Louis Vuitton America's Cup World Series Portsmouth 2016:
Friday Practice Races

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Practice Race Day: Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series Portsmouth

July 22, 2016

Heeling cats, but not foiling, on Practice Day in Portsmouth. Photo: ©2016 John Crisp

Well it was a fabulous English summer’s day here in Portsmouth. The wait was over, the village opened, the sun shone, and it was pleasantly warm. A British summer with sunshine.... whatever next?

The Red Arrows, Britain’s world famous aerial demonstration team, put on a fabulous display of high-speed precision flying that wowed the crowd.

Unfortunately, the downside of a typical English summer’s day is the notable lack of breeze. On a hot summer’s day you do get a nice sea breeze to build in the afternoon, but that requires a lack of cloud cover inland to generate heat.

As is so typical in the UK with its famously damp atmosphere, and a little rain last night, the sea breeze was not strong enough Friday to overcome the light south easterly, and in conditions which British sailors know well you get two converging breezes leaving big holes and occasional puffs. Not the greatest conditions for the thrills and spills of hydro-foiling cats. In this type of breeze the high-tech yachts look like just about any other yacht.... just slower, particularly through tacks.

Nonetheless, the crowd enjoyed some quite close racing in four practices races, close both physically in terms of viewing distance and in many position changes among the competitors, aided by the variable wind conditions.


Sir Ben Ainslie ascending from a floating pier.
Photo: ©2016 Joshua Crisp

LandRover BAR should be fairly pleased with their day as they nailed two bullets and two thirds. But with these only being practice races (unless the weekend weather conspires against tomorrow’s scheduled starts) the races were more an opportunity for the teams to give replacement crew and helms (with some notable absences on NZL for Olympic duty) to get up to speed.

Practice Race 1

The first race had three boats all over the line at the start which allowed BAR to grab an advantage which they never looked like relinquishing. Groupama Team France capitalized on the misfortune (or over-eagerness) of the others, too, finding a second place finish. Artemis made a good recovery to pull themselves up temporarily to third place, until with the light breeze building they managed to sail themselves backwards while Softbank moved up to finish 3rd behind BAR and Groupama. Oracle Team USA’s chances were dealt a blow by a boundary penalty, finishing fourth, and TNZ trailed the fleet, after Artemis having never recovered from their start line penalty.

1 LandRover BAR 2 Groupama Team France 3 Softbank Team Japan 4 Oracle Team USA 5 Artemis Racing 6 Emirates Team New Zealand

Practice Race 2

ETNZ were again just too quick out of the blocks, but managed to take BAR out with them, killing the Brits’ speed and allowing the others to slip away. Groupama led at Mark 1 followed by Oracle, Japan, Artemis, and BAR. By the second mark BAR showed their mettle and started their recovery rounding close on the heels of Oracle who trailed Groupama. They BAR split out on starboard and by Mark 3 were in the lead followed by Groupama and Oracle

BAR stretched away but a tussle at the last mark ensued between Oracle and Groupama, with Oracle coming out on top.

1 BAR 2 Oracle 3 Groupama 4 Softbank 5 Artemis 6 Emirates

Photo: ©2016 John Crisp

Practice Race 3

Finally a clean start, but with patchy breeze and lots of holes you can find yourself in the doldrums with both hulls down only too easily, which was the fate that befell BAR. Lift a hull and your speed increases dramatically, even when you aren't foiling.

At the first mark Artemis led from Softbank, Emirates, BAR, Groupama, and Oracle.

BAR then promptly found a hole and died. By the time they got to Mark 2, BAR were 6th and last, Artemis having rounded first. BAR started to make up ground with quite a few shifts, rounding Mark 3 in 4th. At Mark 3 Artemis still lead with Softbank and Emirates but on the next leg Artemis struggled with Code 0 issues which ruined their race.

On the way to the 4th Mark, Softbank found good pressure inshore and slipped into the lead, followed by Emirates, and then BAR gaining ground to take 3rd place. Oracle looked out of sorts throughout and by the finish had slipped back to 6th ,where they had started.

1 Softbank 2 Emirates 3 BAR 4 Groupama 5 Artemis 6 Oracle

Practice Race 4 (Possible Substitute Race)

This will be the substitute race if there are any issues starting the races on time for Saturday and Sunday. This arrangement is for the benefit of the TV broadcast.

Emirates made a great start to windward and never looked back, winning by a good margin. Behind them there was a good battle between Softbank and BAR, BAR managing to get a nose in front and lift clear ahead just before mark 4, only for Softbank to turn them inside out and regain second just before the Mark, guaranteeing them second. Artemis and Groupama engaged in a battle of their own which, despite Artemis getting a boundary penalty, the Swedes managed to come off best for 4th.

1 Emirate 2 Softbank 3 BAR 4 Artemis 5 Oracle 6 Groupama

Clearly Emirates were taking a while to get to grips with their revised team but Oracle have probably gone back to their shed to scratch their heads as they looked seriously out of sorts today. Wrong foil choice, wrong sails. Who knows, but clearly things were not working well.

All in all it was a great day, despite the reality is that foiling cats are only really spectacular if they are actually up on their foils at least some of the time. Without that, on a light wind day, despite all the technology, the wow factor was absent. Hopefully tomorrow will bring better breeze and show what these boats are really capable of. They are truly stunning when they foil, and that is what the crowd wants to see. Onwards and upwards!

--- Reporting by John Crisp for CupInfo/©2016 CupInfo.com


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