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We Have a Match! Italians vs. Kiwis

We made it past that ‘magic’ moment of the first race of the America’s Cup, though it was a bit ‘tragic’ momentarily for Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, especially for co-helmsman Jimmy Spithill. He hung himself out to dry after failing to draw a penalty on a failed luff attempt early on, really early on!

That ‘magic moment’ in Race 1 — almost. Emirates Team New Zealand captures the first start and the first race.
© 2021 Gilles Martin-Raget

Spithill and team did capture Race 2, leaving Day 1 as a draw — great for all of us watching. We have a Match!

Luna Rossa splash
Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli quickly rebounds in Race 2 to even the series.
© 2021 Chris Cameron

America’s Cup 36 Day 1

On a dramatic first day, both teams made a few mistakes, be it nerves, rust or just getting caught up in the immensity of defending or capturing yachting’s holy grail. Clearly the debriefs are going to be quite intense and thorough as both the Kiwis and the Italians dissect every second on the racecourse, recognizing that both boats are pretty evenly matched right now.

With COVID Level 2 protocols still in place, the races were staged on Racecourse E, between the coast and the island of Waiheke, which is not quite as fan-friendly as the inner-harbor courses. That did not deter a robust spectator fleet, as Kiwis turned out in droves.

The teams showed matching speed, but so far it is a one-track course with very few passing lanes.
© 2021 Gilles Martin-Raget

“It’s been an interesting and important day,” said Max Sirena, skipper and team director for Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli. “There was a lot of expectation on the part of both teams to understand the performance of the two boats. For us it was really interesting, because we raced in a wind range that is definitely more favorable for their boat and their configuration.

“We have definitely made several mistakes, like the start of the first race. And in the second race at the last downwind gate we opened a door for ETNZ, which was a mistake that could have cost us a lot. We need to analyze what we did well and our mistakes. But obviously the day is positive. To be back on shore, tied in a wind range of 13-18 knots, where they certainly felt more confident, gives us a lot of energy. If we race well, we can do something special.”

Max Sirena
Max Sirena from Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli has been anything but jovial the last few weeks, as he focuses in on the Cup sitting next to him.
© 2021 Studio Borlenghi / America's Cup Match

Race 1

It was a tentative start for both teams. The Kiwis entered on port, as they chose to sail deep then lead out to the boundary. The Italians followed, engaging them briefly below the line.

New Zealand started strong to windward at speed and on time, quickly gaining a lead and forcing the Italians into the unenviable option of either holding onto the leeward position and measuring their speed against what has been touted as an incredibly fast boat, or throwing in a high-risk maneuver by going for a penalty.

Spithill, being Spithill, luffed hard, trying for the protest, and failed, slowing and allowing New Zealand to ease ahead and into a controlling position for the race, which they maintained until the finish, winning by just 31 seconds.

But the Italians did not go away. Being able to stay with the Kiwis on the racecourse heartened them and gave them a little momentum going into the second race.

“We were really happy with the pre-start and how the team has the boat in good shape,” said ETNZ helmsman Peter Burling. “We should have probably hit them harder on the second beat. It’s been three months or so since we last raced. It’s great to compete against another boat rather than our chase boat.”

Peter Burling
ETNZ’s Peter Burling has the weight of a nation on his shoulders. This is not just another first-to-seven-wins regatta.
© 2021 Gilles Martin-Raget

Race 2

In the second race, both teams changed down to smaller jibs for the increasingly shifty and gusty conditions. They were keen to reset and get into the second race of the day. The Italians entered on port this time and headed out to the boundary to jibe back to the line. The Kiwi boat Te Retuhai languished briefly, coming off her foils, and stayed high before tacking back in late, allowing Luna Rossa the lead to the line.

The Italians were able to control New Zealand up the leg, keeping it tight, and headed into the first gate extending to a small, but comfortable lead. The radical-looking Te Retuhai was able to get out of phase with the covering Italians and made some gains, closing the gap at the end to just 7 seconds.

“We didn’t get the best start, not quite doing the best job of the roundup, and ending up skidding sideways and falling into them, which was a shame. We looked a bit rusty there,” said Burling. “What was really good was to be able to get back into them on that last beat. It is no secret we haven’t raced for a while. It was great to get the first win, but one mistake and life is pretty hard for the rest of the race.

“There is plenty to debrief. We know the team that wins the last race wins the event, so we are happy to get a win on the board and move on to the weekend,” continued Burling. “It felt like the boats were pretty even today, but we are happy we have a tool to win this.”

“We just kept the boat going well. It was a good sign of strength to bounce back after that first race,” said Spithill. “I think it was one of those racetracks where the lead boat had the advantage, picking the time to tack or jibe. It is great to be competitive!”

“The fact that we have seen that by racing well we can beat them is good news for us and gives us even more confidence,” said Sirena.

Day 2

The event takes a lay day until racing resumes tomorrow, Thursday, March 11, at 7 p.m. PST. It is the only break the teams will get unless Mother Nature intervenes.

So, we go into Race Day 2 tied, a rarity in the 36 matches for the Cup. We’ll see whether Luna Rossa can maintain their newfound momentum. New Zealand will endeavor to make sure that “rust never sleeps.”


  1. Christine Weaver 3 years ago

    Reader Bill O’Connor writes: “Despite earlier information that indicated that the America’s Cup (Best of 13 Races between Emirates Team New Zealand and Italy’s Prada), in Auckland starting this week was pay for view only at an exorbitant $175.00, it now appears that it is being broadcast after all. It is not clear whether some payment is required, but it is currently scheduled for 7:00 PM tomorrow, Thursday, for free on regular cable broadcasting and thereafter on all race days (except for a couple of lay-days).
    I have found it on NBCSN (NBC Sports Network).
    I found it on Channel 1640 with ATT Uverse and was able to set it for recording tomorrow.
    (Spoiler alert: A summary of each day’s races in broadcast on Youtube the day before the day we get the full coverage.)

  2. Mark Reid 3 years ago

    NBC Sports had always prepared to broadcast live programming for the America’s Cup Match (Finals) which can be seen at 7:00 pm PST on scheduled race days. NBC Gold which allows the viewer different live viewing options, like being onboard the boat of your choice is now offering a reduced subscription special of $116.99. Most countries around the world have enjoyed free live broadcasting from the beginning of the ACWS onward via YouTube, which was blacked out in the United States because of licensing agreements with NBC. Many people opted for VPN accounts up until now to watch the Prada Cup events live. Everything has been a bit confusing, even for longtime America’s Cup fans, not only because of the different viewing options, but because of multiple cancelations of races and changes of scheduling due to weather, Covid-19, American Magic’s capsize etc.
    Hopefully now that the Match is at hand there will be no more interruptions. The races will run every evening beginning Thursday March 11th until the conclusion of the event when either Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli or Emirates Team New Zealand win 7 races.

  3. Reece 3 years ago

    Watch YouTube it’s free !

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