The Italians give the blow after an impeccable start by the Kiwis

The first day of the race dawned in Yida with hardly any wind and the Red Sea like a raft.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
29 November 2023 Wednesday 21:30
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The Italians give the blow after an impeccable start by the Kiwis

The first day of the race dawned in Yida with hardly any wind and the Red Sea like a raft. Fortunately, the worst omens have faded as the morning progressed and a slight west wind arose, but so light that at noon it still did not reach the eight knots necessary for the AC40s to emerge and fly over the water. The suffering, due to time, ended minutes before the start of the first regatta, with three races. In the first and second, New Zealand has made the difference from start to finish with two clear victories. However, in the third, the Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, gave the surprise by crossing the finish line alone.

“We are very happy, we gave everything until the last moment, it was difficult but we fought until the end… Today is just the beginning, we are going to concentrate test by test and we hope to do better in the coming days,” said Marco Gradoni, after win the third race, still aboard the AC40.

The 19-year-old skipper of the Italian boat - the youngest winner (in 2019) of the award for the best sailor in the world - had warned that they were coming to Saudi Arabia to have a good time and they did. Two and a half minutes after the Italians, the Orient Express entered and in third place, almost four minutes away, the Swiss with the Alinghi Red Bull Racing.

The Italians' impeccable third round places them, with 18 points, in second place in the general classification. In the lead, Emirates Team New Zealand with 22 points. In third position are the British and Swiss tied with 15 points each and in fourth place are the French. For the United States, a dark day: they were disqualified shortly after starting the first round and also in the third and they have entered last in the second, so they get only one point (in each round the first adds 10 points; the second, 7; the third classified, 5; the fourth, 3; the fifth, 2 points and the last, 1).

In the first race, Emirates Team New Zealand stood out not only for the start, but also for the execution and control of the boat that it exhibited at all times, keeping the AC40 at an ideal distance from the sea to accentuate the aerodynamic dynamism and win speed. Thus, the Kiwis covered the first race in 20 minutes and ten seconds, one minute faster than the second placed, Ineos Britannia. Five minutes and ten seconds later the Italians finished, followed by the Swiss and the French.

In the second race, and with a happier wind, those from New Zealand came out first again and maintained their position, although with fewer differences. The Swiss and the British have fought for second place throughout the race, in which the Kiwis have reached speeds of over 30 knots (just over 55 km/h). Finally, the Swiss came in second place and the British came in third, followed by the Italians, the French and the NYYC American Magic. “It has been a difficult day, we have trained much more with the AC75 than with the AC40; We are going to analyze today's day and learn,” said Riley Gibbs.

The surprise came in the third and final race, in which Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli rose firmly and maintained the position first against Emirates Team New Zealand and then with the French. In the fourth section (there are six in each round), an error has left the Kiwis out of play, who have been completely slowed down and have finished in last position. “We had done a very good first and second race, as we had planned and perhaps we were being too aggressive and a mistake is very expensive,” acknowledged the skipper of the New Zealand team, Peter Burling. They have not been the only ones to have problems, the rest have also slowed down sharply, leaving the Italians alone.