America’s Cup - More heart-pounding action in San Francisco
by Irene Corosu on 16 Sep 2013
In what ranks as one of the most captivating races from start to finish in America’s Cup history, Emirates Team New Zealand scored a 16-second victory in Race 10. The win came after Oracle Team USA scored a 47-second victory in Race 9 to gain its first point of the series.
Oracle Team USA v Emirates Team New Zealand. America’s Cup Day 6 San Francisco. Emirates Team NZ cruise into the pre-start of Race 10 © Richard Gladwell http://www.richardgladwell.com
Another large crowd estimated at 35,000 was on hand at the two America’s Cup venues on the shores of San Francisco Bay taking in the action on a sun-drenched day. In its 162-year history the America’s Cup has rarely delivered such close racing. The 1983 match goes down as the closest in terms of needing all seven races and the 2007 match goes down as the closest in terms of average finish time.
Rarely have two crews traded tacks and jibes all the way around the racecourse as Emirates Team New Zealand and Oracle Team USA have in the last three races. Certainly crews in the past weren’t approaching each other at closing speeds in excess of 70 knots. It’s simply heart-pounding, hair-raising action.
The new look America’s Cup was captured today in Race 10, where the lead changed hands four times in the 10-nautical mile race and the four mark roundings had deltas of three seconds, 11 seconds, one second and 11 seconds. The lead changed hands three times alone on the 3-nautical-mile windward leg.
'If you didn’t enjoy today’s racing you should probably watch another sport,' said Emirates Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker, competing in his fourth America’s Cup.
'I can honestly say this is the most fun and exciting sailing I’ve been involved with,' said Oracle Team USA tactician Ben Ainslie, a four-time Olympic gold medalist.
With today’s split Emirates Team New Zealand leads on the scoreboard 7-1. The winner of the 34th America’s Cup will be the first team to score nine points. For the Kiwis that means two additional race wins and for Oracle Team USA it means eight. Oracle Team USA’s first two victories don’t count towards its scoreline due to a penalty imposed by the International Jury.
Oracle Team USA won Race 9 with a wire-to-wire performance. Skipper Jimmy Spithill did a masterful job in the pre-start, gaining a position to leeward of Emirates Team New Zealand late in the 2-minute sequence and preventing the Kiwis from entering the racecourse. Spithill and crew led at the first mark four seconds and then sped away from the challenger, gaining time on every leg of the course with its new found boatspeed.
'This is a development boat. Like any racing sport, whether it’s F1 or Moto GP, you’re constantly learning how to race them,' said Spithill of the AC72, the first of which was launched just over one year ago. 'We finally get to the race now, and this is the most we learn. Hindsight’s a beautiful thing, but what’s important is how you react and go forward. Even today we have a heap of stuff we’d like to do to the boat.'
Emirates Team New Zealand reacted to losing Race 9 by bouncing back with a thrilling win in Race 10. This time the Kiwis got the better of the defender in the pre-start, coming off the line positioned to leeward. That was key because Oracle Team USA nearly rolled them on the high-speed reach to the first mark, but the Kiwis’ position allowed them to control the action around the turning mark.
The fireworks came on the upwind leg. The two crews met seven different times on the leg and the lead changed hands three times. Oracle Team USA got the better of the last cross and led around the windward gate by one second.
Emirates Team New Zealand, however, got a split that allowed it to regain the lead at the first meeting on the ensuing downwind leg, and that meeting was the one that finally decided the race. Oracle Team USA was on port tack and had to keep clear of the Kiwis, who were on starboard. Oracle Team USA decided to cross behind and get to the left, but according to Ainslie they had few options.
'It was pretty close on that run to the finish,' said Ainslie. 'The situation where we were, if we jibed before Team New Zealand they would’ve been in a strong position to defend, so we elected to go behind and hope for a piece when they jibed back. It’s really hard to judge that right when you’re going along at almost 40 knots. We didn’t do too bad a job, but it wasn’t quite enough to get back into it.'
The win brought a level of relief to Barker as it stemmed Oracle Team USA’s two race winning streak, going back to yesterday.
'It was very important to bounce back after the first race; the Oracle boat sailed a great race and gave us no opportunities,' said Barker. 'The second race was close across the first reach; they touched the water once, which gave us the lead at the mark. We felt strong at the bottom mark but they sailed a good upwind leg and were right there at the top.'
34th America’s Cup Standings (first to nine points wins)
Emirates Team New Zealand – 7
Oracle Team USA – Americas Cup