The two teams left Port America's Cup to a cacophony of boat horns, fireworks and an impressive air display. Over 70,000 people poured through the gates of Port America's Cup on Saturday, setting a new daily attendance record.
On the water, conditions were perfect for racing, with a stable 12 knot sea breeze on the race course. Top model Petra NEMCOVA was on board the Race Committee boat and fired the starting gun for race one of the Match.
The first minutes of the America's Cup Match are a unique moment in sport. Despite intense scrutiny, not even the teams really know which boat might have a speed advantage. In this race, it was Emirates Team New Zealand skipper Dean BARKER (NZL) who won the better start, but within a few minutes, Alinghi showed enough pace to force the Kiwi boat to tack, and from there, the Swiss were in control.
With the advantage of starboard entry, Emirates Team New Zealand sailed into an early dial-up against Alinghi. It was not an aggressive pre-start, with both helmsmen preferring to keep it clean for the first race of the Match. On the final approach to the start line, BARKER held the right hand side, with Ed BAIRD (USA) controlling the lead into the line on the left.
trimmer Simon DAUBNEY (NZL) explained, "We got the side that we wanted, we were keen for the left and that is what we got."
Both teams made very good starts, but NZL 92 was quicker to get up to speed in the lumpy, bouncy conditions. SUI 100 looked very wet and appeared to bounce around in the choppy waves, and yet after a few minutes BAIRD was sailing faster and forced BARKER away to the right.
When the Swiss tacked to go with New Zealand over to the right, they found a small left-hand windshift and moved into a lead that gave them control of the match. Around the top mark the lead was 13 seconds. The Kiwis attacked with a number of gybes downwind, but Brad BUTTERWORTH (NZL) refused to be engaged in a gybing duel and SUI 100 had gained at the leeward gate, now 20 seconds ahead.
However, Terry HUTCHINSON (USA) made the most of a bit of separation up the next windward leg and the Kiwis were snapping at the leader's heels again. Around the final mark the Kiwis trailed by 14 seconds, not quite close enough to really threaten the increasingly confident Alinghi. Down the final run SUI 100 found an extra gear and, with HUTCHINSON trying a few more gybes to find something different, the Defender extended to win by 35 seconds.
Emirates Team New Zealand head Grant DALTON (NZL) refused to be despondent after the team's opening defeat."We can take a lot of positives out of today, we learned that there was not much in it as far as boat speed is concerned. NZL 92 was able to hold SUI 100 upwind and they seemed to have an edge downwind,' he said. 'However, it's difficult to be definitive about boat speed after today's race. The shifts we experienced were way bigger than just boat speed. We have got to concentrate on just getting each shift as best as we can and if we can do that we'll win."
'In fact the day was decided by the breeze. It was patchy and quite tricky out there. Two windshifts - one that gave SUI 100 the lead on the first beat and one on the first run which allowed them to open the lead to 150 metres two-thirds of the way down the leg - probably decided the race. Overall, Alinghi got a few more breaks with the breeze than we did,' concluded DALTON.
Emirates afterguard member Adam BEASHEL (NZL) also pointed towards shifty conditions as the deciding factor, "It was a tricky old day today, quite shifty and Alinghi did quite a nice job of being on the right side of the second shift, which was the bigger one, half-way up the first beat. They took the lead from us there and did a good job of holding us off for the rest of the race.'
Alinghi's DAUBNEY seemed to agree with DALTON, saying it was had to tell much about any boat speed differences between SUI 100 and NZL 92, 'The boat speed is pretty similar between the two, but it was puffy and the breeze was up and down, so you can't get too much of a read on it in just one race. From a first look though, it seems the boats are pretty similar in speed.'
America's Cup Match
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The America's Cup Match and Challenger/Defender Series are designated as ISAF Special Events. For more information on the America's Cup, the Louis Vuttion Acts and the teams competing, visit the official America's Cup website - www.americascup.com.
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