It was a clean sweep for all three winners in the first round of the America’s Cup World Series match races as Ben Ainslie Racing and both Luna Rossa teams — Swordfish and Piranha — came away with 2-0 victories to advance to the quarterfinals.
Ainslie Racing had the tightest races in its matchup with Team Korea, a pair of nail-biting victories that left Ainslie a bit dazed as he makes the transition from winning Olympic gold in London as a solo racer on a dinghy to working with a team on a catamaran, a transition he compared to going “from a go-kart to an Indy car.”
“It was a bit of a blur, to be honest,” Ainslie said. “The racing is so fast when the wind’s up a bit like it was today. It’s just full on for the guys on the team there. The whole way around they’re just maxed out doing maneuvers getting sails up and down, so as the helmsman, I’m the only one who has any time to look around and make some decisions.”
The race was not without controversy, however, as Team Korea skipper Nathan Outteridge was left scratching his head over penalties that left his team at a disadvantage.
“In the second race, we seemed to get penalties for no apparent reason,” he said. “Apparently, it was for some boat-on-boat incident that happened before the start. … It’s happened to us twice now in match races where the umpires are making bad calls and it’s hurting us. To be frank, we’re sick of it.”
Outteridge said he hopes to talk to the umpires today to find out where his team went wrong, though Ainslie said he thought things worked out fine.
“We were surprised that they were still in the lead at the first mark,” Ainslie said. “And I guess that finally got resolved by the umpire, so I think it was probably fair in the end.”
Paul Campbell-James, whose Luna Rossa Swordfish team cruised to an easy victory over Team China, said the conditions Wednesday were ideal for the race.
“It was a bit more mild than the rest of the week, which came as a nice surprise,” he said. “It was lovely. ... Another perfect day sailing in San Fran.”
Luna Rossa Swordfish will face Artemis Racing White today in the quarterfinals, while Luna Rossa Piranha will match up with Oracle Team USA Spithill. The other two quarterfinals will take place Friday, with Ben Ainslie Racing matched up with Emirates Team New Zealand and Energy Team going against Oracle Team USA Coutts.
Fleet racing, with all 11 boats in the water, will also begin today.