Please select your home edition
Pantaenius AUS Comprehensive 728x90

America's Cup - Can Oracle Team USA stage another Comeback?

by Richard Gladwell, Sail-World on 19 Jun
Emirates Team New Zealand and Oracle Team USA bow to bow at the start - 35th America's Cup Match - Race 3 - Bermuda June 18, 2017 Richard Gladwell
After the first race in the 2010 America's Cup in Valencia, Alinghi tactician Brad Butterworth when asked to comment at the media conference on Oracle Racing's 120ft trimaran's blistering performance, put it simply - 'That's Speed with a capital 'S'.

The same phrase seemed appropriate to describe Emirates Team New Zealand's performance over the first two days of the 35th America's Cup Match.

Oracle Team USA skipper, Jimmy Spithill echoed the same sentiments at the post race media conference.

'I think it is obvious that these guys are faster, and we need to make some serious changes.'

'Everything is on the table.'

Last week's winds at the top end of the scale were replaced with gentler breezes in the 9-13kts range today, and winds in the 7-11kts yesterday.

According to the brochure, these were the conditions to expect for the America's Cup Match and were the same predicted by a 50-year weather analysis conducted by Emirates Team New Zealand before pitching their AC50 Challenger.

So far Aotearoa New Zealand has delivered.

Leading around every mark in four races is more than even the most ardent Kiwi fan would have predicted. That's 24 marks - plus winning three out of four starts - with the other being called as even.

In both of their encounters in the Round Robin phase of the Qualifiers, Oracle Team USA had reasonably easy wins over the New Zealand Challenger who was clearly short of hard racing practice.

They got that in the Semi-Finals against Land Rover BAR, whose skipper Ben Ainslie is one of the toughest in the business, and certainly on the same level of aggression as Oracle Team USA's Jimmy Spithill.

Again in the Challenger Final, they came up against Artemis Racing's Nathan Outteridge, who had the best record in start-wins of any of the six teams. On the final day of the Challenger Finals, Emirates Team New Zealand checked in with a confidence-boosting two start wins over Artemis Racing.

The only question now remaining is whether Emirates Team New Zealand picked up enough race practice and boat speed to be able to better their nemesis of the 2013 America's Cup and the Qualifiers of the 2017 event?

After the first day of racing, the portents were encouraging, but the Kiwis turned in an error-riddled performance and were only saved by a big fat two-minute margin in the first race. After closing to within 3 seconds of the Kiwis, Oracle Team USA had a splashdown soon after starting the final leg of the second race. Burling and his crew waved goodbye and went on to put on almost 90 seconds on the defending Champion on the 1nm long final leg, before tuning for the finish line.

Today in Races 3 and 4 both crews didn't make any major errors and it was just a straight speed and boat positioning contest on the five-leg course.

The reduced number, but longer length legs probably worked the way of Peter Burling and the ETNZ crew - affording them luxury of being able to stretch their legs a little.

However, the Elephant in the Room is the Comeback that Oracle Team USA and Jimmy Spithill staged in 2013, pulling the Kiwis back after they were just one win away from and America's Cup win.

With a five-day break coming - to suit US TV schedules, Spithill said the time would be used to look at every aspect of the campaign to understand where the Kiwis had an advantage, and what Oracle Team USA could do to close the gap.

While the list is optimistically extensive, even in five days realistically the options are limited. The most obvious place to start is daggerboards, but under the Protocol, these can only be modified four times, and only 30% of the board can be altered, measured by weight.

The AC50 is a one design class in terms of basic hull shape, wing profile, weight and some other dimensions - unlike the AC72 where the design was more open, and there was more scope for change.

The ability is extremely limited for Oracle Team USA to push through a retrospective Protocol change can't happen. Being the only Challenger, Emirates Team New Zealand is now the Challenger of Record and has the effective right of veto over any Protocol change.

Getting an Interpretation changed (as was done with the lower shrouds being required to be under tension, then four days being allowed to be loose) is most unlikely.

Any improvements that Oracle Team USA can make will come from some hard and searching analysis, as was done in September 2013.

A big change then was in the introduction of Ben Ainslie into the afterguard replacing John Kostecki as tactician in the 11 man crew. That got Oracle Team USA back into the game tactically while the boffins worked on on the demon tweaking.

In the 2013 Comeback, the gains were achieved by reviewing performance data from the New Zealand boat, overhead video and other material.

To turn around their fortunes in an event they were set to lose. Oracle Team USA worked out how to make their boat consistently foil upwind which was the nuclear option to which Emirates Team New Zealand had no response.

There is no silver bullet to be had in the 2017 America's Cup - the AC50s foil upwind and down. Foiling gybes and tacks are the norm.

Any speed gain will come from the sum of small changes, rather than a single big change.

On the race course, Oracle Team USA will go through the available video footage, looking particularly at Burling's starting technique to see if there is a pattern - and if so how they counter it.

That is what happened in the tail-end of the 2013 America's Cup where Oracle Team USA's coaches came up with a counter to Dean Barker's game plan at the starts - with the Kiwis either being bested at the start or copping an umpire imposed penalty for their shortcomings.

But there is no time for steps sideways or back. Come next Saturday, there will be racing every day until the outcome is determined.

Of course, Emirates Team New Zealand will be bringing new developments online, and have the advantage of essentially sailing and trialling their boat in the computer knowing that there is a good co-relation with outcomes on the water.

Emirates Team New Zealand have conducted their last two America's Cup campaigns, using just a single boat and each time has come up with the benchmark boat for the series. So it is business as usual for the Kiwis.

Despite having won four races, Emirates Team New Zealand is sitting only 3-0 on the points table. It doesn't take too much for that lead to be wiped out with a couple of good races from Oracle Team USA - and 3-2 is a completely different looking scoreline from Spithill's perspective.

For those who have been watching this regatta on the water the difference in Emirates Team NZ's performance from the Round Robins to the Match is bewildering.

It is hard to believe that Oracle Team USA is sailing any slower than when they won the Qualifiers - beating Emirates Team New Zealand convincingly on their two encounters.

But now the difference is quite marked, and the Kiwis have an upwind speed advantage and can more than hold their own downwind.

But a five-day break is unprecedented in the America's Cup Match. It is more than enough for America's Cup Champions to regroup, and much to the chagrin of the Kiwi nation a comeback is more than possible.

Dubarry AUS 2017 660x82 4Harken AUS HL Snatch Block 660x82Yachtspot J Boats Sportsboats 660x82

Related Articles

America's Cup - Artemis Racing's Iain Percy reflects on Bermuda
'Such an amazing journey Artemis Racing has had here in Bermuda'. 'Such an amazing journey Artemis Racing has had here in Bermuda'. Artemis Racing's Team Manager, Iain Percy, offers a heartfelt thank you to everyone who has been involved in or supported our challenge for the 35th America's Cup.
Posted on 27 Jul
America's Cup - Top 10 Moments in Bermuda - Artemis Racing + Video
Nathan Outteridge takes us through the Swedish Team's top ten moments in the 35th America's Cup Artemis Racing skipper, Nathan Outteridge takes us through the Swedish Team's top ten moments in the 35th America's Cup sailed on the Great Sound, Bermuda. Must see for all Cup fans
Posted on 25 Jul
America's Cup - Doing the testing hard yards at home
Here is a look back at the America's Cup winners going through their routines. Long before being in the spot light of the America's Cup in Bermuda, the most important testing and development that would set the foundation for Emirates Team New Zealand victory was done in long hours on the water of Auckland's Hauraki Gulf. Here is a look back at the America's Cup winners going through their routines.
Posted on 25 Jul
Announcement on the 36th America's Cup
The Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and Circolo della Vela Sicilia as the Challenger of Record The Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and Circolo della Vela Sicilia as the Challenger of Record, together with their respective representative teams Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa Challenge, are pleased to announce that the Protocol establishing the parameters for the 36th America's Cup will be released in September 2017.
Posted on 19 Jul
RC44 crews cross fingers for a single-hulled 36th America's Cup
Sailing alongside the owner-drivers in the RC44 class are many crew who have competed in past America's Cups. In the interests of equality, we polled two Italian tacticians and two New Zealand ones to get their views on what might happen and what should happen in this next chapter in America's Cup history.
Posted on 13 Jul
America’s Cup – How to fix the world's most prestigious sailing race
This was not your father’s America’s Cup—the boats were 50-foot dragonflies skeeting across the water on hydrofoils Well, that was quick! The 35th America’s Cup was over in a heartbeat. It took barely a month for Emirates Team New Zealand to buzzsaw through a fleet of four challengers before shellacking the U.S. defender, Oracle Team USA, 7-1, to snatch yachting’s oldest prize.
Posted on 11 Jul
Impact of America’s Cup to be tallied
PricewaterhouseCoopers has been hired by the ACBDA to conduct an independent study for completion by October With the conclusion of the 35th America’s Cup, an independent assessment has been commissioned to determine its economic impact on Bermuda. PricewaterhouseCoopers has been hired by the ACBDA to conduct an independent study for completion by October, according to Grant Gibbons, the Minister of Economic Development.
Posted on 3 Jul
America's Cup - NZL Govt invest $5m to keep Ashby & Kiwi crew together
New Zealand Government will make an initial investment of $5million (USD 3.65million) into Emirates Team New Zealand The New Zealand Prime Minister, Bill English, has announced that the New Zealand Government will make an initial investment of $5million (USD 3.65million) into America's Cup champions, Emirates Team New Zealand. As with the investment of the same amount, at the same stage of the 2017 campaign, the funding is labelled as being required to 'retain key staff'.
Posted on 3 Jul
A Q&A with Jeff Robbins about AIS fences and the 35th America’s Cup
I interviewed Jeff Robbins, CEO of Vesper Marine, via email to learn about their work keeping AC35’s racecourse safe. Sail-World interviewed Jeff Robbins, CEO of Vesper Marine, via email to learn more about the work the company performed using AIS technology to help make Bermuda’s Great Sound safe for everyone during AC35, from the cruising boat full of Cup tourists to the Cup sailors who were rocketing by at 40-plus knots.
Posted on 1 Jul
Hobie Junior Wave Regatta – Hobie Waves make a splash in Bermuda
Hailing from eight different countries, these kids were hand selected to represent their hometowns and compete While having the opportunity to compete in the regatta of a lifetime was the main draw, these sailors quickly found that teamwork, making new friends, learning about other cultures and feeling the excitement of the world was more important.
Posted on 30 Jun