by Bob Fisher
Oracle Team USA vs Emirates Team New Zealand, Race Day 8
Mr. Sod (he of the Law) had his say today as the 12th race of the 34th America’s Cup was about to start. Within seconds of a great start by Emirates Team New Zealand (Its second of the day), the race was abandoned because the wind limit of 23 knots had been broken for more than 30 seconds immediately prior to the start.
The equinoctial ebb tide was running at 3.1 knots, which allows the wind to be only 19.9 knots before it breaches the limits imposed for safety following the tragic accident to Artemis Racing in May, which resulted in the death of crewman Andrew Simpson.
The decision was particularly hard on Emirates Team New Zealand for whom skipper Dean Barker had made a perfectly timed and positioned start to windward and ahead of Jimmy Spithill with Oracle Team USA. It could, so easily, have sealed the fate of the Cup and seen it on its way to Auckland for a second time. Now with only one more point to gain from the next eight races, ETNZ will have to wait.
The eleventh race was a classic with all aspects of Cup match racing in evidence. Barker brooked no interference by Spithill in the pre-start manoeuvres – setting up to leeward of his opponent and timing his run to the line to perfection, rounding the first mark with a three second lead.
The lead continued down the full length of the run with the Kiwis doubling their advantage as they rounded the left hand mark to start the windward leg. OTUSA went to the other mark of the gate and headed towards Alacatraz. At the first cross ETNZ bounced OTUSA back to the right.
It was then the Liveline, the GPS-driven positioning system, showed the American team briefly in the lead, but at the next cross ETNZ was still in front, but by 24 metres only. The Kiwis rounded the right-hand mark of the gate 17 seconds in front of OTUSA, who rounded the other mark.
But after a couple of gybes, Oracle began to sail deeper, thanks to a beneficial wind shift, and closed on the Kiwis. There was a possible chance of Oracle gaining an inside overlap at the final mark, but Barker had judged his run in rather better and gained on the now slowing Oracle. At the finish, Emirates Team New Zealand was 15 seconds ahead.
That put the Kiwis on match point, but they will have to wait until tomorrow to clinch the Cup while if Oracle wants to retain it, they must win the next eight races, and even Mr. Sod is unlikely to help them in that.