Image: Land Rover BAR / Harry KH

Strong winds in Bermuda meant day one of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers and the Official Opening Ceremony of the 35th America’s Cup were postponed for a day.

Forecasts indicated winds over 30 knots during the afternoon and evening, so with the safety of the sailors and spectators as the key priority it was decided to delay the opening day’s events. The four races scheduled to take place on 26 May were added to the race schedules for the subsequent days and the Official Opening Ceremony, featuring Grammy Award winning entertainer Wyclef Jean, took place the following day.

Sir Russell Coutts, CEO of the ACEA, said: “We are obviously disappointed that the strong winds mean we have had to postpone day one of the 35th America’s Cup. This is clearly a decision we have not taken lightly and appreciate the inconvenience caused to the sellout crowd. Our primary concern however, is always safety for everyone involved in the America’s Cup.”

Ahead of the event Sir Ben Ainslie, Team Principal and Skipper for Land Rover BAR, said: “This is one of the most difficult of all sporting challenges. The only major international trophy Britain has never won, we want to make Britain proud.”

On day one of racing, after a first race victory for Land Rover BAR against the pre-regatta in-form boat, Artemis Racing, drama was to follow for the British team. With Land Rover BAR and SoftBank Team Japan both looking for the advantage going into the start box, the two boats collided at speed, resulting in a penalty being given to the British. Damage was sustained to both boats, with Sir Ben’s boat taking on water after the incident.

Sir Ben said: “The boat is pretty badly damaged, with a sizeable hole in the port hull. It was a great effort by the team to get the boat around the course in the state that it was in. We were better off foiling with the hull out of the water, and we tried to keep the boat on the foils right into the harbour.”
SoftBank Team Japan went on to beat Land Rover BAR in that race.

On day two of racing there was an intriguing battle between former teammates Jimmy Spithill and Sir Ben Ainslie as ORACLE TEAM USA sealed a third successive win by beating Land Rover BAR.
It was the British team who started the stronger. Seizing the advantage out of the start box, they stayed ahead of their rivals until gate three when a big nosedive after the turn proved the decisive moment of the race, allowing ORACLE TEAM USA to seizing the advantage.

Another defeat was to follow when Emirates Team New Zealand again demonstrated their speed, as they sealed a second successive victory on the day, brushing aside Land Rover BAR in devastating fashion.

Land Rover BAR helmsman Sir Ben Ainslie praised his shore team for getting Rita to the start line after their collision with SoftBank Team Japan on the opening day.

“It was an incredible effort from the shore team who worked tirelessly through the night to repair the damage,” said Ainslie.

Day three saw Land Rover BAR continue to struggle for form. By the end of the day Sir Ben Ainslie’s team had only won one race out of five in the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers.

While ORACLE TEAM USA and Emirates Team New Zealand top the leaderboard, this round concludes on 3 June. Sir Ben and his Land Rover BAR team will need their fortunes to change if they are to keep the hope of bringing the Cup home alive.

The four Challengers with the most points advance to the next round. As the top two teams from the 2015-16 America’s Cup World Series, Land Rover BAR and Oracle Team USA gained an advantage of 2 points and 1 point respectively going into the AC Qualifiers.

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