Sailing: Team New Zealand impress on challenging opening day of America's Cup preliminary regatta

  • 01/12/2023
Team New Zealand in action.
Team New Zealand in action. Photo credit: Supplied

Team New Zealand have shot to the lead on day one of the America's Cup preliminary regatta in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on Friday (NZ time).

The defenders bolted to victory in the first two fleet races, before coming in fifth in the third and final contest of the day, which was won by Luna Rossa.

The results give them a four-point advantage over their rivals heading into the final two days of racing on the Red Sea.

Conditions were challenging throughout the day due to light winds, as the New Zealanders proved best at mitigating their mistakes in the early going.

"It was a very high-stakes day. We made a couple of mistakes in that last race and ended up getting lapped," Burling said

"We tried to approach it aggressively, get out in front, and when we did that, we sailed away.

Team NZ en route to victory on day one.
Team NZ en route to victory on day one. Photo credit: Supplied

"Hopefully, we don't have to sail at that bottom end tomorrow, but we're really happy with a good first day and getting a few points on the board."

Team NZ helmsmen Peter Burling and Natah Outteridge ensured Team NZ made superb starts in the opening two races, then steadily built on their advantage throughout to win wire to wire in each.

Luna Rossa made sure it wasn't all New Zealand's day, reading the conditions perfectly to nail the start and streak to victory untroubled in the final race. Team NZ sat steadily in third place before a mistake saw them drop off their foils, consigining them to fifth.

“It was light winds so the difference between a good race and a great race was pretty small," said Team NZ trimmer Andy Maloney.

"Good day for us with two wins and then unfortunately we had an unforced error in that last race and didn’t get a good result.  

"We were fortunate to get two great starts in those first two races and execute well from there."

American Magic endured a nightmare day, falling off their foils constantly and copping several umpire penalties to earn just a single point and sit at the bottom of the standings.

"A really tough day, I don't think I've had a day like that before," said skipper Tom Slingsby.

"I don't know what to say, we're frustrated, embarrassed, it's not good enough and we need to do a better job. We know we can sail better than that."

Better conditions are expected for the three fleet races on day two, scheduled to get underway at 11:30pm, Friday.

There will be two more on Saturday before head-to-head match racing to round out the regatta.

The Saudi Arabia event is the second of three preliminary regattas ahead of New Zealand's defence of the Auld Mug next year.

Preliminary regatta standings:

Team New Zealand 22, Luna Rossa 18, Alinghi 15, Britannia 15, Orient Express 11, American Magic 1.