by Bob Fisher
America’s Cup Day 6 San Francisco. Emirates Team NZ and Oracle Team USA head for Mark 1 in Race 10
'You will never be able to match race those catamarans,' was the cry on many detractors’ lips, but in the tenth race of America’s Cup 34 the naysayers were firmly silenced.
There were more lead changes on the windward leg than of the total number in the Match thus far – seven towards the end of the leg – and the excitement never paled.
Even then there was another lead change to come. Oracle Team USA rounded the left hand mark of the weather gate one second ahead of Emirates Team New Zealand, but the Kiwi tactician, Ray Davies, had planned his move well in advance, encouraging helmsman Dean Barker to point high and slow before bearing away fast and dipping the Americans’ stern. That gave the Kiwis the advantage of a faster rounding into a more gainful line downwind.
That sealed the race; one in which Barker had demonstrated fully that he could control the issue at the start. Having lost the first race, Barker knew that winning the next was of paramount importance and he tackled the job in the pre-start, denying Spithill the opportunity to 'hook' him from leeward. When Oracle went on the windward side, Barker pushed his team hard to gain the inside overlap at the first mark, which he rounded four seconds ahead.
Downwind the Kiwis stretched slightly and began the beat (usually a leg in their favour) 11 seconds to the good. Then came resurgence from OTUSA and the gap closed after ETNZ had rounded the left-hand gate mark and Oracle had taken the other one. The split worked to the home team’s advantage and halfway up the leg the lead changed for the first time and the Kiwis trailed. Then they were back in front, and then behind, but it was close when Davies made the strategic call that won the race.
ETNZ was a second adrift as the two boats rounded opposite marks but the wind favoured the Kiwis who took the right-hand buoy and the gain line moved to show them in front. Once there, Barker was unlikely to give it away and sailed to a 17-second victory.
The first race had been OTUSA’s all the way. Spithill fended off Barker’s attempt to gain a 'hook' in the pre-start and led to the first mar by four seconds. A minor gain downwind had OTUSA begin the beat in front by 18 seconds. Everyone expected ETNZ to close when they split tacks, but rather the reverse and they were 33 seconds behind at the start of the second run.
Spithill and tactician Ben Ainslie made no mistakes and went on to score their first points in the match by 47 seconds. At the end of the day the score is in the Kiwis’ favour by 7 – 1. There’s no racing on Monday and the forecast for Tuesday is that the wind may exceed the racing limit.