by Bob Fisher
Racing Day 2 - America’s Cup World Series, Plymouth - Day 2
Bob Fisher, one of the worlds top international yachting journalists, and certainly the top writer on the America's Cup, is in Plymouth for the second round of the America's Cup World Series.
Bob is a multihuller from way back, having competed for Britain in the Little America's Cup and has been covering the America's Cup since 1967.
Dear Diary – Day 2 - America's Cup World Series - Plymouth, England
The promise for the AC-45 class was that they could race in three to 30 knots of breeze and today they proved that it was possible to race closer to the upper limit than before – Harold Bennett gave the wind speed as 22-25 knots with a top gust of 27.5.' At least some of the eight teams managed to race the whole way round, but three succumbed to the stronger gusts – it was everything the organisers have been wanting.
Whether that is the case for the sailors is debatable. Early on in the 40-minute race, there were some tactical moves made and Terry Hutchinson’s Artemis team made the early running in what we were repeatedly told was 'an epic race,' but a technical breakdown caused the withdrawal of the Swedish team.
Artemis had been third around the first mark but went ahead after being alone in setting a spinnaker on the short downwind leg. It was when she tacked in an attempt to protect the right hand side of the course with the new leeward runner set-up that the damage to the wing occurred.
That left the front runners battle to be between Dean Barker with Emirates Team New Zealand and Jimmy Spithill with the Oracle Racing 4 crew. Relentlessly Spithill piled on the pressure to ease away from his rival as big black gusts blew across Plymouth Sound, catching some of the opposition unawares.
Bertrand Pace’s Team Aleph was the first to fall. Aleph was one of the favourites with the bunch of cynics to be the first to topple, and didn’t disappoint. It happened, as predicted, when she bore away for the downwind leg, dug in the leeward bow and began to twist as she oh-so-slowly fell sideways. One down.
Team Korea was next, and much more spectacularly. Chris Draper and his crew had seemingly successfully negotiated the turn to go downwind when they were caught by a stronger gust as the boat accelerated and dug its bows beneath the surface. The sterns rose and a shout from aft called 'Cut the jib!' But the call went unanswered and Team Korea went over. Two down.
Meanwhile Spithill had managed to create a decent buffer between himself and Dean Barker’s crew, while in turn a gap had grown back to the next battle – that between Russell Coutts with Oracle Racing 5, and Loick Peyron and Energy Team. That was settled when Peyron sailed outside the course boundary in an effort to escape the attentions of Coutts and was penalised. The gap the penalty created was sufficient to take the strain off Coutts and his veteran crew.
The rules for this competition are different from those of ISAF in that they allow outside assistance in the event of a capsize. Draper was full of praise for his Team Korea shore crew: 'Thanks to them,' he said, 'we were righted and able to finish the course.' .
With the race almost over, and only the short leg to the finish to complete, Green Comm Racing brought the total of 'flippers' to three. She was caught classically with too little way on as she bore away and tripped over her bow before falling sideways. Three down.
It left only five boats to contest the 500-metre speed trials and it looked as though the opening run by Emirates Team New Zealand of 37.99 seconds would hold sway, particularly when Jimmy Spithill threatened to make it four down in the middle of his, later aborted, run. How the Oracle team stopped the boat from capsizing is a matter between them and their launderers.
Finally, as time was running out, the speedster from the previous day, Oracle 5 with Coutts and company, hit the start at pace and carried a gust down the course to record a time 51 hundredths of a second faster than ETNZ for a speed of 25.92 knots (or 48.00 kph).
There was considerable wound licking and the shore crews are promised a couple of busy days, particularly the sparse numbers in Green Comm, where a re-skinning of the upper wing is necessary.