America's Cup: magic playbook, get ahead. Stay ahead

America's Cup: magic playbook, get ahead. Stay ahead

America's Cup: magic playbook, get ahead. Stay ahead


04/04/2024 - 15:59

If proof were ever needed that the key to winning America’s Cup match-races is to get ahead at the pre-start and then hold position off the line, then NYYC American Magic proffered adequate evidence on a marginal day in Barcelona where positioning was more than everything. Flat water and a miserly 5-8 knots that clocked and faded before building again was the reward for an American team that places huge value in time-on-the-water.

A late morning dock-out gave the breeze every chance of building but just three tacks into the first hour of sailing and the wind died off completely, the two AC40s fell of the foils, and the waiting began. An hour of in-jokes and banter onboard (we presume) before the call was made to start stint two as both boats, having started on J2 jibs switched down to the J1’s. This didn’t last long for ‘America’ as a broken jib clew cleat meant a switch to the ever-so-slightly smaller J1.5 and an obvious horsepower disadvantage.

However, positioning is everything and what Paul Goodison and Tom Slingsby are super-aggressive at is time-on-distance and lead-back positions to the start-line. On a series of naturally close engagements, over the two starts, it was Slingsby in the starboard pod nailing it and putting ‘America’ into the control position even without desperately close covering. Masterclass stuff that Lucas Calabrese and Harry Melges certainly had answers for but couldn’t convert. Upwind on short legs the crosses were close but the day was really a sighter for the pre-start playbook.

Perhaps the big take-away in the light conditions was that port entry was no barrier to success. Paul Goodison was leading over the line to make the cross, dial deep and then head up high into the top right corner before making the call to bear away and lead back in with Tom Slingsby on the wheel. The ducks were good, and in the marginal conditions it was the gambler coming out to head high right immediately and force the first proper manoeuvre on the other boat where the chances of a splash-down were high. In the light, it’s a ruthless game.

Speaking afterwards, America’s Cup legend and Performance Coach for NYYC American Magic, Sean Clarkson summed up the day saying: “It was a good day we were primarily focused on pre-starts, it was a funny forecast but we maximised it, got out there with a little bit of sailing before the breeze died, we waited a little bit, more sailing but yeah it was good, obviously a short day of sailing but it’s still winter time here in Barcelona so we got to grab what we can, we’ve been pretty luck so far, so we’ll take it.”

Sean, now into his seventh Cup campaign having started with NZL-20 back in 1992 and then on to AmericaOne (2000), Prada Challenge (2003), BMW Oracle Racing (2007), Artemis Racing (2013) and American Magic (2021) is no stranger to the business-end of the America’s Cup cycle. With the new boats coming on-site, his enthusiasm for the competition burns brightly as he said: “It’s pretty exciting. It’s the most exciting time so it's going to be really cool to see how everyone’s gone on from the last campaign, and read the new rules, and the wave state and the sea-state here, and what everyone’s thoughts are, so it's pretty exciting. We're looking forward to it and I'm excited to see what everyone’s come out with, we’ll see.”

NYYC American Magic have one more day planned this week according to the schedule and for sure, they will take every and any chance to keep on clocking up those hours on the water, whatever the sea state. Exemplary team, pushing hard.

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