by Bob Fisher
America’s Cup World Series Naples 2012 -
Bob Fisher, one of the world's top international yachting journalists, and certainly the top writer on the America's Cup, is in Naples, Italy for the Fourth 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 1 - America's Cup World Series - Naples, Italy
It seems almost ironic that wing extensions were designed and constructed especially for the light and fluky winds of the Bay of Naples . . . not the conditions that the competitors found on the opening day of the AC World Series regatta. Instead the first race began for the nine boats in 19 knots of south-westerly that blew from a grey sky causing a lumpy sea. The breeze increased, and with it the waves, as racing progressed, until it was decided not to hold the third race because of the inclement conditions.
If prizes were to be awarded for starting, they would all have to go to Jimmy Spithill and the Oracle Racing 4 crew who nailed the line both times to lead around the first mark, but today there was much more to it that starting and staying clear. The lumpy waves made boat-handling a premium concern - a square-edged one would rapidly put the unsuspecting helmsman on the back foot.
The first race was a full-on, forty-minute affair and the nine boats lined up for a close start, but it was the two Oracle Racing boats that were the first to show with Spithill's OR-4 leading Darren Bundock's OR-5 by five seconds around the first mark with Dean Barker in Emirates Team New Zealand (who had announced a new sponsor in SKYY Vodka earlier in the day) in third place ahead of Terry Hutchinson's Artemis. Downwind, Spithill stretched the lead to 1:01 with Artemis 36 seconds behind, in turn five seconds ahead of Bundock.
Spithill continued to display blistering speed upwind and pulled out another 23 seconds on Artemis as Yann Guichard in Energy Team came into the reckoning 45 seconds later. The fires were burning for Spithill, who stretched his lead to 1:36 downwind. Artemis pressed hard upwind, but had a dreadful tack on the the port-tack lay-line near the third weather mark which allowed Energy Team into second place. Hutchinson and his crew compounded their error after tacking at the mark by burying the lee bow as they bore away and instigating a capsize.
At the finish, after 39:39 of racing, Spithill's Oracle Racing-4 was 2:52 ahead of Energy Team with ETNZ another 37 seconds down, but claiming third place ahead of Team Korea and Oracle Racing-5 (Darren Bundock). Luna Rossa-P (Chris Draper) beat her teammate Luna Rossa-S (Paul Campbell-James) for sixth while gear damage to China Team and the Artemis capsize resulted in neither boat finishing.
It was even lumpier seas that greeted the seven starters for the second race with Spithill once more leading the pack away, but on the next leg Barker took ETNZ into the lead. Upwind Spithill reclaimed the lead, but not for long. Barker was back in front as they rounded the weather mark and extended that lead downwind when Team Korea, skippered for the first time by 49er world champion, Nathan Outteridge, came from the right hand side of the course to be ahead of Spithill, although 1:31 behind the Kiwis.
These positions were held to the finish with Energy Team fourth and then the two Luna Rossa boats - this time Campbell-James' crew led Draper's. Bundock, with gear failure, did not finish and neither Artemis nor China Team started.
With conditions worsening further, it was decided to end racing for the day, and the reserve race for Sunday was not held
Afterwards, Jimmy Spithill has just stated that a frame in their wing was broken during the first race, and so they eased the pressure during the second, notably by not hoisting a genniker on the downwind legs.