by Bob Fisher
Oracle Spithill and Emirstes Team NZ in the Match Racing Semi-Final, America’s Cup World Series San Francisco 2012 August, Race Day 4
Bob Fisher, one of the world's top international yachting journalists, and certainly the top writer on the America's Cup, is in San Francisco, CA, USA for the sixth round of the America's Cup World Series.
Bob is a multihuller from way back, having won the 1967 Little America's Cup, with Peter Schneidau on Lady Helmsman, and has been covering the America's Cup since 1967.
Dear Diary – Day 4 - America's Cup World Series - San Francisco, CA, USA
It was (almost) all Spithill on a Grade A grey day
Saturday was Spithill day on San Francisco Bay. The Oracle Team USA skipper won his match race semi-final and then placed second in the first of the fleet races before demonstrating total control in the second race to win by over a minute. He praised his local tactician, John Kostecki, for his contribution to the team's success: ' 'JK' knows the best way to go and I listen to him.'
In the first match of the day, in 12-15 knots of south-westerly breeze, Russell Coutts in Oracle Team USA - Coutts 'hooked' Terry Hutchinson in Artemis Racing - White at the start to claim the inside advantage at the first mark and when Hutchinson gybed at that mark, sailed down the shoreline in better breeze to lead by 12 seconds at the leeward gate.
Heading upwind at 14 knots, Coutts wobbled slightly when Hutchinson picked up a good shift inshore, but that was short-lived gain, and Coutts was 65 metres ahead as they approached the windward mark and rounded with a six second lead, heading off downwind at 21 knots to win by 20 seconds.
Next up was Spithill and Dean Barker with Emirates Team New Zealand. Spithill started to windward of the pair but Barker was inside and first to round the mark to begin the downwind leg. ETNZ led by nine seconds at the leeward gate and a tacking duel ensued with Spithill gaining inshore. Spithill led by four seconds at the windward gate and went on to win by 13 seconds to create and all-Oracle final tomorrow.
The fifth fleet race in the current regatta created its fair share of excitement, particularly when Coutts began his line-up in a similar manner to that of yesterday's first race! This time he avoided the committee vessel. Luna Rossa - Swordfish and Oracle Team USA - Spithill were penalised for premature starting and ETNZ led from the windward end of the line to the first mark.
As ETNZ went towards the city front shore, Yann Guichard took Energy Team down the middle in clear air, but ETNZ led at the leeward gate from Spithill and then the French team with Terry Hutchinson in Artemis Racing - White next. The inexperience in these boats for Ben Ainslie showed when he was forced outside the gate and was last around.
Upwind, Spithill worked the shore line while Energy took the offshore path and at the windward mark Energy Team was ahead by 19 seconds from Oracle Team - Spithill with ETNZ slipped to third. These positions were held to the finish with the two Luna Rossa boats next, ahead of Artemis Racing - White and then Oracle Team USA - Coutts.
For the next race, Barker chose the opposite (leeward) end of the line but it was Spithill, with a perfectly executed start who led at the first mark and then extended on every leg of the course to finish 1:11 in front of Team Korea, skippered by Nathan Outteridge. Energy Team was third to finish the day second on points, three ahead of Team Korea and Luna Rossa - Piranha, skippered by Chris Draper. If Energy wins tomorrow the French can take the overall trophy, so too can Team Korea, such is the importance of the final race win bonus.