A pair of first-time wins amid challenging conditions by the two youngest skippers in the fleet highlighted the first day of racing at America's Cup World Series San Francisco.
Peter Burling of Team Korea, at 21 the youngest skipper in the fleet, and China Team's Phil Robertson, at 25 the second youngest, both scored their first victories in a dense wind around 20 knots. The wind blowing against an ebb tide produced a short, sharp chop on San Francisco Bay and tested the skills of the sailors.
Burling took over the helm of Team Korea two weeks ago, yet showed the calm of a veteran in leading his crew to a nail-biting 2-second victory over Luna Rossa Piranha (Chris Draper).
"We're really happy to come away with a win there,"
said Burling, who won a silver medal in the 49er at the London 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition. "We had a good start and built a massive lead, and then made it pretty hard for ourselves in the end. But I'm proud of the guys that we managed to get it done in the end."
Burling's crew struggled to control their gennaker in the rough conditions, but were aided by a penalty on the Italian team, who almost capsized after sailing out of bounds.
The challenges on the racecourse were noted as some crews came to complete stops during maneuvers. The AC45 wingsail catamarans are quick in straight lines, but lose a lot of momentum in downspeed moments.
Robertson suffered the cruelest fate on the day. They lost their first race of the day but followed it up with a 6-second victory over Luna Rossa Piranha in the second race. Robertson and crew then sustained damage to the frames in their wingsail while jibing and were forced to miss their third race and a chance to advance to the quarterfinal round.
"We were about five minutes before our start and put in a jibe, and the carbon structure in the wing fell apart on us. It almost snapped in half up the middle,"
said Robertson, who has skippered China Team since May. "It's a bit disappointing and also a fairly major situation. The shore crew will have to work all night so we can get back out there tomorrow."
While China Team was eliminated from the match racing championship, Team Korea advanced to the quarterfinal round where it will meet Artemis Racing - White (Terry Hutchinson).
Other crews to advance include Artemis Racing - Red (Nathan Outteridge), Emirates Team New Zealand (Dean Barker), Energy Team (Loïck Peyron) and J.P. Morgan BAR (Ben Ainslie). The quarterfinal round is scheduled for Thursday and Friday.
Outteridge, the new skipper of Artemis Racing - Red and at 26 the third youngest skipper in the fleet, had an up and down day. He lost his first match against Team Korea and then won against Luna Rossa Swordfish before getting the walkover win against China Team.
"As you can see it was a bit windier today than we had in training,"
said Outteridge. "The waves were quite rough. We got to a point where we thought if we push it harder we might go over. Basically, we just tried to stay in touch and not make any errors. We didn't make it easy, but in the end we got through."
The first two quarterfinal matches are scheduled tomorrow just after noontime. A break in the racing will ensue before all 11 boats in the fleet return to the water for the first two of seven scheduled fleet races at 17:10 PDT.
Team Korea bt. Luna Rossa Piranha, +:02
Energy Team bt. China Team, +:56
Emirates Team New Zealand bt. Artemis Racing - Red, +:50.8
J.P. Morgan BAR bt. Luna Rossa Swordfish, +1:15
China Team bt. Luna Rossa Piranha, +:06
Artemis Racing - Red bt. Luna Rossa Swordfish, +:33
Artemis Racing - Red bt. China Team (DNS)
Thursday (12:25 pm PDT): Team Korea vs. Artemis Racing - White
Thursday (12:42 pm PDT): Energy Team vs. Emirates Team New Zealand
Friday (4:05 pm PDT): Artemis Racing - Red vs. ORACLE TEAM USA COUTTS
Friday (4:22 pm PDT): J.P. Morgan BAR vs. ORACLE TEAM USA SPITHILL