The cry of “man overboard” was the climax of a dramatic first day of the Louis Vuitton Challenger Series final in Bermuda, with Emirates Team New Zealand taking a 2-1 lead in the best of nine series.
Under pressure from the Kiwis towards the end of race three, Artemis skipper Nathan Outteridge was sprinting to the portside wheel when he lost his footing and slid off the boat.
Rival helmsman Peter Burling had been in the process of creating another come from behind lead change at mark five when the drama unfolded and with the Swedes retiring he sailed unopposed to the finish.
Outteridge’s swim took some of the shine off what’s developing into an incredibly close contest between two very evenly matched teams.
With Artemis ruling the start box in all three races, the Kiwis found themselves playing catch up all day.
In the first race Burling was able to climb back courtesy of two Artemis errors – a miss-timed tack and a penalty for the for crossing the boundary line.
But in race two Outteridge was able to convert his superior starting into a win with flawless boat-handling and sharp tactics which forced the Kiwis into having to make an extra tack and gybe whilst also sailing 400 metres more than the Swedes.
Again in the third race Burling was outgunned at the start. But this time the Kiwis managed to keep it tight which enabled them to create a split and set up an opportunity to pass.
A poor gybe by the Swedes opened the door and Burling was in the process of driving through it when a Outteridge took his dip in the Great Sound.
As predicted, the series is developing into an incredibly tight fight, and with light winds forecast for tomorrow both crews will face a whole new range of challenges.