After the hype and speculation dockside, ultimately it was form that shone through as Emirates Team New Zealand put on a dominant masterclass to win all three of the Practice Races in style.
From the very first start, Emirates Team New Zealand were all muscle and power as they led a chasing pack back in on starboard, crossed the line at pace with perfect time-on-distance and then could pretty much sail their own race from there.
Once ahead in all three races, and they had to work hard at times to overcome the challenges of both American Magic and Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli.
The Kiwis led by Peter Burling and Nathan Outteridge had the complete measure of the marginal foiling conditions sub 10 knots.
Ben Ainslie, Skipper of INEOS Britannia was realistic, saying: “Plenty of catching up for us to do and in that light airs stuff it’s all about getting the settings right and it shows the lack of time we’ve had in the boat just how far off we are off these other teams.”
“We’re definitely worried about it, and we spent an extra hour and a half after the racing out there trying to figure it out and the good news is that we can learn from these other teams that are a bit more polished in the boat and try to close the gap – that’s what we’ve got to do.”
Speaking afterwards, Burling was keeping a lid on expectations saying: “Just keeping the boat on the foils today as the wind dropped below 6 knots was key and the guys did a pretty good job going through the puffs and the manoeuvres.”
NYYC American Magic looked rapid in the opening race and quickly established themselves as stand-out challengers to the Kiwis in this regatta, whilst Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli were always there with great starts and consistency through their manoeuvres.
Outside of the top three teams, it was a day of mixed fortunes, flashes of brilliance but ultimately a dawning realisation of the level that the top three teams are performing at.