As much as the America’s Cup World Series “event” tries to differentiate itself from SailGP, like a chameleon, it really is the same, isn’t it? Yes, the racing platforms between the foiling AC40 monohull and the F50 catamaran are different to the discerning eye, but conceptually, the boats, the players, the series and even the weather seem to be joined at the hip with a multitude of similarities.
Just look at this past weekend in Vilanova i la Geltrú, Catalonia, Spain. For the 37th America’s Cup first ACWS showcase, we were again held hostage by the weather conditions, and like multiple SailGP events, what would have been a “magical” final — in this case between American Magic and Emirates Team New Zealand — saw the wind fail to materialize.
At the start, the Kiwis copped a couple of penalties in the box, but after the gun, both boats were in “displacement” mode as they floated like turtles toward the first mark. In hindsight. the race committee should have taken the initiative to shorten the course on the remote possibility that one, if not both, AC40s could have popped up onto their foils and made it a race. Even a short one.
American Magic, which represents the New York Yacht Club, was awarded the win on accumulated points after dominating performances in the final two fleet races earlier in the day as the wind hovered slightly above, and many times below, the six-and-a-half-knot threshold.
“That was amazing; we put it together, and yeah, we got the result,” said Tom Slingsby, American Magic’s helmsman. “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.”
For American Magic, it was an amazing turnaround after the bitter disappointment of their “crash and burn” in the last America’s Cup in Auckland. Their performance certainly validates the signing of Tom Slingsby as a co-helmsman as he brings a culture of winning to the team with his “red-mist” intensity on and off the water.
Slingsby knows how to mold a winner. Just look at his domination of SailGP, with three consecutive championships under his leadership. American Magic may well be on their way to an unprecedented fourth title with the “elimination” (for all practical purposes) of one of their chief competitors, Team New Zealand, after a catastrophic wingsail collapse in Saint-Tropez, France. The Kiwis are now forced to sit out potentially multiple SailGP events through no fault of their own.
Peter Burling and Blair Tuke from ETNZ put on a brave face this weekend in Spain after dealing with a week’s worth of adversity, with the announcement that “it will not be possible to transport and fit out the replacement wingsail for the New Zealand SailGP Team in time for the next event in Taranto, Italy.” On a SailGP note, Tuke said, “We’re working closely with the league to chart a path forward from here. That includes reviewing the rules for redress and compensatory points to ensure this forced non-participation does not further hinder our results this season.’
Now back to the America’s Cup ACWS:
“It would have been nice to have had a shot at them in that final race,” said Tuke. “For us, just a couple of unforced errors were the difference. All in all, I think we’ve got to be very proud with how we sailed; we set the bar in that light wind, which was really pleasing.”
“In these foiling boats, it’s a bit like surfing or any dynamic sport: You get a bit of a bump behind you and it’s easier to surf and accelerate,” said Riley Gibbs, American Magic’s wing trimmer from Long Beach. “It was easier to get up on port tack with the waves behind; starboard was into the waves, and despite the righty pressure, it was always false hope.”
“While the sailors rightfully claimed the limelight, this triumph was a testament to the collective endeavor of the entire NYYC American Magic team,” posted Graeme Harrison, American Magic’s communications director. “The unwavering support of principals Doug DeVos and Hap Fauth, steadfast even in the face of adversity, underscored their deep commitment to the sport and the team, as the team sets their sights on the ultimate goal, the 37th America’s Cup.”
Unfortunately, American Magic will sit out the next round in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, for obvious reasons; a hearing on potential penalties against the team was sent over to Challenger of Record INEOS Team Britannia and the Royal Yacht Squadron from the AC Arbitration Panel. But there really are no downsides for Magic other than missing out on a weekend of competition in a venue where the sailing conditions are a far cry from Barcelona’s, or a potential monetary fine.
After all, the ACWS events are non-points-paying races.
That said, I am sure that Slingsby and the other America’s Cup players in the SailGP “cloud” would rather have the New Zealanders in Italy, where they can keep an eye on them. Otherwise, the Kiwis might gain valuable training in Barcelona at a time of the year when the sailing conditions of the 37th America’s Cup finals and Match will be held.