Recording speeds previously unheard of in America's Cup racing, Emirates Team New Zealand today scored the first point in the Louis Vuitton Cup, the America's Cup Challenger Series, when it completed the 16-nautical-mile course in 46 minutes, 27 seconds.
With the wind conditions near ideal-14 to 16 knots with a flood tide (relatively flat water)-Emirates Team New Zealand's AC72 Aotearoa looked spectacular streaking around the racecourse.
Skipper Dean Barker and the Kiwi team, the reigning Louis Vuitton Cup champions from 2007, took Aotearoa onto the racecourse doing 30 knots and riding on the hydrofoils. They recorded a top speed of 42.8 knots (49 mph)-meaning the AC72 was sailing its 72-foot length in a single second-and the crew averaged 20.7 knots around the 16.05-nautical-mile course.
Even the 90-foot waterline multihulls that featured in the 2010 America's Cup didn't record such a top speed in racing.
"We actually enjoy it when it's windier, then you really start ripping downwind and can pull off some slick jibes,"
said Barker. "You never finish a race in one of these boats and think it's all gone perfect. We made a couple of mistakes today, but it was good to get out and go through the paces."
Emirates Team New Zealand sailed the seven-leg course unopposed due to Luna Rossa Challenge's decision to boycott the race because it is awaiting a protest hearing with the International Jury.
"We are waiting for the International Jury to decide the protest and then we'll make a plan,"
said Max Sirena, skipper of Luna Rossa Challenge. "We're here to race; we've spent lots of energy and money to do that. It's our dream and goal to be out there racing."
The Kiwis are awaiting the same hearing that is scheduled for 8 July, but chose to complete the racecourse because 1 point was available to the winner of the race and they wanted to send a show of thanks to their supporters.
"We're a commercially funded team,"
said Barker. "It's important for us as a team, to our sponsors and followers in New Zealand to get out there and race. We trust that the International Jury will make the correct decision based on the information it's got. The process is underway. Whether we sail or not isn't going to influence that."
The next race in the Louis Vuitton Cup is scheduled for Tuesday.