Stalking the Hauraki Gulf like a dead-eyed street fighter, Te Rehutai has the poise and menace of a bodybuilder on Venice Beach flexing its muscles on glistening waters beneath cloudless, hazy skies. But look below at the latest additions to this stone-cold winning machine and you’d be forgiven for thinking Rudolf Nureyev had infiltrated the design team at Team New Zealand. “Tough guys don’t dance. You’d better believe it,” opined Norman Mailer and there’s no doubt that the socially distanced Kiwis aren’t here for the Cha Cha Cha. They are looking squarely at waltzing off with this Cup through a combination of skill and outright boatspeed. The details coming onstream are phenomenal.
Everyone is watching the Kiwis now as they advance through their development programme and whilst the Challengers duke it out and get valuable race time, the Defenders are “quietly chipping away” as they say and it’s all in the detail. The muscular hull-form doesn’t look much-changed from what we’ve seen before but up top it’s all going on. Powerful, deep cut jibs have emerged. And the main looks shorn of the clew box of old, replaced by a cut-away and heaven knows what they are playing at here. Team New Zealand were already a generation ahead in their camber control, able to point to the moon and squeeze at top marks when behind – the weaponry they are developing now is just frightening.
But it’s the foils that catch the eye and look almost out of place to the incredible hulk they are supporting. Dainty, skinny little numbers. They look like they’ve been dieting on lettuce leaves and quinoa and even the bulb has had a generous grade two shave with its flat bottom. These make the Challenger foils look like something off a tractor.
The spy videos doing the rounds of the first trials have the Kiwis skitting on ice. The boat looks super twitchy and even more of a handful than before. Pistol Pete will need to be at his finest and the flight control will be crucial. But if they nail this, there’s no stopping the Kiwis. The mountain just keeps getting steeper for the Challengers.
But after a thrilling Saturday that saw Ineos Team UK through to the final, an interesting video has emerged from official channels of THAT cross on the final run to the finish. I knew already but I know for certain now that I don’t have the skill, judgement or guts of these guys. I suspect you don’t either.
With a closing speed that has to be somewhere like 80 knots and with an aggressive, fired-up, protest-ready Luna Rossa fighting for its life, it’s probably one of the gutsiest calls I have ever seen in sailing. On review, you have to think that the Brits got away with this one.
If the organisers, safe in the knowledge that neither boat would race on Sunday if Ineos won, had any agenda to the media broadcast companies or event organisers then this was the time to flag a foul. Thankfully they didn’t but I’d be interested to see the data that the umpires used to make this call as I’m sure Jimmy Spithill would. Breathtaking stuff.
The Italians now have a tricky week ahead of them and the messages coming back are that they are going to stick with the dual helm system and trust in the programme. It’s high stakes gambling as American Magic, with their tails up could be a tough battle. For sure the Americans will mode the boat for the lighter conditions expected this weekend but in anything other than displacement mode, Patriot looked rapid on all points of sail. Luna Rossa has definitely improved from the last time they faced down Magic but remember just how far ahead the Americans were before they capsized. Prada has it all on to stay in this competition.
It’s high-stakes this coming weekend. One boat will be on the pathway home. A nation’s dreams will be shattered and millions of dollars spent will all be for nothing.
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