Please select your home edition
Edition
Marine Resource 2016

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,

NaiadBarz Optics - Melanin LensesBakewell-White Yacht Design

Related Articles

A Q&A with Dick Neville, Quantum Key West Race Week’s RC chairman
I caught up with Dick Neville, Race Committee chair for the Quantum Key West Race Week, to learn more about the event. For the past 30 years, international sailors have gathered in Key West, Florida, each January for Key West Race Week, a regatta that has achieved legendary status due to its calendar dates, its location, and the impressive level of competition and racecourse management that this storied event offers. I caught up with Dick Neville, Race Committee chair for this year’s Quantum KWRW, to learn more.
Posted on 16 Jan
A Q&A with Daniel Smith, the Clipper Race’s new deputy race director
I talked with Daniel Smith, the Clipper Round The World Race’s new deputy race director, to learn more about his role. I was fortunate to sail with Daniel Smith [36, SCO], skipper of “Derry~Londonderry~Doire” for the 2015/2016 edition of the Clipper Round The World Race, when the fleet reached Seattle last spring. Now, Smith has been hired as the event’s deputy race director-a job that will test many of the skills that he polished as a skipper. I caught up with Smith via email to learn more about his new job.
Posted on 9 Jan
Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race - Suck it up, sunshine!
The 72nd start of the iconic blue water classic had 300,000 spectators lining the foreshores of Sydney Harbour The 72nd start of the iconic blue water classic had 300,000 spectators lining the foreshores of Sydney Harbour, another two million watching on TV, and the constant buzz and whir of media helicopters overhead. 88 boats, from Australia, USA, UK, Germany, Sweden, Russia, Japan, Korea, China, oh and New Zealand, had lined up on three start lines.
Posted on 31 Dec 2016
Rolex Sydney Hobart Race - More merriment on the airwaves
Here are more examples of merriment on the airwaves between the boats and Hobart Race Control So on December 29, 2016, after the River Derwent had let just three boats home (Perpetual Loyal, Giacomo and Scallywag, all inside the old race record, she went to sleep for a lot of the day. This made it frustrating for the sailors, some of whom saw the lighter side. So after seeing some of those in Dark & Stormy, here are more examples of merriment on the airwaves between the boats and HRC
Posted on 29 Dec 2016
Sydney Hobart Race-Dark and stormy, well because it is Dark and Stormy
Proving that there is a lighter side to the frustrations that is a race to Hobart Well it is now dark and the rain 'storms' have passed, but proving that there is a lighter side to the frustrations that is a race to Hobart, the custom Murray 37, Dark & Stormy had a wonderful exchange on the radio. Quite possibly it was co-owner and Navigator Terry Courts on the VHF in the super-frank exchange with Hobart Race Control at around 1928hrs on 29/12/16.
Posted on 29 Dec 2016
Rolex Sydney Hobart Race - Wicked
ather and Son outfit, Wicked, are Matt and Mark Welsh from Melbourne. Matt is at home on the couch after knee surgery Father and Son outfit, Wicked, are Matt and Mark Welsh from Melbourne. Matt is at home on the couch after knee surgery, but Mark is out on the water, approaching Hobart. From on board he said, 'Amazing race. Barely any windward work. Just does not get better than this. Bit of gear damage cost us early, and we had to sail a little conservatively.'
Posted on 29 Dec 2016
Rolex Sydney Hobart Race - Accepting the Challenge
When you buy a boat like the late Lou Abrahma's Sydney 38, Challenge, you're almost obliged to keep taking her South When you buy a boat like the late Lou Abrahma's Sydney 38, Challenge, you're almost obliged to keep taking her South at Christmas time. Luckily this has not been a problem for Chris Mrakas and his new crew, which includes Bruce Reidy
Posted on 29 Dec 2016
Rolex Sydney Hobart Race – 67 out of 70
It's a pretty awesome score in anybody’s language. When it is the number of hours you spend under kite It's a pretty awesome score in anybody’s language. When it is the number of hours you spend under kite in the 72nd Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race so far, then it is more than A+++. Anto Sweetapple from on board the Jones 40, Quetzalcoatl, reports in from at sea for us.
Posted on 29 Dec 2016
Rolex Sydney Hobart 2016 - The 60 Hour report card
60 hours into the 72nd Rolex Sydney Hobart race. 16 boats finished,five boats retired and 67 boats at sea. The state of play 60 hours into the 72nd running of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. At 0100hrs Australian Eastern Daylight Savings Time this morning, 16 boats had finished the 2016 race. Five boats had retired, and 67 boats were still on the water.
Posted on 28 Dec 2016
Rolex Sydney Hobart Race – the second step for CQS and 2017
It was a frustrating end to a frustrating race for the newest supermaxi in the 2016 Rolex Sydney to Hobart race It was a frustrating end to a frustrating race for the newest supermaxi to compete in the 2016 Rolex Sydney to Hobart race. It was just her second ever race, with her first, the White Island Race in New Zealand, producing a line honours win. While Ludde Ingvall’s radical new 98-footer CQS had a very slow passage across an almost windless Storm Bay and River Derwent.
Posted on 28 Dec 2016