America’s Cup defenders TNZ race alone as challengers stay on land
WELLINGTON (Reuters) – America’s Cup holders Team New Zealand (TNZ) were hoping to get some much-needed match racing under their belts on Friday but were left to race alone after the three challenging syndicates withdrew from the official practice sessions.
All four yachts have had a number of practice sessions this week to allow officials to test their systems ahead of a pre-Christmas regatta next week.
The sessions involved the high-speed AC75 foiling monohulls going head to head in the start areas and completing upwind and downwind legs of the race courses.
The holders, however, were the only team to head out onto the Hauraki Gulf on Friday with Britain’s Team INEOS UK, American Magic and Italian team Luna Rossa all choosing to remain onshore.
The British team have not been sighted on the water since Tuesday when they suffered some mast damage and had to be towed back to their base without officially starting any racing.
American Magic also missed Thursday’s session while the Italians said they had done enough this week.
“The guys are all super tired after we had a really long session yesterday,” a Luna Rossa spokesperson told the New Zealand Herald on Friday.
“They’ve just had enough (practice). We won’t be going out over the weekend either. Nothing before Monday.”
Yachting commentators have said TNZ had the best of this week’s sessions, demonstrating superior straight line speed and better handling and team work in the start box.
American Magic’s team under New Zealand-helmsman Dean Barker, however, looked confident in their handling of their yacht, while Luna Rossa looked strong heading upwind.
The pre-Christmas regatta, which starts on Dec. 17, is the only opportunity TNZ have to test themselves against their rivals.
The challenger series runs from Jan. 15-Feb 22 before the winner takes on TNZ for the America’s Cup from March 6.
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Peter Rutherford)
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