Today was the first day of the Challenger Playoff Final featuring Artemis of Sweden against ETNZ of New Zealand. This event used to be known as the Louis Vuitton Cup. Three races were held in a building breeze that started out at 7 knots and finished up around 12 knots from the southwest.
Artemis had their light air foils on and ETNZ had moderate foils with and extra long tip to gain a bit of surface. The difference there for the Kiwi’s would be sectional shape probably…a bit thinner section for higher potential maximum speed but harder to produce lift at slow speed like out of a tack. While the board itself must be chosen very early each morning, the teams can change 10% of the weight or volume of the foil up to about 2 hours prior to the start. So total area can be adjusted late but the section shape of the main part of the board would be determined much earlier by the actual boat choice. In this way there can be subtle differences to arrive at the same lift producing foil.
The highlights: ETNZ won 2 races while Artemis won 1. Artemis won every start. Once ETNZ was ahead, they stretched gradually. When Artemis was ahead, they match raced well to keep the faster boat behind as long as possible. In race 2, this worked. In races 1 and 3, the Kiwi’s were just too fast. If ENTZ wins 2 out of 3 races when losing every start, it wont be pretty if they start to win the starts.
Race 1: 7-9 knots of wind. The largest headsails were used on both boats. Artemis wins the start and holds lead to first bottom gate. Up first windward leg, Kiwi’s tack better despite more high speed boards. Is this a function of more oil being available due to the bikes being more efficient than arm grinding? On a long starboard, Artemis tries to tack on Kiwi’s but they gap off to windward and hold Artemis to boundary. Near the boundary, the Kiwi’s to windward, tack away first. Artemis sails on and out of bounds! Self inflicted! Penalty to the Swedes, and with the Kiwi’s now ahead they gradually stretch over next three legs. Kiwi’s win race 1.
Race 2: 10-12 knots. Both teams change to medium jibs. Artemis starts to leeward and in control. The Kiwi’s are going slightly faster to windward but a bit too close to Artemis who luff the Kiwi’s to slow their progress. Perfectly executed, Artemis stretches out to 3 boat length lead at Mark 1. Artemis does great job of controlling race and the Kiwi’s never create a split. Artemis tacks on the Kiwi’s on port tack near the top of leg 5 and stretch. The Swedes take this one to even the score. It looks like the two boats are even enough that Artemis can win if they win the start and sail perfectly.
Race 3: Artemis wins start again and controls race for lap 1. At bottom of leg 4, Artemis stuffs bows in hard and slows quite a bit. The Kiwi’s close to 60 meters and split, rounding the opposite mark at gate. First couple of crosses are close but Swedes still maintain lead. Near top of leg 5, Kiwi’s tack to port to lay right hand gate mark and Swedes follow. Nathan Outteridge, helmsman of Artemis slips when crossing the boat and falls off. There is a bit of confusion onboard Artemis as they figure out who should steer. Finally Luke Patience steers and it is obvious that controlling the boat is going to be tough. This could be because as they had one less man onboard they were therefore short of oil pressure to control the boards. Artemis retire. Kiwi’s go up 2-1.
This looks like it will be a great series. I think the Kiwi’s need to use this series to work on their starts and boat on boat tactics. They may make it through this round without winning a start but I don’t think they will beat Oracle without winning starts.