The 35th America’s Cup opening leg of the series got under way in Portsmouth. Current holder of the America’s Cup title, Oracle Team USA, hosted the event and raced against the 2013 runners-up Team New Zealand, and crews representing UK, France, Sweden and Japan.
Sailing across the Solent at up to 40mph, valuable points were up for grabs as the teams skilfully raced to the finish line in identical catamarans, 45 feet long with 71 feet high masts.
Ben Ainslie and his team took the lead with a spectacular show on the Solent, coming first and second in the first two races of the America’s Cup World Series. Over 45,000 fans on the shoreline and some 2,200 small boats lining the course, basked in the glory and sunshine. British Land Rover BAR finished Saturday with 19 points out of a possible 20, ahead of their rival Emirates Team New Zealand by a single point. Oracle Team USA have 16 points, followed by the teams representing France (13 points), Japan (13 points) and Sweden (11 points).
In the first race, Emirates Team New Zealand took off from the start line and was quickly on foils. Ben Ainslie Racing performed a brilliant manoeuvre and got well ahead by unfurling the large forward sail known as Code Zero. Oracle made a late burst to pass Emirates Team New Zealand into second place.
BAR arrived on the start line for the second race rehearsed and ready to take the lead, but decided to go right after the first mark and missed the chance to catch the wind on the left and fell back. Unfurling his Code Zero to perfection, they quickly closed the gap to finish second behind Emirates Team New Zealand, just ahead of Groupama Team France.
Big Saturday was to be followed by Super Sunday, when double points would be available and the weather conditions were forecast to be challenging.
Heavy rain and winds up to 30mph on Sunday left fans disappointed as the event organisers made the difficult decision to cancel the second day of the America’s Cup World Series. Organisers brought forward the two races by 90 minutes to avoid the bad weather moving in from the west, but the Waterfront Arena and Fanzone Area were evacuated when the wind limit of 25 knots was reached before calling off the races.
Land Rover BAR moves forward in overall lead as the series travels to Gothenburg in August. The World Series is a build-up to the 35th America’s Cup in Bermuda in 2017.