The America's Cup World Series opened in San Francisco on Wednesday afternoon with a trio of Match Racing Qualifiers. Six teams were competing for the three final spots in the Quarterfinals in the first racing of the 34th America's Cup on San Francisco Bay.
The conditions were slightly lighter than what the teams had come to expect on the Bay over the past week when five crews capsized during training sessions. In contrast, today's West-southwesterly winds of 14-17 knots, with tricky currents to navigate, provided more of a tactical test for the teams.
A large weekday crowd lined the shoreline of the AC Village at the Marina Green to take in the action - the boats at times just yards from the coast - eager to see America's Cup racing on the Bay for the first time.
It was a good day for Luna Rossa. Both Max Sirena's Swordfish and Chris Draper's Piranha crews won their matches 2-0 over China Team and Artemis Racing Red, respectively.
"We had a tricky one against Santiago Lange and the Artemis team
," said Piranha skipper Chris Draper. "We knew they'd be pretty strong. But the guys made some good reads on the wind shifts to get us in front
Ben Ainslie's J.P. Morgan team also made a successful debut on the circuit, sweeping past Team Korea.
"We certainly have a lot to learn,"
Ainslie said. "We had a few issues, but the guys did some amazing work to get us around the course. We had to overtake (in both races) and I think we had a penalty call go against them that helped us in the second race, but the guys did a fantastic job
Team Korea's gold medal winning skipper, Nathan Outteridge, felt particularly frustrated in his match against J.P. Morgan BAR, after seeing early leads in both races overturned.
"We started well in the first one and then just made one error which gave them the chance they needed
," Outteridge said. "Then in the second race, we seemed to be getting penalties for no apparent reason… (and) we basically had to let him go past… We're a bit confused about what happened to be honest
Due to the penalty situation, the team asked Regatta Director Iain Murray to consider overturning the result and having the race re-sailed. But after consulting the Jury, Murray said the results on the water will stand, as the Rules do not allow for redress.
Racing on Thursday through Sunday (2:00 pm PDT start time from Thursday through Saturday and at 11:30 am PDT on Sunday) will be broadcast live around the world on the America's Cup YouTube channel (subject to territorial broadcast restrictions). On television, coverage is available Thursday through Saturday throughout the Bay Area on NBC Bay Area 11.2, and in California on Comcast Sportsnet California. The Sunday finale will be broadcast live, coast to coast in the United States, on NBC from 11:30 am PDT.
AC World Series San Francisco - Race Day One
Match Racing Qualifiers - Results (winners advance to Quarterfinals)
Luna Rossa Swordfish beat China Team, 2-0
Luna Rossa Piranha beat Artemis Racing Red, 2-0
J.P. Morgan BAR beat Team Korea, 2-0