Team New Zealand's first day of practice racing against Luna
Rossa drew their competitor's spies to the water, with a
close associate of Oracle boss Russell Coutts spotted in a
boat photographing the action.
After using the first half of their 30 sail days primarily
conducting reliability checks and system testing, Emirates
Team New Zealand has ratcheted up its AC72 sailing programme
in recent weeks, focusing on racing and speed development.
With the Italians in Auckland over the summer testing their
AC72 - an identical design to the New Zealand boat - the two
teams have paired up for practice racing.
The progress of the teams is being watched closely by their
competitors, who did little to disguise their presence out on
the water yesterday.
Simon Daubney, who won the America's Cup with Team New
Zealand in 1995 and 2000 and a long-time friend of Coutts,
tracked the racing closely, taking pictures from a chase
boat. Daubney is now a trimmer with Ben Ainslie Racing, but
was wearing an Oracle jacket, leaving little doubt that the
Cup defenders and BAR are one and the same.
Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton said the fact Oracle have
representatives keeping a close eye on the Kiwi team and Luna
Rossa indicates they are nervous about their progress.
"I would be worried if I were them," Dalton said.
"Ultimately if they have a faster boat than us, they'll win.
But if all the boats are a similar speed, which is looking
likely, then it will come down to which team can sail the
boat better, so with all the practice racing we are doing I
think they will be worried."
The Kiwi team have just nine of their 30 allowable sail days
remaining and Dalton said they hope to spend most of those
doing practice racing.
"It's great to finally be racing and testing these boats in
race conditions instead of being by ourselves out there," he
Oracle's presence in Auckland can also be taken as a sign
they are watching the two teams closely to ensure they are
adhering to the rules.
Team New Zealand entered into a rare partnership with Luna
Rossa, selling the Italian team the design for their first
As the strict rules governing the next edition of the Cup
prevent two-boat testing, the two teams are not allowed to
share any performance data as part of their agreement, but
they are allowed to train against one another.
It is expected America's Cup defenders Oracle and Swedish
team Artemis, who are also based in the San Francisco area,
have a similar arrangement where they will hold practice
Dalton said Team New Zealand will also keep a close watch on
their competitors, although at this stage there is little
going on. Artemis are still in the very early stages of
testing their boat, which they launched just over a week ago,
while Oracle remain shore-bound after suffering catastrophic
damage last month, when their AC72 pitch-poled in choppy
conditions on San Francisco Bay.
Oracle's wing sail was destroyed in the accident, and the
team are currently building a new one at their factory in
Warkworth, which they hope to have shipped to the US by
- By Dana Johannsen of the New Zealand Herald