Toulon Race Day One: Poised On A Knife Edge
The results of the first day of racing at the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series Toulon, the penultimate round of the series before Bermuda 2017, leaves the overall leaderboard closer than ever, with everything to play for across the whole pack on Sunday.
ORACLE TEAM USA and Land Rover BAR are now tied on the same points heading into Sunday, but it is Artemis Racing who really basked in the Mediterranean sunshine on Saturday, taking two first places and a third to dominate the first day of racing, held in light winds.
In race one Softbank Team Japan were first over the line and held their lead down to the first mark with Emirates Team New Zealand breathing down their necks. At that point ORACLE TEAM USA were in fifth, but the American boat fought its way back up to second by the third mark, just behind Artemis Racing who really were mastering the conditions. At the finish line the Swedish boat took their first spoils of the weekend, Emirates Team New Zealand were second, ORACLE TEAM USA third, Groupama Team France fourth and Softbank Team Japan and Land Rover BAR fifth and sixth respectively.
Race two started with Groupama Team France crossing the line fractionally early for the second race in a row, incurring a penalty that sent groans singing out across the home fans, but it was Artemis Racing who picked up where they left off in race one and who were first around mark one. On the leg two run the Swedes extended their lead over Emirates Team New Zealand and Softbank Team Japan, with Land Rover BAR just ahead of ORACLE TEAM USA, but Groupama Team France fought back hard and clawed their way back into contention after serving their startline penalty. At gate two the French team were just one second ahead of Softbank Team Japan and the British and American teams who were fighting it out for fifth and sixth.
Around gate three it was still Nathan Outteridge’s crew ahead, but the Kiwis were pushing them all the way to the finish line but finally, again, Artemis Racing were victorious for the second time on Saturday. Emirates Team New Zealand were second, Groupama Team France third, Softbank Team Japan fourth and ORACLE TEAM USA fifth. Land Rover BAR brought up the rear, looking like they were struggling to come to terms with the vagaries of light winds and the Toulon waters.
Race three capped off a very tense afternoon of racing and, yet again, Artemis Racing were at the sharp end of the pack at the start. However, in the final race of the day, Ben Ainslie’s Land Rover BAR had finally pushed themselves up into contention in the opening stages of the race, with ORACLE TEAM USA also making amends for their race two result, and as they rounded the first mark, the Americans headed off on their own to find wind, and that move paid off, putting clear air between themselves and Groupama Team France who were starting to show consistency on home waters.
Artemis Racing dropped back through the pack and found themselves in a fight for third and fourth with Land Rover BAR, but on leg three the British team found good wind and moved up into first place, ahead of their old foes on ORACLE TEAM USA.
Demonstrating perfectly the utterly unpredictable nature of America’s Cup racing in the modern era, the British team went from last to first in just two races, and ended the final race of Saturday first, but Groupama Team France raised French hopes for a Super Sunday as they finished second, mere metres behind their British rivals who finally made up for their last place finishes in races one and two.
Selected Team Quotes:
Nathan Outteridge, Skipper, Artemis Racing: “Good day on the water for us today. We started well and we were strong when we needed to fight back and it’s great to have such a good crew who are working seamlessly around you, it makes my life much easier.
“Even though I was away for the last round, we spent a lot of time going through how we communicate on board, and today was the perfect example of how we’ve developed a system to make sure we make good decisions. It makes it much easier to come straight back into the team without any issues, and today shows how well we are working. In every pre-start Perc (Iain Percy) was talking clearly about time to burn, who were the danger boats, picking the right marks around the whole course, and all of that made my life so much easier, and it’s clear from the results today how well we’re working.
“However, Saturday is now done. Tomorrow it’s double points, there’s all to play for and we will improve where we can, aiming to perform even better than today.”
Franck Cammas, Skipper, Groupama Team France: “Overall I think it was a good day. We did three races, in light winds, and the forecast this morning was not so good, so to have done the program today, for the public, that is very good.
“On our boat we are good in light winds, so I think our performance was ok. We had two bad starts, two penalties, and I think that was partly because we wanted to put on a good show for the public. We went just a tiny bit too early, but we fought back and in the end it was not a bad day. We are in second here at home, we have a great crowd supporting us, and hopefully we have more wind tomorrow and even better racing.”
Ray Davies, Tactician, Emirates Team New Zealand: “Pretty good day of racing. Conditions were very light and testing but we had a couple of good races to begin with, then a wobbly third race when we got the wrong side of quite a big shift, and then we came back nicely. Overall we’re third and that means we are in good shape for Super Sunday when it’s obviously double points.
“It’s great to have Peter and Blair back on the boat, they’re very cool customers in those conditions and they know when to be sensible and when to take risks as well – they’re on the same wavelength and that means we have really good chemistry on board across the whole boat.”
Tom Slingsby, Helmsman, ORACLE TEAM USA: “Anytime you come out of a day like today with a gain, you have to feel fortunate. It was very tricky, a game of snakes and ladders.
“I think we probably sailed better than our results would indicate, and I don’t say that lightly. Everyone has some bad luck on a day like today, but there were times when we needed maybe a couple of meters to cross someone but we couldn’t find it and lost four places as a result. That seemed to happen more than luck would indicate, but the main thing is it’s all to play for tomorrow with the double points.”
Sir Ben Ainslie, Skipper, Land Rover BAR: “We’re not very happy with today, it certainly wasn’t our finest day in the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series. We had two terrible races in the first two which was a little bit unwanted, we really struggled to get into our stride but the good thing was that we managed to turn that around in the last race so from a very bad start we managed to end up with a good finish.
“The conditions were very difficult out there, the wind was very light, shifty and changeable, and for Giles (Scott) and me, it was the first time we were sailing back together for a long time and it took us a couple of races to get into our stride, in terms of the communication. However, we worked it out and got it all back together for the final race.”
Chris Draper, Wing Trimmer, Softbank Team Japan: “That was a tough day. We didn’t sail well downwind and it was a really flukey, shifty day so it was pretty hard for everybody, but we made it a little tougher than it should have been for ourselves. We are better than the performance we put in today, but sometimes, that’s the way the cookie crumbles. Despite that, hopefully we’ll have better wind tomorrow and we can take advantage of the double points tomorrow. That gives you room to make up for days like today and with the scores still being close, there’s everything to play for tomorrow.”
Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series Toulon Leaderboard – Day One:
Position – Team – (Race Finish Positions) – Total Points
1. Artemis Racing (1, 1, 3) – 28 points
2. Groupama Team France (4, 3, 2)– 24 points
3. Emirates Team New Zealand (2, 2, 6) – 23 points
4. ORACLE TEAM USA (3, 5, 4) – 21 points
5. Land Rover BAR (6, 6, 1) – 20 points
6. SoftBank Team Japan (5, 4, 5) – 19 points
Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series Overall Leaderboard
1. Land Rover BAR – 387 points
2. ORACLE TEAM USA – 387 points
3. Emirates Team New Zealand – 380 points
4. SoftBank Team Japan – 347 points
5. Artemis Racing – 343 points
6. Groupama Team France – 316 points