AC45s Take on Cascais

The opening two days of the first-ever World Series racing in the 34th America's Cup gave spectators in Cascais, Portugal, plenty of brilliant views of the lightning-quick AC45s. Here, SAIL brings the racing (and some of the shots) to you.

The weekend offered racing at both ends of the spectrum: Saturday dawned grim and cloudy, with conditions that normally would be deemed too light for racing. The first race was abandoned, but the nine AC45s showed off their power in three subsequent races, all sailing in 5 knots of wind or lighter. Sunday featured a return to typical Cascais weather: sunny and windy. Perfect conditions to close out the opening weekend of racing.

ORACLE Racing Spithill snagged two wins of the three initial races, finishing Day One six points behind Emirates Team New Zealand. During the first race, ORACLE Racing Spithill demonstrated that with new events come new bugs to be worked out: “We had a problem with the (race communications) system,” said Spithill. “We were outside of the boundary with 2 minutes to go but our screens were blank. The screens came back on after we went around the first mark and obviously it said, ‘You’re disqualified.’ I was like, really?"

Artemis Racing won the first race Saturday and finished the day in second place overall. Skipper Terry Hutchinson noted the tricky conditions and said he was glad to be racing in multihulls: “Otherwise we wouldn’t have gotten the racing in! The guys did a good job working together and picking the right sides of the course." Repeating his mantra, Hutchinson reminded his crew that the big finish is still 24 months away.

Emirates Team New Zealand finished out the weekend with the good kind of first—first place—and the not-so-good. Bowman Winston MacFarlane was the first official man overboard in the series, after he lost his balance when the winch handle he was grinding snapped. MacFarlane managed to swim out of the paths of the other AC45s to his team's chase boat. “I left the guys in a tough position. It’s tough enough sailing these boats with five guys, so it was going to be hard for them to defend the lead with four guys,” he said. Sure enough, ORACLE Racing Coutts pulled ahead to win the race. Still, MacFarlane harbored no hard feelings from the team. He's the first man overboard, but probably not the last. “I think it’s going to happen quite a bit,” he said.

On board ORACLE Racing Coutts, skipper Russell Coutts said he and his team won't be doing much resting in the next few days. Instead, they'll be working with New Zealander Daniel Fong, who has been called up to replace headsail trimmer Simon Daubney. During the final practice for the series last Friday, Daubney, broke his hand, which is always a risk when working constantly loaded ropes. The injury is expected to take several weeks to heal. Still, the come-from-behind win Sunday put ORACLE Racing Coutts in second overall, suggesting a few days practice will have Daubney caught up in no time.

For more information on the America's Cup World series, click here.

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