The Louis Vuitton Cup super yacht racer Emirates New Zealand won against the Italian Luna Rossa today in the first round of the America’s Cup challenger series, the virtually airborne catamarans finishing more than five minutes apart on a spectacular Saturday morning on San Francisco Bay.
It’s “not your grandfather’s America’s Cup”, back in the days of single hull sailboats that couldn’t fly and the races took place on the open ocean not up close and personal, in clear view inland along the shoreline. Catch the video below with the team theme songs, “Bangin the Corners”. The airborne sailors do resemble superheros and astronauts.
Related: Luna Rossa and Emirates New Zealand to race (slideshow)
New Zealand is in the lead to win the right to race against defender Oracle Team USA in the America’s Cup in September. Oracle only races in the America’s Cup while the challengers vie against each other, races getting faster and tighter as the Louis Vuitton Cup progresses through mid-August.
New Zealand sails alone on Sunday for a point
New Zealand will sail the course alone on Sunday, July 14 to receive a second point, with a total of three so far and putting New Zealand at the top of the leader board. Sunday’s point would bring the total to four while the Italians have one.
The Italians receive no point today although Luna Rossa came in close to the five minute cut off. New Zealand sailed close to top speed hitting 40 knots at the start of the race, which sailors in general consider to be the most critical element in winning. Luna Rossa trailed boat lengths behind.
New Zealand led decisively, sailing past spectators at 30 knots for the win and tacked back for a fly-by of the dock full of fans holding cameras over each other’s heads.
Barker and Davies of New Zealand
Tall and chiseled skipper Dean Barker with shining blue eyes comes from New Zealand as does his tactician Ray Davies, who spoke to the press after Saturday morning’s conquest. Barker, 41 and father of four, radiated perfect health and fine tuning, looking every bit the aristocrat. He speaks softly with a handful of microphones held to his face. His sailing suit was still wet.
Davies probably enjoyed being in the lead as he got his choice of where to direct Barker to point the boat. Emirates New Zealand could take full advantage of puffs and wind shifts for extra power without having to maneuver around anyone else or have another boat block their wind. Luna Rossa ended up so far behind though that the Italians had no interference either.
“Fly Emirates” reads the slogan on the New Zealand sail and it’s appropriate as each hull, 72 feet long, lifted off the surface of the water, thrilling the live audience at the America’s Cup pavilion who saw the boats directly or watched on the many huge simulcast screens. The audience cheered when the boats flew around marks heading back and forth along the shoreline in clear view of the marina green, the St. Francis Yacht Club and the fabulous America’s Cup Pavillion.
Racers foiled downwind for maximum speed including critical maneuvers. New Zealand, up on foils, both hulls out of the water, slid sideways as it jibed, turning downwind at Gate Two. Barker left both dagger boards down around the turns in case the boat set back down on the surface.
About control, the racers must stay within invisible borders or incur penalties, signaled from the race committee boat by a blue light on board the racing yachts.
Luna Rossa also had to give way under sailing rules when the Italians and the Kiwis looked to be on a collision course and each on a port tack. As we learn in basic sailing school, a boat on port tack, with the wind coming over a sailor’s left shoulder, has no right of way and when both are on port tack, it’s the windward boat that must give way since it has more room or power to maneuver than the leeward presumably.
Space age sailing suits
Designers build everything for speed from the boat to the sailing suits. Sailors wore new sailing suits that looked aeronautical, sleek and flexible to allow the crew to run up and down the trampoline between the hulls, the race highly physical and the sailors athletic, in continual motion. New Zealand wore black and silver with a cutaway design in the sleeve revealing automated arms, robotic gladiators. There’s a cool jersey in the shops with the same robotic arm design, the gladiator design.
Luna Rossa with it’s Prada sails and sailing suits looked like astronauts in their silver suits. Yet they provide more than style, the suits are thin, lightweight and strong yet flexible. The racers sometimes feels as if sailing in hurricane force winds with fire hoses spraying in their faces and the world has seen the catastrophic cartwheels and crashes in the past year. The bigger they are the harder they fall.
Today the wind sometimes spiked faster than the race allows but didn’t last long enough to invoke intervention. Yet safety remains a primary concern and if the wind reaches a certain speed on the bay, the race must be postponed. The wind can blow up to twenty knots, or 22.1 considering the tide. That’s pre-start and the wind speed must be over the limit for thirty seconds on average. The limitation during the race is after the wind is measured for five minutes.
Pavillion visitors enjoy their own day in the sun
The audience spent the day in the sun after the race, lolling on the big bean bags and enjoying the many fabulous hospitality spots open to the public free of charge. It’s upscale casual, a vacation in your own backyard. The bean bag mattresses are a big hit, with some fans snoozing in the sun on them all over the picnic grounds and even upstairs on the decks of the bar and dance club. They fabric looks like a sail complete with a grommet in one corner for the sheets or lines to attach.
Nespresso Coffee bars set up as did Moa New Zealand Beer and Mumm’s Champagne. Nespresso had some nice espresso machines for sale perfect for your yacht or dinghy, including a way cool 1950s red retro number for the nostalgic, this being a historic race.
Louis Vuitton set up shop next to the VIP club, Club72 where you see the sailors enter. Vuitton has some neon handbags in the $1400 range along with a diamond diving watch for $16,800..
The shops sell some really nice t-shirts for around $30, mugs for $12, real sailing jackets and pants, sailing and baseball hats and some toys. Puma set up a novel photo booth where your own face gets inserted into an extreme sailing shot beneath the Golden Gate Bridge, that’s free. The AC holds poster signings some afternoons.
For more information: www.AmericasCup.com
Biking to the village at Marina Green or the Pavillion at Piers 27/29 on The Embarcadero is easy although bikes are not allowed on the grounds. Walking from Embarcadero BART is also easy along the Embarcadero although pedestrians may hop on Muni or take a pedi-cab.
For more information: www.AmericasCup.com
For more stories by this writer check out CBS San Francisco’s website under Eye on the Bay, San Francisco arts & culture “Best Of”; and San Francisco Arts & Culture on usedview.com. Subscribe by hittng the SUBSCRIBE button at the top of this article.
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