Burling confident ahead of pre-start duel

Peter Burling. Photo: Getty Images
Peter Burling. Photo: Getty Images
If Peter Burling is worried about the upcoming pre-start duels in the America's Cup, he's certainly not showing it.

Luna Rossa excelled in the jousting before the start in the Prada Cup final, often getting the best of Sir Ben Ainslie and Giles Scott.

Their twin helmsman approach has been refined and improved over the last two months, with the combined talents of Jimmy Spithill and Francesco Bruni coming to the fore.

Most experts agree that dual arrangement offers the biggest advantages in the frenetic two minute period ahead of the start, giving Luna Rossa more dexterity and allowing them to manoeuvre quickly and efficiently.

The Italians have experienced 19 pre-starts in race conditions this year and are a tightly honed unit.

In contrast Team New Zealand's last competitive race was 80 days ago, during December America's Cup World Series.

But Burling is unfazed about the prospect of taking on the match hardened Italians on Wednesday.

"We're actually really looking forward to the pre-start, it's probably the area we've done the most work on and probably were the most short on, you know, coming into the Christmas cup," said Burling.

"Coming into the Christmas Cup we'd only had our new boat in the water for three weeks and hadn't really done a lot of the more complicated manoeuvres you end up doing in the pre-start.

"We've done a whole heap of practice since then, so it is one of the areas of excitement coming into this American Cup."

It was a definite area of weakness in December.

Te Rehutai were behind early against American Magic on the first day of the America's Cup World Series and misjudged their start against INEOS Team UK the following day. On the final day they trailed off the line in both their races (against American Magic and Luna Rossa), though came back to win each one.

In the Prada Cup final the start was all important – especially for INEOS Team UK – who knew they had a speed deficit in lighter conditions. That often meant a 'throw the kitchen sink' approach by Ainslie, with some intense duels.

If Team New Zealand have, as many suspect, a speed edge, they may be less inclined to take some a risk versus reward approach and instead back their pace, though the small start boxes mean there is nowhere to hide.

"We are in a confined space," said Burling, when asked to contrast the difference from 2017.

"In Bermuda we could go as far away from the line as we wanted and then come back, whereas here you're very much playing within the boundaries.

"It's created a lot more interaction between the boats and a lot more intrigue as to who's actually got the better start, so we're learning all the time."

Rather than picking a favoured side of the course, Burling feels the key will be getting the time on distance equation perfect.

"I think definitely the person with the best speed off the line generally does better out of the boundary," said Burling. "We've seen a lot of starts where the leeward boats won, where they've managed to get rid of the windward boat off their hip."

Luna Rossa skipper Max Sirena is confident his team could have the edge in the pre-start duels – given their build up – but knows, unlike many previous America's Cup matches, that it is unlikely to be the decisive factor.

"At the end [of the day], the pre-start is going to be important, but it's not going to be just there," said Sirena. "I mean the race is going to be longer, there are boundaries, you need to protect if you are ahead."

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