The tension is rising in practice racing as we get ever closer to the start of the 35th America's Cup.
The final week of practice racing is upon us and we've already seen a lot of drama and action. Now we're only 2 days away from the beginning of the Louis Vuitton America's Cup Qualifiers but are we any closer in gleaning who stands the best chance of winning the America's Cup? Here's our latest summary...
We felt a bit sorry for Emirates Team New Zealand last week. Not only did they start the week by breaking their rudder but this was followed by a media frenzy the following day after Land Rover BAR crashed into the Kiwis' boat during their practice racing. The result; a metre long hole in the starboard side of the Emirates Team New Zealand's port hull and therefore no more practice racing for the team until this week. Ben Ainslie admitted that it was his mistake when talking to the Guardian but added "If you're not pushing, it's not racing". The gloves are well and truly off!
SoftBank Team Japan had a great week of practice racing last week which saw them take five wins and completing all three days of practice racing. Although there is no sign of them resting on their laurels as Skipper, Dean Barker, tells the America's Cup: "everyday that you go out on the water, everyone is improving at a very rapid rate".
Yesterday we saw each of the teams take a win except for Groupama Team France who haven't gained a single victory during their practice racing. Are they learning enough to pull it back when they go head to head with Oracle Team USA this Friday?
Despite all of the practice races the teams' performances aren't all that transparent. Behind the closed doors of the team's bases they are busy analysing data, tweaking boat designs and all the while working hard to keep their learnings and designs under wraps.
Artemis Racing had won 9 consecutive practice races during the very first rounds of practice racing and continue to do well with two wins out of three in recent practices. But Reuters reported that skipper, Nathan Outteridge, is not sharing the team's top speed with anyone. He said "We don't want anyone to know how fast we're going" and followed with "It's all pretty even right now. Everyone is trying to learn about their performance. People are pushing their boats as fast as they can".
Meanwhile, after initially dismissing the idea of using pedal-powered grinders, reports have been released that Oracle Team USA have integrated some sort of bicycle-mechanism with their existing grinding capabilities. The cycle system will sit behind skipper Jimmy Spithill but it remains to be seen if this will be enough to push the team to a winning advantage!
As it stands, nobody knows who will take the win in this thrilling series of races so watch this space because it's all for the taking!
If you want to join us out in Bermuda to witness this incredible event, we still have availability on our Official Spectator Packages. If you're looking to head out on the water to see the action up close you can also purchase your tickets here.