OPINION:

Oh, to be a fly on the wall at Team New Zealand’s debrief after the first day of the America’s Cup Match…

While the 1-1 result is a fair reflection of the sailing on Wednesday and the Kiwis won’t be panicking or be even too worried just yet, there would have been a few areas of concern – especially the way they were outsailed in the second race due to fundamental mistakes they made at key moments.

A lot has been said about Team New Zealand’s speed edge and how it wasn’t as significant as expected – at least not in the lighter breeze we had on day one – and while this might be true, no boat in the world will win you races if you don’t sail it well.

I was keen to see how much these teams would have improved after plenty of time off the water and, on yesterday’s evidence, it’s clear that Luna Rossa have kept up the gains while Team NZ seemingly haven’t added much since we last saw them at Christmas.

As solid as Peter Burling was in the first race, he was outsmarted in the pre-start by Jimmy Spithill in the second . You can’t expect to win races if you start that badly. You are immediately a couple of boat lengths behind – and that could be race over.

The course management during that second race was also really poor. Most of the upwind legs the Kiwis sailed in the gas of Luna Rossa and never got a chance to separate much for that leverage required to make the most of the bit of speed they have over the Italians.

They seemed to be losing many of the tacks, while passing on these narrow courses is extremely hard to do.

On the flip side, Burling held his nerve and kept his wits in the first race when Spithill came out swinging and tried to force an early penalty. The Kiwis were in a compromised position but muscled their way to the boundary and then sailed around Luna Rossa.

I still think they are faster than the challenger and it’s a matter of refining things – quickly.

These guys know the game plan, they look quick downwind and they would have learnt a lot from the first exchanges.

They got pretty close in the final stretch of the second race (the winning margin of seven seconds is the closest we’ve seen over the past months) but they need to sail consistently better to see the full benefit of their speed advantage.

I expect Team NZ to lose a few more races – especially if sailing goes ahead on Friday and Saturday with winds predicted at the very lowest end. Not competing in the challenger series means they just haven’t had the time on the water and the exposure to other boats that they would have wanted.

They are playing catchup and time will soon start running out.

It’s very early days but we now know two things for certain – the Italians can win this in what would be one of the biggest upsets in recent Cup history.

And the Kiwis would have lapped up every bit of information from the first two races.
Their eyes will be wide open when they line up next.

They dare not blink first again.

Heading into the Cup racing?

• Give yourself plenty of time and think about catching a ferry, train or bus to watch the Cup.

• Make sure your AT HOP card is in your pocket. It’s the best way to ride.

• Don’t forget to scan QR codes with the NZ COVID Tracer app when on public transport and entering the America’s Cup Village.

• For more ways to enjoy race day, visit at.govt.nz/americascup.

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