America's Cup World Series: Up and down day as six put in final practice

Pompey pours but Sir Ben Ainslie lays down a marker

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The Independent Online

The joys of a British summer delivered their soggy best on the rain-sodden heads of the hardy fans who turned up to watch a practice day of the America’s Cup World Series which showed that, modern as it may be, it could also deliver the traditions of a century and a half.

The home-town faithful of Portsmouth could cheer a win for the home town hero Sir Ben Ainslie steering Land Rover BAR to victory in what turned into a processional opening encounter against his five rivals. The lottery factors of fickle conditions then rewarded the youthful enthusiasm of a reconstituted Emirates Team New Zealand in a second race which saw nearly everyone at the front at some stage or another.

Friend and rival Iain Percy, sailing director of the Swedish challenger Artemis, said that the cup proper, scheduled for Bermuda in 2017, was whole different proposition. “We are still fiercely competitive and hungry for racing, so we all want to do well. When we go to Gothenberg in September it will be it will not be like Portsmouth, which has set the standard for all of us. What they have done here has blown me away.”

Said principal race officer Iain Murray: “Today was our practice day with a brand new race management system, so we’re getting that up to speed for racing tomorrow. The light winds didn’t do us any favours.

“So, at the top of my wish list for tomorrow is good breeze and to have all the bugs ironed out. If we get 10 knots or into the teens for breeze, we’ll see something special as these boats hit their numbers downwind."

In Hamburg, where the Extreme Sailing Series is making its debut, Team Russia was putting in consistent top three results – punctuated by a first from Team GAC Pindar – and that was enough to put the Russians in the lead on the Elbe. The last race of the day belonged to The Wave, Muscat, but the two-time winners of the series, led by Leigh McMillan, need to iron out inconsistencies to regain the top spot.