A two hour delay for weather conditions to moderate saw the first race of the America’s Cup International Regatta start at 1310 New Zealand time.
In 12 knots of breeze from the North East and a fast disappearing swell, four boats representing three of the challengers and the defender of the next America's Cup lined up on the short start line for a fleet race.
Victory Challenge's Orn (SWE-63), skippered by Mats Johansson and steered by Jesper Bank, started to windward of the fleet and sailed fast upwind to approach the first mark in the lead. Towards the end of the leg OneWorld Challenge's boat (USA-55) steered by Peter Gilmour, managed to tack into the Swedish boat's leebow and luff around the mark stalling the Swedish boat and allowing Team New Zealand to sail over the top.
The run saw the Swedish boat demonstrate great speed and move back into the lead which the new comer crew to America's Cup competition held all the way to the finish. Second was OneWorld Challenge who just managed to scrape through overlapped with Team New Zealand as the latter had tried a different option in an attempt to pass the Swedes on the line. GBR Challenge had started early and was recalled and was hence never really in the match.
OneWorld Challenge beat GBR Challenge by 38 seconds
Indicating a winch problem before the start of their first match, GBR Challenge still managed to penalise Peter Gilmour's One World Challenge in the pre-start before the pair headed upwind into a shifty wind from the North East. Trading tacks and changing sides, GBR Challenge lost the lead having crossed ahead at the first meeting. Gilmour and the OneWorld Challenge crew managed to keep control of the race from then on and extend enough on the downwind legs to complete a penalty turn and cross the line with a 38 second lead.
Team New Zealand beat Victory Challenge by 33 seconds
Following on from their fleet race success, Jesper Bank and the Scandinavian crew on board Orn (SWE-63) demonstrated that this newcomer syndicate and brand new boat is a force to be reckoned with. Staying in touch throughout the start and then simply sailing fast upwind on the correct side of the course the Swedes lead all the way around the first three legs.
Approaching the first weather mark slightly below the port tack layline Bank demonstrated a text-book match race defensive play. He tacked the brand new Frers-designed boat beyond the starboard layline and, reaching back towards Team New Zealand, forced the Kiwis to tack whilst the Swedes moved back onto port and around the mark with a handy advantage.
But it was right at the end of the second upwind leg, after a long tacking duel that the Swedes seemed to be controlling when Kiwi skipper Dean Barker threw a dummy tack which the Swedes fell for and therefore lost control. The last run was close until three-quarters of the way down the Swedish spinnaker exploded and, although the crew seemed to get a replacement set literally seconds later, it was over for their challenge on the America's Cup defenders for today.
Racing resumes tomorrow with the second two flights of the first Round Robin. The Round Robins continue until Friday. Saturday will see the finals.