by Bob Fisher
For right and wrong reasons, depending on who you are, Thursday 19th September is a day you are unlikely to forget. It had highs and lows and the Kiwis remain on match point – eight points achieved and one to go – while Oracle Team USA staged the first step of a hoped-for comeback in the 34th America’s Cup.
19/09/2013 - San Francisco (USA,CA) - 34th America’s Cup - Oracle Team USA vs Emirates Team New Zealand, Race Day 9
The racing was exciting from the very beginning when Jimmy Spithill with OTUSA staged a move to ‘hook’ Dean Barker’s Emirates Team New Zealand in the final seconds of the pre-start. It was a move that proved crucial as Barker was forced to slow the boat more than he would have liked while Spithill bore away and headed for the line.
The three-second lead at the first mark was the telling factor. That lead was doubled by the leeward gate, when the three-mile beat started. It was soon obvious that the defender could match the previous upwind speed of the challenger.
In addition, Ben Ainslie appeared to desert his grinder handles to view the strategic position better from the middle of the trampoline – and there is little doubt that Oracle benefited from his move. He seemed to be able to assess the fast moving situation better than before and control the positioning of the boat relative to ETNZ.
By the weather gate, Oracle’s lead was only the same as at the start of the beat but the outcome was not in doubt as the leader had rounded the right hand mark and sailed into less adverse current than the Kiwis, and hitched into a slightly better wind shift. It enabled OTUSA to sail to a 31-second victory in front of the large crowd of spectators gathered at the AC Park on Pier 27.
When it came time for the second start of the day, the ebb was full-on, sweeping out of the Golden Gate at three knots and thus reducing the permissible wind speed to 20 knots. One delay followed another as the wind peaked over the allowable limit repeatedly. Then there was a lull and the clock counted down for thirteen of the fifteen minutes, but then a gust took control of the situation and with the starting time limit almost up, racing was once again abandoned for the day.
When questioned about a possible change in the wind limit, Spithill said that his team had written to Emirates Team New Zealand but could not get the agreement that would be needed to make the change. Barker countered by saying that his team didn’t want changes to be made in the middle of the regatta.
Oddly, when Race Director Iain Murray first consulted the teams about wind limits, following the tragic accident to Artemis in May, Oracle suggested 20 knots and ETNZ 25.
Racing will continue with two races scheduled for Friday. For the first of these the flood tide will have just begun and there will be little ebb for the second with the real possibility of two races if necessary.
This day will also be remembered for Vincent Jay Broze, a prolific writer about the America’s Cup in past years, who passed peacefully away this morning.
Fair winds Jay.