by Tim Jeffery
In the America's Cup World Series, a pair of riveting match races have taken place which featured Oracle Racing’s two crews. The excitement of the racing action has fans and competitors alike anticipating tomorrow’s final day in Cascais, Portugal for the championship.
ORACLE Racing - Racing Day 5
Oracle Racing Spithill placed second and Oracle Racing Coutts third in today’s racing, which included three fleet races to determine a ranking order for the match racing.
Helmsman James Spithill and crew were firing on every cylinder when they won all three fleet races to gain the daily top seed with thirty points. Old foe Emirates Team New Zealand finished second with twenty-five points.
'We finally put the package together today – starts, tactics and really, really good boat handling and speed,' said Spithill. 'It felt nice because every day we have gone out and done something well but were missing something else. The big goal for today was to put it all together and we did.'
Spithill singled out relentlessly slick crew work as vital to success in the AC45 class. 'Piet (van Nieuwenhuijzen) really led the charge today. It really helped us step away from the pack.'
For the second time in three days Oracle Racing Spithill met Emirates Team New Zealand in the daily match race final, but this one had viewers glued to their monitors and many shoreside spectators watching in excitement as both crews paced each other boat-for-boat while hitting speeds in excess of 42 kph/26 mph on the offwind legs. 'Everyone witnessed a fantastic race,' said Spithill.
Oracle Racing Spithill held the early advantage, but the skipper later said they made an error at the leeward gate that ultimately allowed Emirates Team New Zealand to gain the lead and score the victory.
'We got off the line well again, and couldn’t believe they didn’t get a penalty on the entry,' Spithill said. 'But we really handed the lead to them in a fundamental error down at the bottom of the downwind leg. It’s good to learn that now because our crew and the Kiwis were going to be first and second going into the semifinal. It highlights how quickly opportunities for passing come and go.' The crew made a late jibe to make a starboard rounding, which let Team New Zealand escape the cover with a port rounding.
'Because of the speeds the boats are travelling the decisions come much faster,' said Spithill. 'We lost our lead in no man’s land down there. It was frustrating, but we might as well learn it now. We still have some work to do.'
Oracle Racing Coutts placed 8-4-3 for 18 points in the three fleet races and met Artemis Racing, the Challenger of Record for the 34th America’s Cup, in a match race for third and fourth.
In another exciting heat, helmsman Russell Coutts and crew were on the back foot off the start line, trailing Artemis by nearly one boatlength. On the first downwind leg, Oracle Racing Coutts beat Artemis to a jibe and rolled over the top when the Swedish boat had troubles clearing the massive gennaker around the headstay.
It was only a slight miscue, but that’s all an opponent needs to overtake in these turbo-charged catamarans. 'We couldn’t get the maneuvering right at the start, but after we got in front we sailed quite a bit better,' said Coutts. 'We just need to set down and get all of the basics to a lot higher standard. If we do that we’ll sail a lot better.'
All four crews, as well as Team Korea and France’s Energy Team, advance to tomorrow’s final day of the match racing championships. By finishing first and second, Emirates Team New Zealand and Oracle Racing earned a bye into the semifinal round.
The other four crews will race the quarterfinal round with Oracle Racing Coutts taking on Team Korea in a one race, sudden death sail-off. The semifinals are also one race. In the final, the winner of the America’s Cup World Series Cascais Match Race Championships will be the first to score two points.
Asked about the prospect of meeting Team New Zealand for the championship Spithill simply said, 'Bring it on.'
ACWS – Cascais Match Racing Championships day three
1. Emirates Team New Zealand/Dean Barker 1-1-1 – 30 points
2. ORACLE Racing Spithill/James Spithill 2-3-2 – 26
3. Artemis Racing/Terry Hutchinson 5-2-4 – 22
4. ORACLE Racing Coutts/Russell Coutts 6-4-3 – 20
5. Team Korea/Chris Draper 3-5-5 – 20
6. Energy Team/Loick Peyron 4-6-7 – 16
7. Green Comm/Vasilij Žbogar 9-9-6 – 11
8. Aleph/Alain Gautier 7-8-8 – 10
9. China Team/Mitch Booth 8-7-9 – 10
(Scoring: 1st = 10 points, 2nd = 9, 3rd = 8, 4th = 7, 5th = 6, 6th = 5, 7th = 4, 8th-9th = 3)
Oracle Racing website
America's Cup World Series website