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AC35 Match: Race 1, ETNZ v. OTUSA

HAMILTON, BER – Finally it begins. And in a puffy SE 9-11 knot breeze, Jimmy Spithill leads back to the start; Peter Burling is just astern pushing. The wind dies to only a couple knots, and unbelievably OTUSA is OCS – the racing rules shorthand for "On Course Side" or what we used to call a premature start, that is crossing the start line before the starting signal. The umpires penalized OTUSA the normal go-slow penalty until they were two boat lengths behind NZL. The Kiwis lead all the way around the track by 200-300 meters or more – almost 500m at one point down Leg 4. Delta at the Leg 4 gate is an amazing 40 seconds. At Gate 5 the delta is 1:45.

Bottom line the Kiwis are faster in the light. If this series stays light, and OTUSA don't get their light-air act together, our SI prediction of OTUSA winning 7-3 is not looking very secure. But it's first to 7 points, so there is a lot of racing left.

But just as your Ed. types that, the Kiwis fall off their foils and grind almost to a halt as they were jibing through the final gate. Here comes OTUSA flying down the Leg 6 run! But the Kiwis are going again, are back up on their foils, and are able to sail straight into the finish line to secure the win. You could almost hear the big sigh of relief from the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron in Auckland here at the SAILING ILLUSTRATED HQ in San Francisco. Final delta: 30 seconds.

Kiwis even up the series 0-0 just like that (yes, they started the series on -1; see our preview report posted earlier today). Second race to follow shortly.

Fist blood to Peter Burling and the ETNZ cyclors.