by Tim Jeffery
America's Cup World Series had a late start to racing today. The late start at 4:00 pm local time instead of the scheduled 2:00 pm meant that only the top-scoring pair from the day's three qualifying fleet races would square up in a match race.
Oracle Racing Spithill - America’s Cup World Series
Three fleet races were sailed to determine the two finalists, and Oracle Racing Spithill, skippered by James Spithill, and Emirates Team New Zealand, skippered by Dean Barker, each scored 26 points on identical finishes of 1-2-4.
Oracle Racing Spithill was on the back foot off the start line, but by the third of five mark roundings had clawed back to even. They lost control of the race on the ensuing leg, the fourth of six, when they jibed away into less wind pressure.
'It was all good except for the result,' said Spithill. 'Full credit to those guys.'
The Oracle Racing Coutts crew, skippered by Russell Coutts, finished the three fleet races in sixth place with thirteen points. In moves uncharacteristic for Coutts, the four-time Cup winner, the team was over the start line early twice and also incurred a penalty for a collision.
'We really just didn’t get off the start line today,' said Coutts. 'The second start we just lost control and fell into Team New Zealand. The wind shifted and we had our wing and jib in the wrong position. We tried to dip and couldn’t.'
Today marked the third day of racing for the ACWS – Cascais and it’s apparent that all crews are feeling more comfortable in their AC45 wingsail catamarans. The three fleet races had three different winners and there were many passes made as crews alternately fell into light-wind patches and strong puffs.
'It was awesome racing,' Coutts said. 'It was very changeable. It’s a pity we didn’t get up to the front today. Everyone’s out there trying. It’s tough.'
Many were curious how the match racing would play out, and it was spectacular. The two crews rounded the third mark, a windward mark, overlapped. Team New Zealand only kept control of the race because it was on the inside and could bear away sooner to fill its gennaker.
'Everyone questioned whether you would see lead changes, so it was good to see a couple of exchanges,' said Spithill. 'It is a very, very difficult race track. It’s a lot of fun, but very challenging.'
ACWS – Cascais Match Racing Championships day one
1. Emirates Team New Zealand/Dean Barker 10 points
2. ORACLE Racing Spithill/James Spithill 9
3. Team Korea/Chris Draper 8
4. Energy Team/Loick Peyron 7
5. Artemis Racing/Terry Hutchinson 6
6. ORACLE Racing Coutts/Russell Coutts 5
7. Aleph/Alain Gautier 4
8. China Team/Mitch Booth 3
9. Green Comm/Vasilij Žbogar 3
(Scoring: 1st = 10 points, 2nd = 9, 3rd = 8, 4th = 7, 5th = 6, 6th = 5, 7th = 4, 8th-9th = 3)
America's Cup World Series website