America’s Cup 2021: Dylan Cleaver – What we know after first day of World Series

OPINION:

The sun was out, the breeze was blowing, the mainsails were straining and the waters of the Waitematā came alive.

The America’s Cup congress might not officially start for another 79 days but sport’s longest act of foreplay has begun.

It started in front of appreciative voyeurs in boats on the edge of the unromantically named Course C, at the village at the Viaduct, at vantage points like North Head and even those plonked in front of free-to-air telly.

We’re only at the hand-holding stage of this regatta – and truth be told we had just one race that could be called a contest – but it was nice.

The art of the pre-season is an increasingly important part of high-performance sport.
No longer seen as a chance of working off a bit of off-season flab, the pre-season is now the key data-collection point for the team’s leadership group.

This applies to sports with close to 100 per cent human-performance inputs, but when it involves massive amounts of hi-tech hard- and software, it is a pivotal part of preparation.

These few days on the gulf are the pre-season.

The results are not important but they’re not irrelevant either. These machines that they’re on are finely tuned. They can’t be half-raced. The telemetry they collect is vital.

So what broad-brush strokes of knowledge can the layman be confident about after one day of racing?

American Magic and Team New Zealand appear much further ahead in their development and performance curves than Luna Rossa and Ineos Team UK.

We know that Sir Ben Ainslie and his team have a lot of work to do. As impressive as American Magic were, Team UK were dismal. “I’ve had better days,” Ainslie said, “but this is the America’s Cup.”

We learned that these boats are not a retrograde step from Bermuda, as was once feared when monohulls were chosen over catamarans.

These boats are constantly on the edge and mistakes are fiendishly hard to recover from (Team NZ were the only crew to fight back from a deficit, but still lost).

Finally, the courses have the ability to show Auckland in a spectacularly good light.

You suspect, too, that it was important for Team NZ to lose early. After they dismantled Luna Rossa in the first race, six-time world champion Australian sailor Nathan Outteridge bluntly asked Peter Burling why his team was so much faster than anybody else.

Burling wasn’t playing ball, crediting a wind shift for the victory and adding: “We’re just sailing around trying to connect the dots.”

Which is the perfect way to put it. In the final race of the day, there was an obvious disconnect between the dots. Team NZ splashed down; Dean Barker had their measure.

The long dance has begun.

Enjoy smooth sailing to the Cup with Auckland Transport

• Avoid traffic congestion and parking niggles and download the AT Mobile app to plot your bus, train or ferry ride to race venues before you leave home.

• Make sure your AT Hop card is in your pocket. It’s the best way to ride to the Cup

• For more ways to enjoy race day, visit at.govt.nz/americascup

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