American Magic has its back to the wall after losing its first two races in the best-of-seven semifinal match against Italy’s Luna Rossa in the America’s Cup challenger series.
It’s not an unfamiliar position.
The New York Yacht Club team has been on the back foot since its racing yacht Patriot capsized and came close to sinking during a round-robin race against Luna Rossa 12 days ago. The fact it was on the start line at all Friday was a triumph of its teamwork and determination.
As if it hadn’t been through enough, American Magic had to face what Luna Rossa helmsman Francesco Bruni described as “the hardest conditions in which we ever sailed these boats.”
The wind was constantly near the upper limit in which racing can take place in the 75-foot monohulls which race on narrow foils and are often on the very edge of balance and stability. Luna Rossa won Friday’s races by convincing margins of 2 minutes, 33 seconds and 3 minutes, 7 seconds.
American Magic had an especially nervous moment in the first of Friday’s two races when it came into the top mark at 53 knots (61 mph, 98 kph) and briefly lost control, flirting with disaster before continuing.
In a new trial, winds for the next two races on Saturday are expected to be close to the low end of the scale — between 6 and 9 knots — and American Magic will be tested again by a new extreme.
Skipper Terry Hutchinson was pressed after Friday’s race on what messages he might deliver to rally the U.S. team ahead of a day on which it could be eliminated from the America’s Cup regatta.
“I hate losing. It’s no more complicated than that,” he said. “Nothing gets you going more than having your teeth kicked in.
“That’s me personally. The message to the team is we can’t change a thing. They’ve done a really good job to get us this far and when I say not to change a thing we’re going to go and debrief our racing with a critical eye and come out a better sailing team tomorrow.”
Hutchinson remains confident American Magic can keep its campaign alive on Saturday.
“It’s not too steep of a mountain to climb,” he said. “I would use the example of the last 12 days, of what we’ve done as a team.
“I think the beauty of our team is that if you walk into the shed, whether it’s a race day or a training day, whether you’re sitting on match point or you’re down 0-2, you shouldn’t be able to tell the difference.”
For now, Hutchinson said the team has one focus.
“You could walk into our shed and what you see is a motivated group of people trying to make sure that we take one race at a time tomorrow and we get ourselves to Sunday,” he said, “then we see where we sit.”
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