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 2nd, ORACLE TEAM USA 3rd, Groupama Team France 4th and Softbank Team Japan and Land Rover BAR 5th and 6th 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 2nd, Groupama Team France 3rd, Softbank Team Japan 4th and ORACLE TEAM USA 5th. 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.
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. 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 are in second here at home, we have a great crowd supporting us, and hopefully we have more wind tomorrow and even better racing.”
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.”
Watch the races LIVE , Sunday September 11th, on the official Facebook page
Keep up with the results here.