Having come into the final day of the first Preliminary Regatta of the 37th America’s Cup here in Vilanova i La Geltrú sitting in fifth place, it was an outside bet at best that NYYC American Magic could climb the leaderboard and challenge for a spot in the Match Race Grand Final.
But the America’s Cup is where the best sailors perform and the outstanding team of the day in Tom Slingsby, Paul Goodison, Riley Gibbs and Michael Menninger put on a masterclass of big-time regatta sailing, taking their chances, sailing unbelievably smoothly and scoring a three-race string of 2-1-1 to stun the rest of the fleet. All along the waterfront crowds flocked to see the drama unfold and with an armada of craft of all shapes and sizes making up the spectator fleet, the atmosphere was electric as the afternoon progressed in beautiful Vilanova i La Geltrú.
For many commentators who have watched NYYC American Magic in recent training sessions it was no surprise to see the team perform. In Barcelona training sessions and all throughout the winter out in Pensacola, Florida, they have been steadily, incrementally improving under the watchful eye of Team Principle Terry Hutchinson and the coaching team led by Tom Burnham. Today they delivered and although it was a shame for the spectators and the global viewing audience that in the Match Race Grand Final against Emirates Team New Zealand, the wind shut down and the time-limit for reaching the first mark was exceeded, thus giving the win to NYYC American Magic, no-one was in any doubt that the Americans sailed brilliantly and thoroughly deserved to win.
Tom Slingsby, Helmsman NYYC American Magic: “That was amazing, we put it together and yeah we got the result. We sailed well, a couple of little mistakes but when we made those mistakes it wasn’t in too critical a time so we were able to get three good results and then lead into that final race and with the wind, it was nice knowing that you were leading going into that one. After being in fifth place last night, going into today and getting a 2-1-1 and taking the win, that’s amazing. The champagne was very nice.”
The concluding day was effectively an arm wrestle over the first three races between Emirates Team New Zealand and NYYC American Magic but there were some superb performances, most notably from the Orient Express Racing Team who, after just 15 days of sailing the AC40, finished in third much to the delight of their supporters and sponsors.
Alinghi Red Bull Racing and Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli had an almost ‘private battle’ out on the beautiful waters of Vilanova i La Geltrú over the first two races but a gear failure for the Swiss ahead of the start of Race 3 denied the fans the spectacle in race three. The only disappointing team were INEOS Britannia who found that their lack of time in the boat came back to haunt them – Sir Ben Ainslie will be looking to address this ahead of the next regatta in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia at the end of November.
Ben Ainslie, Helmsman INEOS Britannia: “When I look at the overall programme, clearly we’ve prioritised the testing side of things too much. We thought we could get away with not putting too much time in the AC40 and still be there or thereabouts. But what this highlight’s is that, just like in any other boat, you’ve got to be out there getting the hours in…We didn’t sail well, we didn’t put enough time in the boat and there were some other underlying issues in terms of our preparation time in the boat so you put those three together, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised with the result. But any professional sporting team it’s not okay to finish last so we are going to have a good debrief with Jeddah in a few months, what are we going to do to get ourselves more competitive for Jeddah but of course not completely take our focus off the test boat and making sure we have the fastest AC75 for next summer – that’s the balance that we’ve got to find and clearly we’ve set ourselves up to fail here which is tough.”
Grant Dalton, CEO of America’s Cup Events, was pleased overall with the regatta, saying: “I think Catalonia and Vilanova has been amazing. I was in the Race Village a few times and felt the atmosphere, the weather has done everything it can to disrupt us, but I think that what it says to me is that the America’s Cup is going to be a big event and I picked that up from the Volunteers and the people. I reflect on how well the event has been run, Leslie (Ryan) and the team have done a really good job and been well supported and that’s a good team for the future. There will be a pretty serious amount of de-briefing after this to tidy up around the edges because the America’s Cup is for keeps but the people of Vilanova and Catalonia, they’ve just been amazing and that’s the bit that makes it.”