America’s Cup 2021: The Secret Sailor – Why Luna Rossa need a miracle to beat Team New Zealand

The Secret Sailor is an internationally acclaimed yachtie with a strong history in the America’s Cup.

OPINION:

It will take something very special from Luna Rossa, or something entirely unexpected, for Team New Zealand not to win the America’s Cup Match.

Everything is set up for the defender to triumph and – barring mishap or a sailing miracle – they should do so sometime over the next fortnight.

They have the better sailors.

They have the faster boat.

They have even had access to all the challengers’ data long before they even have to sail against the Italians from Wednesday.

Having that information is one thing, however, but being able to change the way you sail your boat to get on top of the opponent is what makes this team so special.

It was hardly surprising to see reports of the Kiwis trialling the dual-helmsman setup this week, a strategy first showcased by Luna Rossa in the World Series and perfected during the Prada Cup, where they beat out American Magic and Ineos Team UK for the right to compete for the Auld Mug.

The helmsman is the ultimate decision-maker on these AC75s and to have two of them – one on each side of the boat – was a risky move. It has, however, started paying dividends and Luna Rossa were far too strong for the English in the Prada Cup final.

There were concerns that Team NZ were trying the same thing when they went in the water in January, but whether they are now seriously considering switching to this tactic or whether it’s just a pre-start thing – trying to land a tight manoeuvre while in close proximity to the other boat – they have the talent to pull it off.

In Peter Burling, Blair Tuke and Glenn Ashby, Team NZ have three world-class sailors; a solid group of leaders and forward-thinkers on the same boat – more depth than any other outfit.

As always, conditions should play some part in the outcome. In the light breeze, and possibly right at the top end, I believe Luna Rossa can foot it with Team NZ – but Te Rehutai has a healthy speed edge. In fact, the boat has seemed to be on the edge of control throughout the campaign while Luna Rossa have been far more conservative and haven’t come close to tipping over.

Team New Zealand’s bigger problem is the fact that they have had over 80 days without close racing, they haven’t been able to race a team doing things differently to them and they’re already on the backfoot in the pre-start. They will learn the most from the first few races, but with the schedule being as tight as it is no team can afford to be playing catchup.

There’s also been the usual off-water drama this week with Luna Rossa starting the mind games and Grant Dalton announcing that the Herald, the publisher of this column, would not be allowed in the media centre for the Cup match following the newspaper’s coverage of an inquiry commissioned by the Crown over the spending of public money leading up to the regatta.

It’s never easy for a team boss to run a campaign like this and Dalton’s role is key. One of the best decisions Team NZ made was to get him off the boat and into the office after the 2013 debacle – the team has never been stronger.

Let’s hope that once racing finally gets under way it will be the sailors doing all the talking.

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