VILANOVA I LA GELTRU: More than a year before the main event, American Magic, the official challenger, prevailed over reigning America's Cup champions Team New Zealand on the final day of the first preliminary regatta, while the other four competitors lagged behind in their tracks.
The Americas won two of the three races at the end of a three-day regatta off Vilanova i la Geltru in Catalonia on Sunday and were one point ahead of the Kiwis.
“That was great, we put it together and yes, we got the result,” said Tom Slingsby, the New York Yacht Club entry helmsman.
“The champagne was very nice.”
The French participant Orient Express surprisingly took third place, followed by the Italians Luna Rossa and the Swiss boat Alinghi, while the British boat Britannia came a distant sixth.
This was the first of three preliminary regattas that will determine starting places for next September's Challenger Series in Barcelona, when five competitors will compete against New Zealand in the America's Cup, sailing's biggest prize.
The first two regattas will be held on AC40 class catamarans. For the final preliminary regatta, the Challenger Series and the America's Cup, the teams switch to the larger and even more expensive A75 class.
The second warm-up event will take place in late November off Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The America's Cup fleet will dock at Port Vell in Barcelona next August, where the competition will open with the final pre-regatta.
Team New Zealand's website described helmsman Nathan Outteridge as having “mixed emotions” after losing the regatta in the final race.
“We definitely saw some really good racing. Once there are eight, nine knots of wind, the boats come alive and the racing is super close and super close,” Outteridge said, adding that second place was “really frustrating.”
Unlike some other teams, the Kiwis have already taken delivery of their A75 boat.
“We've been sailing the big boat a lot more than the others lately,” said Peter Burling, who led New Zealand to victory in 2021, adding that the pre-regattas served a purpose.
“You have to be on the water to see what everyone is worth,” Burling said.
The French participant Orient Express, led by Quentin Delapierre, was satisfied with third place.
“We had a lot of fun,” said Delapierre. “We tested a few things. And even if we have less experience than the others, we can see that we are capable of being ahead if we sail lightly.”
The Swiss team Alinghi, winners in Valencia in 2007, were positive about their fifth place.
“It was incredible to compete against every team competing in the America's Cup,” said captain Arnaud Psarofaghis. “We were happy to come here and be at the forefront of boat speed and boat handling.”
Others were less satisfied.
“Not a satisfactory result,” said Francesco Bruni, captain of Luna Rossa, which finished one point and one place ahead of Alinghi. “We were definitely hoping for a little more.”
“We have to look forward, understand our mistakes and learn for the next regattas.”
Britannia was last in three races and fourth in the other two.
“We are really frustrated with our performance,” said captain and team boss Ben Ainslie. “We thought we could get away with not investing too much time in the AC40 and still be there or near it.”