Please select your home edition
Edition
InSunSport - International - GR

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,

Bakewell-White Yacht DesignInSunSport - NZT Clewring AC72

Related Articles

Gladwell's Line - Emirates Team NZ launches shadow AC50
Emirates Team NZ took a late but significant step along the road to the 35th America's Cup, with the launch of their AC4 Emirates Team NZ took a late but significant step along the road to the 35th America's Cup, with the launch of their AC45S - as the test boats are called in the Protocol which governs the 2017 event. The bloated Protocol, which now runs to 83 pages of legalese, is restrictive on the size of boat that can be built as a test platform but doesn't restrict the number that can be built.
Posted on 22 Jun
Platino recovery - Family confirms that tug has made rendezvous
Reports in social media say a salvage tug has made a rendezvous with the Platino earlier than expected. Reports in social media by family and friends of Nick Saull, the crew member killed during a catastrophic incident abroad the 66ft yacht Platino say the salvage tug which left on Tuesday night has made the rendezvous earlier than expected. The Facebook report says the tug, Sea Pelican, arrived on Friday morning, the weather in the area has eased and with a more favorable outlook.
Posted on 16 Jun
Rio 2016 - Double Olympic medallist on the delights of Guanabara Bay
Olympic Gold and Bronze medallist Bruce Kendall updates on the 2016 Olympic venue at Guanabara Bay. Olympic Gold and Bronze medallist, and now a windsurfer coach, Bruce Kendall has made several trips to the 2016 Olympic venue at Guanabara Bay. He updates on the pollution issue which is clearly not going to be resolved in a couple of months, and also shares his views on the venue from a sailing competition perspective.
Posted on 14 Jun
America's Cup - Artemis win Chicago as Team Japan wins two races
Louis Vuitton America's Cup World Series got three races away on Super Sunday. After losing the first official day of racing due to light winds and the non-arrival of the onshore breeze, Louis Vuitton America's Cup World Series got three races away on Super Sunday. From a racing perspective this was probably the best day of racing yet in the series which counts for points in the Qualifying Series of the America's Cup in 11 months time.
Posted on 12 Jun
America's Cup - Emirates TNZ NZ and Oracle capsize in Chicago Practice
Emirates Team New Zealand and Oracle Team USA capsized in Practice Racing at the Louis Vuitton ACWS Chicago There was action aplenty on Practice Day at Louis Vuitton America's Cup World Series Chicago, after Emirates Team New Zealand capsized in their match with Oracle Team USA, and then Oracle Team USA capsized later in the day. Team NZ's skipper skipper Glenn Ashby performed some impressive acrobatics ejecting from the AC45 capsize, without injury.
Posted on 11 Jun
America's Cup - Changes proposed to control future Cup options
Changes are being mooted to put the America's Cup on a longer-term footing according to the Daily Telegraph (UK) News that changes are being mooted to put the America's Cup on a longer-term footing is being floated in the Daily Telegraph (UK) by the British Challenger, Land Rover BAR. According to the Telegraph, some of the teams in the 2017 America's Cup are keen to lock-in parameters which would bind successive holders of the a style and frequency for the next America's Cup Match.
Posted on 8 Jun
America's Cup - AC50 construction uncovered - Part 2 - Wings and Costs
Second part of a two-part series looking at the AC50 construction progress at Core Builders Composites Second part of a two-part series looking at the construction progress at Core Builders Composites, and features of the AC50 class which will be used in the 35th America's Cup in Bermuda. Tim Smyth takes us on a tour of the CBC facility in Warkworth, and hour's drive north of Auckland. Where several AC50's, components and wingsails are under construction or have already been shipped to the teams.
Posted on 5 Jun
America's Cup - AC50 building program well underway at Core Builders
For the first time in America’s Cup history, Sail-World can publish photos of America’s Cup yachts during construction. With the forthcoming America's Cup in Bermuda just under 12 months away, production of the wingsails and AC50 one design hulls and components are well underway at Core Builders Composites in Warkworth, about an hour north of Auckland. For the first time in America’s Cup history, Sail-World can publish photos of America’s Cup yachts during construction.
Posted on 3 Jun
America's Cup - Arbitration Panel Hearing over Kiwi Qualifier for July
ACEA CEO, Russell Coutts has confirmed that the Arbitration Panel will hold its first Hearing in July. In a yet to be published interview in Sail-World, America’s Cup Events Authority CEO, Russell Coutts has confirmed that the Arbitration Panel will hold its first Hearing in July. This is the first official indication that the three person Arbitration Panel had even been formed, however Sail-World’s sources indicated that it had been empanelled since last January, possibly earlier.
Posted on 27 May
Rio 2016 - The Qualification Games - Part 2
Yachting NZ's refusal to nominate in three classes won in the first round of 2016 Olympic Qualification is unprecedented Yachting New Zealand's refusal to nominate in three classes won in the first round of 2016 Olympic Qualification is without precedent. Subject to Appeal, the Kiwis have signaled that they will reject 30% of the positions gained in the ISAF World Sailing Championships in Santander in 2014.
Posted on 22 May