The 34th America's Cup opened on San Francisco Bay today with close racing, a pair of lead changes in one race and crew work as solid as the redwood trees that are a feature of northern California.
At the end of the day, challenger Emirates Team New Zealand returned to its base with a 2-0 lead over defender ORACLE TEAM USA.
Kiwi skipper Dean Barker led his crew to victories of 36 and 52 seconds in winds that blew between 15 and 20 knots. Afterwards, he stressed the evenness of the two AC72s.
"It's still way too early to draw conclusions, but I think we saw two boats that are incredibly even in performance,"
said Barker, the 10-year skipper of his team. "There's certainly not a lot in either direction in the conditions we saw today. I'm sure we'll learn more as we get different conditions as the series goes on. But as we expected, there's not a huge amount between the two yachts."
ORACLE TEAM USA skipper Jimmy Spithill showed aggression in the pre-start. Both times he tried to hook Barker and force him into a penalty. But Spithill didn't pull off the maneuver in the first race and in the second the umpires green-flagged an incident that might've included contact between the boats. In both instances, however, Emirates Team New Zealand accelerated quicker off the start line to lead at the first mark.
"In the first race we didn't get as tight as we would've liked and they got over us on the reach,"
said Spithill, who won the America's Cup in 2010. "In the second one we got tighter, went in for the hook and thought we'd get the penalty. Unfortunately, it didn't go our way. Those guys did a good job and didn't make many mistakes. There weren't a lot of passing lanes out there."
There was a lane in the first race, however, and ORACLE TEAM USA took full advantage of it. The Kiwis led around the leeward gate by a scant 4 seconds. ORACLE TEAM USA came around and tried to luff the Kiwi crew in the hopes of a penalty, but it was green-flagged. The maneuver still had the effect of forcing the New Zealand crew to tack away.
When the crews met again ORACLE TEAM USA held the right of way and crossed Emirates Team New Zealand by a boatlength to gain the lead. Later up the leg, however, Barker and crew regained the lead.
"We've known for a long time that if we got the opportunity to race for the America's Cup the style of racing would be full on,"
said Barker. "We have a huge amount of respect for the Oracle team and we know they race incredibly hard. Certainly that was the case today."
The evenness in the first race was impressive given the difference in the two designs. ORACLE TEAM USA appears to have better aerodynamics, with a low-profile main crossbeam and less structure under the platform compared to Emirates Team New Zealand. The Kiwi yacht also has fuller bow sections.
"For two boats coming from a totally different design phase and production, totally different setups, to have the racing so close is fantastic,"
said Emirates Team New Zealand wing trimmer Glenn Ashby. "I think we'll certainly have some good battles over the next week, anything can happen."
The winner of the 34th America's Cup will be the first to win 9 points. For the Kiwis that means seven additional race wins and for ORACLE TEAM USA it means 11, due to a penalty imposed by the International Jury. Racing is scheduled for Saturdays, Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, with two races per day scheduled to start at 13:15 and 14:15.
Upcoming America's Cup Schedule
• Sunday, Sept. 8: Race 3 (1:15 pm PT), Race 4 (2:15 pm PT)
• Tuesday, Sept. 10: Race 5 (1:15 pm PT), Race 6 (2:15 pm PT)
• Thursday, Sept. 12: Race 7 (1:15 pm PT), Race 8 (2:15 pm PT)
• Saturday, Sept. 14: Race 9 (1:15 pm PT), Race 10* (2:15 pm PT)
• Sunday, Sept. 15: Race 11* (1:15 pm PT), Race 12* (2:15 pm PT)
Internationally, the America's Cup Final can be viewed in more than 170 territories. All racing is also live onAmerica's Cup YouTube channel
. (subject to territorial restrictions).
You can also follow racing with America's Cup App
for android and iOS devices.