by Bob Fisher
Oracle Team USA v Emirates Team New Zealand. America’s Cup Day 5 San Francisco. Emirates Team NZ and Oracle Team USA before the start of Race 9
Sometimes, only sometimes, those prophets of doom, the meteorologists, predict correctly. Today, just today, they were right. When the going got good, and the good got going, the Race Officers pulled the plug when the wind exceeded 23 knots, the safety-imposed regulation maximum.
It happened towards the end of the second leg of the second race of the day with Emirate Team New Zealand holding a narrow lead. Their tails were back up, following a first race defeat, when Dean Barker out-smarted the acknowledged expert of starting, Jimmy Spithill of Oracle Team USA, and showed every sign of holding the lead.
The previous race had also looked to be going Barker’s way. He had won the start for Emirates Team New Zealand, again shrugging off the attentions and intentions of Spithill. Barker is winning more than his first share of the starts, which was somewhat unexpected. ETNZ led around the first mark by three seconds and added another five on the run.
Then the unexpected happened. Instead of the Kiwis walking away, they were hard pressed to maintain a lead. Towards the end of the windward leg, ETNZ still led and planned to protect the left side of the course as Oracle approached on starboard tack. Barker went for a lee bow tack and that was where the brown stuff hit the rotating blades.
ETNZ appeared stuck halfway through the tack and heeled dramatically, almost to the point of no return. Barker said it was a fault of 'the hydros', and went on to explain that the hand-pumped [by the grinders] hydraulic system that enables the wing to invert through the tack, had failed. The giant catamaran hung a degree or two from capsizing before slapping down in the water.
While this was going on, OTUSA had to take avoiding action and to add to their woes, the Kiwis received a penalty. OTUSA was away and led by 28 seconds at the weather gate and sped away to the finish where she arrived 52 seconds ahead to record her second victory and thus wipe out the penalty that had been imposed by the International Jury.
That race had been held in breeze of 20 knots from the west-south-west and as had been predicted it was close to the limit when the Race Committee decided to start a second race. Barker again beat Spithill in the pre-start and continued to lead down the run until the wind went past the 23-knot limit for the required period that necessitated the Race Committee to call a halt to the racing.
Tomorrow is another day – one with two races and the score now reads Emirates Team New Zealand six points, Oracle Team USA nil.