Please select your home edition
Edition
Zhik Dongfeng 728 x 90

AC34 - Spithill drives the biggest juggernaut in America’s Cup history

by David Schmidt, Sail-World USA Editor on 25 Sep 2013
San Francisco 34th AMERICA’S CUP America’s Cup final Oracle Team USA skipper James Spithill Race 16 Photo: © LUNA ROSSA/Carlo Borlenghi Carlo Borlenghi/Luna Rossa http://www.lunarossachallenge.com
Two days ago I was cautious: Lady Luck had been kind to the boys of Oracle Team USA in their quest to defend the 34th America’s Cup against Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ), who have been on match point for some time.

Things felt bleak for the American-flagged team last week. Sure, skipper Jimmy Spithill was confident that he could still win, despite (or maybe because of) an almost comical points deficit; now, however, the entire country believes that winning is just a matter of time.


So how did the wheels come off the Kiwi’s bus? The honest truth is that they didn’t-the Kiwis are sailing just fine, thank you.

Instead, the Americans found a way to turbocharge both their boat and their crew.

Many people (myself included) questioned the soundness of the judgment to remove John Kostecki, one of the most successful tacticians on the planet, in favor of Sir Ben Ainslie, but the swap to the five-time Olympic medalist has made a clear difference, and the back of the boat simply looks like a happier place these days. Sure, it’s easy to smile when you’re winning races, but five back-to-back bullets under match-point pressure is no easy feat.



Changes to the boat are harder to pinpoint from an outside-of-the-team’s-shed perspective, but the rumors are strong that Oracle has made significant modifications throughout this Cup. In fact, the team has had more than 15 re-measurement certifications issued, while the Kiwis have made roughly half as many edits to their steed.

The obvious place for Oracle’s huge boatspeed gain is in the team’s foil package, which simply looks to be much more user-friendly than their initial set-up, but you can bet your last bottle of rum that Oracle’s design team has carefully considered every go-fast idea and possible modification, given their finite-but-expanding timeframe.

To be fair, Oracle arrived at the Cup with a noticeably slower boat and far rougher crew work, both of which they have directly addressed. For ETNZ, their momentum was a victim of many weather- and time-related postponements (don’t forget that ETNZ was less than four minutes from winning the Auld Mug last week when they timed-out of their 40-minute course limit).

My guess is that the Kiwi design team had already realized most of the AC72 gains prior to September 7, so Oracle’s extra’s runway (or stay of execution) has done nothing but help their bottom-line speed.



So if the two boats and the two crews are now equal, what does Oracle have to do differently to win the Cup? Nothing. Just keep sailing aggressively, boys, stay clear of any boat-handling mistakes, and the Cup stays in this hemisphere (we hope).

As for the Kiwis, their problems are originating three minutes before the gun goes off, namely in the pre-start maneuvers.

Skipper Dean Barker is an amazingly consistent skipper, but he’s not one to take big risks on the starting line. Right now, however, this mindset is hindering his team’s ability to win the Cup, as polished crew work and fast board-to-board gybes don’t much matter if they can never get their bows out in front.

Simply put, Barker needs to get aggressive and quickly, as he has thoroughly proven that a lost starting sequence now equates to a lost race; changing this outcome fully depends on his ability to drop the hammer on Spithill, ideally without match-point pressure.



Two nail-biting races are slated for today, and it will be fascinating to see if Barker gets tough in the prestart, and if Spithill can again maintain his flawless record around the track. Stay tuned, as things will get a lot more intense before the champagne bottles go pop.

May the four winds blow you safely home,

Hall Spars - BattenMackay BoatsNaiad/Oracle Supplier

Related Articles

America's Cup - Southern Spars AC50 build for Emirates Team NZ + Video
The Peter Blake skippered Steinlager 2 put Southern Spars on the map 27 years after Steinlager 2 put Southern Spars on the map with her unequalled clean sweep of the 1989/90 Whitbread Round the World Race, Southern Spars were called on to build Emirates Team NZ's America's Cup Challenger. Here's a look behind the scenes at the composite engineering process Southern Spars employ on projects ranging from Volvo OR spars, to Olympic bike wheels to an AC50
Posted on 1 May
Gladwell's Line - Timeout in Bermuda and a decision OTUSA will regret?
With Emirates Team New Zealand's AC50 now in Bermuda and being re-assembled, it is time to take a breath With Emirates Team New Zealand's AC50 now in Bermuda and being re-assembled, it is time to take a breath from what has been a hectic couple of months, both in Auckland and Bermuda. The third major Practice Session has concluded in Bermuda. This was conducted almost entirely if winds of around 16-25kts - starting to get close to the top end of the range for the AC50's.
Posted on 20 Apr
America's Cup - Glenn Ashby on hitting the AC50's sound barrier
These boats are incredible. The performance that can be achieved in light airs is the amazing thing. The big difference between the AC72, the America's Cup Class, used in the 2013 America's Cup in San Francisco and the smaller AC50 to be sailed in Bermuda, lies in their light and medium air performance. 'These boats are incredible. The performance that can be achieved in light airs is the amazing thing. In 7-8-9-10 knots of breeze, you are sailing at 30kts at times.
Posted on 18 Apr
America's Cup - Bernasconi on expected winning factors in Bermuda
ETNZ's Technical Director, Dan Bernasconi has let out a few clues as to where he thought the differences might lie Emirates Team NZ's Technical Director, Dan Bernasconi has let out a few clues as to where he thought the differences might lie once the six teams entered in the 35th America's Cup. 'We have had a great run', he says. 'We've had a few hiccups along the way, as always. But the boat is going really well. We are getting through manoeuvres very well. And we think our straight line speed is good.'
Posted on 18 Apr
America's Cup - Team NZ return fire at Coutts' social media bullets
Emirates Team New Zealand have corrected the allegations made by America's Cup organisers Emirates Team NZ have corrected the allegations made by America's Cup organisers in a media release on Thursday (NZT) over the team's daggerboard use. In the release, replayed by America's Cup Events Authority and Oracle Team USA CEO Sir Russell Coutts on his Facebook page. It was claimed that the Kiwi team had an issue with daggerboards and were using a rule they had not supported to keep sailing
Posted on 2 Apr
New Pacific 52 class makes its debut in San Francisco
The first of two new-build Pacific 52's from Auckland's Cookson Boats is now sailing in San Francisco. The first of two new-build Pacific 52's from Auckland's Cookson Boats is now sailing in San Francisco. Invisible Hand for San Francisco's Frank Slootman replaces his earlier RP63 of the same name. She will soon be joined by a second Cookson build, Bad Pack (Tom Holthus) from the same moulds. A third, RIO 52 is for RIO 100 supermaxi owner Manouch Moshayedi.
Posted on 18 Mar
Securely moored to the quay, or cast adrift?
With boating, you have to cast the lines off in order to go and get into it. With boating, you have to cast the lines off in order to go and get into it. However, when it comes to your insurer, you kind of expect that they’re going to be as bound to you as the standing rigging is to the mast, the ring frames to the hull, or the engine mounts to the runners, and the propellers to the shafts, skegs and cutlass bearings. Whom would you rather be insured with?
Posted on 15 Mar
Gladwell's Line - Of Carnage, Characters and Colour
About this time of an America's Cup season, the sap begins rising as new boats are launched About this time of an America's Cup season, the sap begins rising as new boats are launched, and Cup fans get their first sight of the various team designers' response to the latest America's Cup Class rule. In the monohull days, of course, we initially only got a partial glimpse thanks to the shrouding practices adopted by all teams to hide the nether regions of their America's Cupper
Posted on 13 Mar
So what’s it really like?
For ages now, these editorials have talked about multihull this, record that, outrageous boat speed and 24-hour runs For ages now, well it seems like that anyway, these editorials have talked about multihull this, record that, outrageous boat speed and incredible 24-hour runs. In their own very unique way they totally represent the technical avant-garde, and thank God for that. Where would we be without their impressive shapes, wonderful rigs, and now of course, foiling magic.
Posted on 6 Mar
JJ Giltinan 18ft - Kiwi Champion the subject of two protests in Sydney
Overall series leader Yamaha will have her position put on the line in a series of protest hearings on Friday Overall series leader Yamaha will have her position put on the line in a series of protest hearings Friday morning in Sydney. She faces two claims - both from Appliancesonline (David Witt). The first is an attempt to re-open the Hearing held on Wednesday morning after Yamaha was suffered damage in Race 3 as a result of a collision with a give way yacht, and Yamaha received redress of average
Posted on 3 Mar