American Magic loses to Team UK in AmCup challenger series

Everything went to plan for American Magic on Friday on the first day of the America’s Cup challenger series at Auckland, New Zealand.

The problem was the plan itself.

The New York Yacht Club-backed U.S. team lost by 1 minute, 20 seconds to INEOS Team UK in the opening race of the series as the British team pulled off a remarkable form reversal after previously struggling with technical issues. Team UK lost all six races in the pre-Christmas America’s Cup World Series and its form improvement on Friday took all observers by surprise.

American Magic was the first of two teams to experience that form reversal and Team UK went on to beat Italy’s Luna Rossa by 28 seconds later in the day.

Skipper of the United States team Terry Hutchinson put the loss down to a tactical error.

“We’ve been debriefing the race for the last bit and the disappointing part was that we kinda did what we wanted to do and it was wrong,” Hutchinson said. “I think that’s a little bit of yachting racing, that’s sport and obviously INEOS, they set up a great day all the way round.

“From our perspective, we gave up a little bit at the end of the first leg by choosing left gate over right gate and they made a bit jump there and, with the width of the racecourse, if you get two wind shifts behind it’s going to be hard to grind them down."

The impression of the day was that Team UK had not only improved but transformed their yacht Britannia in the few weeks between the World Series and the start of the challengers series for the Prada Cup.

Before Christmas, Team UK had barely been able to get around the race course, especially in light winds as Britannia stubbornly refused to rise up on its foils.

On Friday, Britannia all but flew around the course, helped by a flawless sailing performance from its crew and tactical effort by skipper Ben Ainslee and tactician Giles Scott.

“We went off the start line with INEOS to windward and we stretched out in front of them with a little bit of a left shift,” Hutchinson said. “We tacked and everything was going OK for probably the first minute, then they picked up a bit of pressure, maybe got a little bit more left-hand shift to leeward off us and they came around our bow.

“One thing you know for certain is that the boat in more wind is going to go faster and I think that was on display.”

American Magic will race twice on Saturday against Luna Rossa, then again against Team UK.

Teams race each other four times in the series which runs until Feb. 22 before semifinals and a final will find the challenger which will race Team New Zealand in the 36th America’s Cup match in March.


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