Reaching speeds previously unheard of in America’s Cup racing, Emirates Team New Zealand scored the first point in the Louis Vuitton Cup, the America’s Cup challenger series, when it completed the 16-nautical mile course in 46 minutes, 27 seconds.
The team recorded a top speed of 42.8 knots (just shy of 50 mph) and averaged 20.7 knots.
With wind conditions nearly ideal — 14 to 16 knots with a flood tide and relatively flat water — the team’s AC72 Aotearoa streaked around the course Sunday to officially start the chase for the America’s Cup.
“We actually enjoy it when it’s windier,” said Dean Barker, skipper of the Kiwi team. “Then you really start ripping downwind and can pull off some slick jibes. You never finish a race in one of these boats and think it’s all gone perfect. We made a couple of mistakes today, but it was good to get out and go through the paces.”
Click play to watch footage of the performance.
The winner of the Louis Vuitton Cup will face the defender Oracle Team USA in the America’s Cup finals.
In a twist, Emirates Team New Zealand sailed the seven-leg course unopposed. Luna Rossa Challenge boycotted the race because it is awaiting the results of a protest hearing with the International Jury.
“We are waiting for the International Jury to decide the protest, and then we’ll make a plan,” said Max Sirena, skipper of the Italian team. “We’re here to race. We’ve spent lots of energy and money to do that. It’s our dream and goal to be out there racing.”
The Kiwis filed a similar protest but chose to race because a point was available to the winner, and they wanted to send a show of thanks to supporters.
“We’re a commercially funded team,” Barker said. “It’s important for us as a team, to our sponsors and followers in New Zealand, to get out there and race. We trust that the International Jury will make the correct decision based on the information it’s got. The process is under way. Whether we sail or not isn’t going to influence that.”
The jury heard arguments from all parties and witness testimony Monday. A decision is expected by midweek.