by Bob Fisher
34th America’s Cup - Final Match - Opening Press conference - James Spithill (Oracle Team USA), The America’s Cup Trophy, Dean Barker (Emirates team New Zealand)
Like many of the pre-match press conferences of the past, that held on Thursday in San Francisco was unrevealing.
The teams each fielded two principal sailors who preened themselves and batted all the questions into touch. They universally avoided any of the contentious questions that have arisen from recent official deliberations and stuck strictly to their party lines.
Jimmy Spithill and John Kostecki appeared for Oracle Team USA, while for Emirates Team New Zealand Dean Barker and Glenn Ashby held sway. It demonstrated what Spithill later referred to as: 'Welcome to the New World' as there were only two who were national representatives of their teams – Kostecki is American and Barker a Kiwi.
When Oracle was on the water the previous day, she had demonstrated a new turn of speed – foil gybing and not dropping below 37 knots. The wind at the time was close to the maximum 23 knots allowed, more than either boat had seen before.
Qualified observers, who have seen the boats throughout this Cup summer, have reservations about the Emirates Team New Zealand boat, suggesting that there are problems with the longitudinal stability. The now notorious bow burying during a Louis Vuitton Cup race that resulted in two grinders being washed overboard, may have contributed to this thinking.
No one was prepared to elaborate on the findings of the International Jury that sat in judgment on the allegations of cheating by various members of the Oracle team that has resulted in the banning of its prime wing trimmer, Dirk de Ridder, members of the shore crew, the partial banning of boat captain Matthew Mitchell and the lost of its first two wins in the America’s Cup match. It was blustered off.
John Kostecki, who is de Ridder’s brother-in-law, seemed unrepentant about what he had done to the team: 'We will miss him. The best thing we can do for him is win the America’s Cup.' This of the man that the International Jury found that 'he gave instruction or direction to add weight to the forward king post [of the AC-45]; knew the weight had been added; knew it was a breach of the AC-45 Class Rule; and did not tell the truth in the hearing in this regard.'
As to the outcome - Barker said: 'It will be a very close battle and we are excited about the forthcoming racing.' Spithill admitted: 'We have lost two races, but we have a fantastic [sailing] team and a fantastic shore crew and we have been pretty successful here in the past.
Glenn Ashby, the ETNZ wing trimmer, suggested that the pre-starts would be fantastic. 'We have the two most technologically advanced sailing boats on the planet,' he said, 'and so it must be exciting.' One can only hope that he is correct, but one equally hopes that the outcome is not quite in line with his view of the attitude of the two skippers: 'They probably both want to kill each other!'