1 Dec 2023

Team NZ snare two wins to lead Saudi Arabia regatta

6:11 am on 1 December 2023
Team New Zealand's Te Kakahi in the waters off Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Team New Zealand's Te Kakahi in the waters off Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Photo: Photosport

Team New Zealand has made a bright start to the America's Cup preliminary regatta in Saudi Arabia, winning two of the three fleet races on the opening day.

The Peter Burling-skippered New Zealand crew impressed in pre-start line manoeuvres in each of the first two races off Jeddah and that proved decisive as they sailed away to win both.

They were strongly in contention in the third race before a mistake saw them drop off their foils and struggle to regain flight, dropping to fifth, well behind winners Luna Rossa.

The glassy conditions meant starts were critical, with all six crews sailing identical AC 40 boats - smaller than the AC75s which will be employed at next year's America's Cup regatta in Barcelona.

Burling said his team still had to work hard in their front-running position in races one and two.

"It was a tricky day, we had to sail the boat incredibly accurately to remain on the foils," he said.

"Everything is a lot easier when you can do things on your own terms and are not tied up by other boats or being dictated to by other beats around you.

"The final race was disappointing, but obviously we are happy to be up the top of the leader board. In saying that, a four-point lead is not a big lead, especially with the way the points work in relation to placings. So, we need to keep minimising mistakes more than anyone else.

"It looks like we have more breeze for the next couple of days, so that will change the dynamics a bit, so the racing will be a lot livelier that's for sure."

Team New Zealand picked up 22 points on day one, followed by Luna Rossa (18), Alinghi Red Bull Racing and Ineos Britannia (both 15), Orient Express Racing team (11) and NYYC American Magic (1).

The poor return of the American syndicate - who were disqualified in two of the three races - was surprising, after they won the first preliminary regatta in Spain in September.

The Saudi Arabia event is the second of three preliminary regattas ahead of New Zealand's defence of the Auld Mug next year.

There will be three more fleet races on Friday night (NZT) and two more on Saturday before head-to-head match racing to round out the regatta.