by Tim Jeffrey
Oracle Racing Spithill, led by skipper Jimmy Spithill of Australia, has won its second match racing championship. The crew of five won the first race despite trailing for more than half of the 18 minute race.
San Diego (USA) / America’s Cup World Series - ORACLE Racing - San Diego - Match Racing finals
In Race 2 Spithill and crew John Kostecki (USA, tactics), Dirk de Ridder (NED, wingsail trimmer), Joe Newton (AUS, headsail trimmer) and Piet van Nieuwenhuijzen (NED, bowman) won by more than one minute to secure the championship.
'We’re really happy,' said Spithill. 'We worked pretty hard on our match racing after the Plymouth regatta. Our sail design team, our shore team, full credit to those guys. We got here early and I thought our preparation was second to none. It’s great to reward the team with a victory.'
San Diego marks the third event of the America’s Cup World Series. Oracle Racing Spithill won the first match racing championship in Cascais, Portugal, in August and placed fifth at the second event in September at Plymouth, U.K.
Like yesterday’s semi final round, team principal Larry Ellison was aboard today as the sixth crewman. He noted the growth the crew has undergone since August.
'We’ve constantly improved throughout the year, which is what we wanted to do,' said Ellison. 'Compared to Portugal, the quality of the sailing, the communication and the decision making is dramatically improved and that’s what we wanted to see.'
Oracle Racing Spithill started Race 1 to windward of Energy Team but the French took the early lead, a lead they held over the first four legs of the race. But at the second leeward gate Oracle Racing Spithill was able to get to the left of the French crew.
In a scene similar to yesterday’s semifinal match, Oracle Racing Spithill and Energy Team sailed to opposite sides of the racecourse. With the wind oscillating through 30 degrees from the west and blowing between 6 and 8 knots, Oracle Racing Spithill crossed on port tack by about one boatlength and held on over the next two legs for a nine second victory.
'It was a tough day. We had a different breeze which made it real tricky because we hadn’t seen this breeze this week,' said Kostecki, the American tactician from the San Francisco Bay area. 'I think at the end of the day what made us strong is we had good boatspeed. When we got that split I think we went the right way, but also we were quite fast. That’s nice because boatspeed makes you look good.'
Oracle Racing’s speed and crew work was solid in the second race. They led off the start line, kept a tight cover on Energy Team and sailed away to a victory of 67 seconds.
'This is our third regatta now with the same team and we’re only getting better,' said Kostecki. 'For me, our biggest improvement is in our light-air speed. We’re a lot faster in the lighter winds. We have a new gennaker and jib. They’re pretty radically different from before and a huge improvement.'
Oracle Racing Spithill was able to keep Energy Team at bay but earlier today Oracle Racing Coutts, skippered by Darren Bundock, dropped its sail-off for fifth place to Aleph – Equipe de France. Oracle Racing Coutts trailed off the start line and could never get back in the race.
Tomorrow marks the final day of ACWS San Diego with one race to determine the Fleet Racing Championship. The heat is scheduled to start at 2:00 p.m. and last approximately 40 minutes.
Spithill wasn’t shy about his expectations. 'No question we want the double,' said Spithill. 'We want to be the first team to win both events. We feel like we have good speed and we’ll be doing everything we can tomorrow to get that victory.'
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