by Tim Jeffery
At the America’s Cup World Series in Naples, Italy, Oracle Racing Spithill has picked up where they left off some four months ago with a win in Fleet Race 1. At the ACWS San Diego last November, Oracle Racing Spithill pulled the enviable double, winning both the match racing and fleet racing championships.
ACWS Naples: Oracle Racing Racing on day 1
Today in rough conditions on the Bay of Naples, Oracle Racing Spithill won the first fleet race going away. The quintet followed it up with a third in Race 2 and finished the day tied for the overall lead with Emirates Team New Zealand.
'It was pretty bumpy out there, pretty challenging, but once again I was really impressed by these boats. I think they give the best racing in the world in these conditions,' said skipper Jimmy Spithill. 'We had two really good starts and after that it was about the tacks. You had to pick a flat spot. That's where there were huge gains and losses.'
With the wind blowing steadily in the 20s and a choppy sea running at six to eight feet, the conditions were rougher today than even in the more sheltered Plymouth, U.K., last September, widely considered the windiest regatta. Oracle Racing Spithill wasn’t without its own troubles.
'We broke a couple of wing frames in the first race so we backed off a bit in the second race,' Spithill said.
A few crews were hurt by the conditions: Artemis Racing retired late in the first race after capsizing and suffering damage to the top of the wingsail, China Team also withdrew late in the first race and Oracle Racing Bundock didn’t start the second fleet race after placing fifth in the first.
'Tacking well, not capsizing like Artemis Racing, and not breaking your boat like some of the other teams, was the key for success today,' said Oracle Racing Spithill tactician John Kostecki.
Oracle Racing Bundock had a good start in the first race and slipped around the leeward mark in second place, but was penalized twice on the first upwind leg for crossing outside the racecourse boundary.
The crew retired in between races because of damage to its hull caused by the large waves.
'The massive waves were the main issue,' said skipper Darren Bundock. 'For us, we didn’t hit anything but we buckled the hull from the hatch cover down about 20 cm. It came from the impact of bouncing off the waves.'
Oracle Racing Spithill will be ready to race tomorrow. The shore team was working on Oracle Racing Bundock, mindful that low air temperatures were not ideal for repairing high-tech epoxy and carbon-fiber race boats.
'We have one of the best, if not the best, shore teams here,' commented Spithill.
Today’s two fleet races served as a seeding for tomorrow’s match racing. In QF1, Oracle Racing Spithill races Oracle Racing Bundock in a heat scheduled for approximately 16 minutes in length. The winner advances to the second semifinal match on Saturday while the loser is assigned seventh place for the match racing championship.
Three match races are planned tomorrow ahead of two fleet races.
Oracle Racing website
America's Cup website