by Tim Jeffery
In practice last weekend for America’s Cup World Series Newport, team skipper Jimmy Spithill acknowledged the local support Oracle Team USA, defender of the 2013 America’s Cup, received on the waters of Narragansett Bay.
Oracle Team USA’s two crews practice on Narragansett Bay.
'The patriotism was awesome,' said Spithill, who skippered the American team to victory at the 2010 America’s Cup. 'Anytime we were close to another boat there was yelling and a lot of support. You can see the lift the guys get when that happens.'
In two days’ time, championship racing for ACWS – Newport will begin with Oracle Team USA Spithill looking to secure the first-ever overall season title. Spithill and crew Dirk de Ridder, John Kostecki, Joe Newton and Piet van Nieuwenhuijzen hold a 4-point lead over Emirates Team New Zealand and skipper Dean Barker.
Jimmy Spithill - Oracle Team USA
The competitive spirit between the two was fostered with some good-natured ribbing at today’s opening press conference. 'I was just speaking with Dean,' Spithill said. 'He was saying how confident he was that he has this one in the bag. We’re going to go out there and make him work for it. I think we should get some good racing.'
For Russell Coutts, who is returning to the helm of the No.5 boat for the first time since last September, he issued fair warning to his fellow competitors today. 'If we’re suffering from a lack of training these other skippers should stay out of the way this week because anything could happen,' Coutts joked.
The racecourse figures to offer a few opportunities. While one side of the boundary will be along the shoreline of Fort Adams, the course should be wide and offer open racing. The tacticians will be taking note of the current, which might affect how a crew plays the course.
Russell Coutts - Oracle Team USA
'With these boats it seems like the current will play a factor upwind in a normal, southwesterly seabreeze,' said Kostecki, who has raced in Newport many times through his career. 'You can get up to three knots of current, so I believe you could get an advantage by playing a certain side. Downwind the speed of the AC45 seems to negate the effects of the current, but it could play a big factor on the upwind legs.'
Racing begins Thursday at 12:00 pm EDT with the first fleet race. The results of that race will determine the seeding for the ensuing quarterfinal round of the match racing. Each pair will sail a best-of-three series with the winners moving on to the semifinal round on Friday. The quarterfinal round is scheduled 12:40-3:20 pm.
America's Cup World Series Trophy
Racing at ACWS – Newport will be broadcast live Thursday through Sunday. The Sunday finale will be broadcast live nationally on NBC, the first time America’s Cup racing will be broadcast live on network television in the U.S. for more than 20 years.
Oracle Team USA website
Americas Cup website