Land Rover BAR dominated today’s opening races of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series in Oman.
The British challenger coped best in the light winds, reeling off two first place finishes and a third to grasp the early lead of the six-race regatta.
Sir Ben Ainslie’s team were hit with a penalty after going over the start line early in the first race, but shrugged it off to finish third.
Apart from an hour glass in their genneker approaching the weather mark for the last time in the second race, it was virtually smooth sailing the rest of the way for Land Rover BAR, who won the second and third races convincingly to stamp their authority on the regatta.
Still, Ainslie said life had been anything but easy in the light winds.
“These conditions make it very challenging for everyone on board,” he said. “You need a decent start and to go the right way, so it’s tough on the tacticians. And then the big Code Zero headsails make for hard work for everyone else. It’s a big day for the team.”
Oracle Team USA, with two seconds and a fifth, and overall World Series leaders Emirates Team New Zealand, with a first, a fourth and a sixth, hold onto second and third heading into tomorrow’s races.
The Kiwis won the first race, taking the lead at the first mark after nearest rivals Artemis Racing were hit with the first of two penalties.
Oracle, the America’s Cup defender, led the fleet in the third race on the last beat, but surrendered their advantage to BAR after splitting gates with Ainslie’s team, who put further distance between themselves and the chasing pack on the run to the finish line.
Despite the light air, which kept the AC45F racing fleet off of their foils, racing was close with huge gains or losses to be made on each manoeuvre.
Even so Dean Barker, the SoftBank Team Japan skipper, found himself in familiar territory. His team flashed some brilliance, but couldn’t hold on through a full race for a strong finish.
“I’m happy with the improvements we’re making,” he said. “We can see that we’re getting better. The last one was frustrating. It was looking so good for a while. But one mistake can be so costly. We’re just making little errors and in this fleet you get punished for it.”
Racing continues tomorrow with three more races, when the points on offer will be doubled.
Land Rover BAR — 8, 10, 10 — 28 points
ORACLE TEAM USA — 9, 6, 9 — 24 points
Emirates Team NZ — 10, 7, 5 — 22 points
SoftBank Team Japan — 6, 9, 6 — 21 points
Artemis Racing — 7, 5, 8- 20 points
Groupama Team France — 5, 8, 7 — 20 points