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Mega AC40 competition in cyberspace

By Magnus Wheatley

For many of the sailors in the UniCredit Youth America’s Cup and the inaugural Puig Women’s America’s Cup, their first taste of what to expect has been found on the team simulators that are dotted all over the globe. We have heard rumours of private races being taken “before breakfast” and “after dinner” between some of the antipodean teams whilst in the northern hemisphere unofficial leagues are forming.

However, over the past two days, America’s Cup Events invited all the available teams to come and compete in a more structured environment with virtual racing planned and laid on with course setting from none other than Ray Davies, coach of Emirates Team New Zealand and Performance Engineer Elise Beavis working with the tech guys to help insure it all ran efficiently on the night managing and recording races so that Chief Umpire of the Louis Vuitton 37th America’s Cup, Richard Slater could remotely review video after racing and advise on infringements and penalties. It’s been fast, furious and highly competitive and a real taster of what we can expect from the teams when the on-water racing starts in September and October 2024 in Barcelona.

The six teams that accepted the challenge were: Emirates Team New Zealand, JAJO DutchSail, Team Australia Challenge, AC Team Germany, Swedish Challenge and NYYC American Magic and over the two days, a total of 12 races were conducted with a variety of outcomes and everyone making big improvements when put under pressure.

On the first day (Thursday 6th), it was Emirates Team New Zealand who clearly won the day, racking up three first places and staying consistent throughout. Other race wins were taken by JAJO DutchSail, Team Australia Challenge and AC Team Germany and the points aside from the Kiwis were really tightly packed.

Day two (Friday 7th) was all to play for but Emirates Team New Zealand looked imperious, scoring the first two wins of the day before a brilliant fight-back from JAJO Dutch Sail in races three and four where they took both bullets. However, what was interesting was NYYC American Magic who just stayed ultra consistent, locking in podium places for the first four races before realising their potential and winning race 5 in stunning fashion. Team Australia Challenge came back strong and won the last race but a couple of fifth places pushed them down the overall standings. Emirates Team New Zealand scored a DNF in race four so would have been dependent on discard to top the rankings.

After racing on Friday, Ray Davies sent a note of encouragement to all the teams saying: “Definitely a number of infringements, so it will again be great to have Richard Slater’s comments on these. There were also some great avoiding moments, so well done. Let’s keep this up, we will hopefully have some good feedback from the umpires.”

Great racing, and wonderful camaraderie between the teams. Ray Davies spoke afterwards saying: “This was a valuable bit of training for all the sailors and the more pressure situations they can find themselves in, albeit in a virtual world, the better the outcome when they start racing the AC40s for real. I was impressed by the competitiveness all across the fleet and the learning curve keeps on being climbed. Terrific to see and very positive for the summer in Barcelona.”

Following the success of this series, ACE will be looking to organise more racing in the near future and bring the rest of the teams into the competition.