Kiwis win America's Cup preliminary regatta after Italians have spectacular splashdown

Two-time defending champion Emirates Team New Zealand won the second preliminary regatta of the 37th America’s Cup cycle by using flawless tactics and getting a big assist from a spectacular nosedive by Italy’s Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team in the match race final Saturday in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

It was the first major regatta held on the Red Sea. This regatta and one in mid-September in Spain were largely exhibitions sailed in AC40s, which are half-size test versions of the foiling 75-foot monohulls that will be sailed in the America’s Cup next fall off Barcelona. The AC40s are sailed with a crew of just four, including two helmsmen and two trimmers.

The Kiwis won five of the eight fleet races among six teams and then led Luna Rossa around the course to win the final. The victory was sealed when Luna Rossa rounded the final mark about six seconds behind the Kiwis, lost control of its rudder and buried the bow in the water. The cockpit filled with water as the boat came to a complete stop.

The experienced winning crew included Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, who have led the Kiwis to consecutive victories in sailing’s marquee competition, Andy Maloney and Australian Nathan Outteridge, an America’s Cup and Olympic veteran who joined the team as a helmsman for this cycle.

Sailors were tested by the conditions that included a breeze between 16 and 20 knots and lumpy seas.

“It has been really challenging conditions out here,” Outteridge said. “It’s what we love as sailors. We were just happy to put together some clean laps after the first race and then we sailed more accurately and faster and shut that final race down against Prada.”

Emirates Team New Zealand beat Luna Rossa 7-3 in the 2021 America’s Cup in Auckland.

Luna Rossa swapped in young helmsmen Ruggero Tita, an Olympic gold medalist, and 19-year-old Marco Gradoni for this regatta.

“We have been racing very well all week,” Gradoni said. “Today was a difficult day for many reasons. I don’t want to make excuses, but we had several problems and made a rush to have the final match race. We definitely didn’t race at our best, but we were right there with the Kiwis. When you start behind the defender, catching up is not easy.”

The Kiwis finished second to the New York Yacht Club's American Magic in the first preliminary regatta.

“It feels great. A lot of effort has gone into this, so as a team we are obviously very happy to get the win that we didn’t get at the last event,” Outteridge said. “It is a massive team effort with a huge team behind us all. You only see four of us on the race boat, but there is a vital team behind us that has created this class and this event.”

The final preliminary regatta will be in Barcelona in August, when each team will debut its new AC75. Five challengers will then compete in the Louis Vuitton Cup for the right to face the Kiwis for the Auld Mug in mid-October. The AC40s will be used in the Women’s and Youth America’s Cups.


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