Please select your home edition
Edition
Mariners Museum 728x90

AC34- A look at American hopes for a successful defense

by David Schmidt, Sail-World USA Editor on 16 Sep 2013
San Francisco, 14/09/13 34th AMERICA’S CUP America’s Cup Final 5 Emirates Team New Zealand vs Oracle Team USA Photo: © LUNA ROSSA/Carlo Borlenghi Carlo Borlenghi/Luna Rossa http://www.lunarossachallenge.com
For American fans of America’s Cup racing, these are dark days. Our team is trailing Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) six to zero, which is a historically unprecedented 'slump'. Still, hopes flickered slightly higher yesterday after Oracle Team USA-the Defender-managed to win a critical race that bought the team a bit more precious chronological runway in which to improve their boat and their boat handling.

Unfortunately, this victory didn’t come through brilliant sailing on Oracle’s part (although they played some smart tactical cards), but rather a rare crew error that almost cost ETNZ much more than a simple race.


By now you’ve seen the gobsmacking video and still photography of ETNZ’s AC72 scratching at the gates of vanishing stability. This error allowed the Americans to sail away in clear air, sans any serious challenge, and cross the finishing line nearly a minute before the Kiwis.

Still, Dean Barker, ETNZ’s skipper appeared cool and calm in the between-races interview-stirred, perhaps, but certainly not shaken.



While American fans were quick to hoist Old Glory high above their heads, hopes of an American comeback ebbed substantially as Barker again won the start of the next race and again beat Oracle around every mark before racing was cancelled due to winds exceeding the USCG-enforced safety limits.

At the post racing press conference, Jimmy Spithill, Oracle’s skipper, tried his best to frame the day’s on-the-water battles as a clear sign that his team can win races, but the fact remains that ETNZ died by their own sword yesterday, not through damage inflicted by Spithill.

The Defender has retooled their boat, truncating their bowsprit (no more Code Zeros for the Americans) and making other less-obvious changes, which legitimately seem to be helping the team’s ability to sail to weather. The breeze is expected to be up for today’s racing, which could potentially translate to more cancelled races. For Oracle, any extra time to work on their boat and to polish their crew work absolutely matters, and should be considered one of the team’s prime sources of lifeblood.

The hard-boiled reality for American fans is that we need to win nine races in order to defend, while the Kiwis simply have to take three races and the Cup goes antipodean. I’m no betting man, but the odds are not looking great for American interests.



Still, one real flicker of hope remaining for Oracle is the team’s never-die, never-surrender attitude. Listening to Spithill at the press conference, it was obvious that this squad has plenty of fight left, but watching them sail the course against ETNZ, especially in the first races of this Cup, it’s obvious that the Defender simply has a slower boat, less tactical boat.

The reasons are manifold, ranging from the fact that they didn’t incorporate a self-tacking jib (which frees up ETNZ’s tactician, Ray Davies, to study the course, rather than spending his time pushing around hydraulic fluid) to their fine bows to their less-stiff platform to their October 16, 2012 capsize, which set the team seriously astern of the Kiwis, training-time wise.

Add up all of the fractions and you quickly arrive at familiar numbers, namely six to zero.



It will be interesting to see if Oracle emerges from the shed with additional modifications or changes to their crew list. For their part, ETNZ is also still evolving their AC72, but it’s safe to say that their learning curve is far less daunting than the one that Spithill and his team members will be negotiating over the next several days.

May the four winds blow you safely home,

NaiadMackay BoatsProtector - 660 x 82

Related Articles

An interview with Patrick Kennedy about the Ida Lewis Distance Race
I interviewed Patrick Kennedy, chair of the 2017 ILDR, via email to learn more about the race’s history and evolution. With this year’s Ida Lewis Distance Race set to unfurl the weekend of August 18-20, I caught up with Patrick Kennedy, chair of the 2017 ILDR, via email to learn more about the race’s history and evolution, its challenges, and the event’s new partnership with the 2017 J/Fest New England.
Posted on 14 Aug
An interview with Marianne Davis about the CORK International Regatta
I interviewed Marianne Davis, co-chair of the CORK International Regatta, to learn about the regatta’s state of affairs. While the various CORK regattas' registration lists include international sailors, these events are some of the gemstones in Sail Canada’s yearly championship calendar, making them of extra importance to Canadian sailors. I recently caught up with Marianne Davis, co-chair of the 2017 event, via email, to learn more about the CORK International Regatta’s evolution and its current state of affairs.
Posted on 7 Aug
A Q&A with the RORC’s Nick Elliott about the 2017 Rolex Fastnet Race
I caught up with Nick Elliott, RORC Racing Manager, via email, to learn more about the world-famous Rolex Fastnet Race. When one stops to consider the world’s best ocean races, the Royal Offshore Racing Club’s Rolex Fastnet Race, which starts on Sunday, August 6, 2017, is never far from mind. I caught up with Nick Elliott, RORC Racing Manager, via email to learn more about the race’s history and evolution, its challenges, and the amount of work that goes into pulling off this world-famous regatta.
Posted on 1 Aug
Ian Walker - Musto Ambassador on the Volvo Ocean Race, America's Cup
Ian Walker on his Volvo Ocean Race win, why food and clothing are so important offshore, his views on the America's Cup We speak to Musto ambassador Ian Walker about his Volvo Ocean Race win, why food and clothing are so important offshore, his views on the America's Cup, his new desk job, sailing for fun, and 20 years of the John Merricks Sailing Trust.
Posted on 23 Jul
Black Jack Yachting. Bigger boat. Bigger team. Even bigger performance
Throughout the iterations of maxis called Black Jack, a strong, consistent and talented team has been their focus Throughout the iterations of maxis called Black Jack, a strong, consistent and talented team has been their focus. Some were sail makers, like Skipper Mark Bradford and also Vaughan Prentice from North Sails’ Brisbane loft. Others were riggers, such as Bruce Clarke, and there are even boat builders, like Gary van Lunteren, as well as Ash Deeks.
Posted on 20 Jul
A Q&A with Tom Trujillo about the Transpacific Race’s 49th running
Sail-World interviewed Tom Trujillo, the Transpac Race’s PRO, via email to learn more about this classic bluewater race. The Transpac Race (est 1906) is in a rarefied group of four races that are considered sailing’s greatest bluewater Corinthian challenges, and it welcomes a wildly diverse fleet of bluewater-worthy boats. The 49th running of this classic race is currently underway, so Sail-World caught up with Tom Trujillo, the race’s principal race officer, via email to learn more.
Posted on 7 Jul
Gladwell's Line - America's Cup returns to its new home and thinking
Emirates Team New Zealand's win in the 35th America's Cup ends 17-years of wandering in the AC wilderness Emirates Team New Zealand's win in the 35th America's Cup ends 17-years of wandering in the AC wilderness and will open a new era of America's Cup, New Zealand and World Sailing. A rookie crew won the most prestigious trophy in sailing, and one of the most difficult to win in any sport.
Posted on 29 Jun
SuperFoilers Are Go!
SuperFoilers represent many things. Whilst those components are disparate and virtually from different planets SuperFoilers represent many things. Whilst those components are disparate and virtually from different planets in the great scheme of things, they come together in the one form as harmoniously as a Rolls Royce, and also deliver intense energy way past the sum of their parts, just like some amazing band.
Posted on 28 Jun
A Q&A with Kimball Livingston about San Francisco high school sailing
I emailed with my friend and colleague Kimball Livingtston to learn about San Francisco’s latest sailing revolution. I started hearing whispers of shifts in the San Francisco Bay high school sailing scene a couple of months ago. A few inquiries led me to my good friend and colleague Kimball Livingston, a world-class sailor, scribe, and StFYC staff commodore who isn’t one to keep his seaboots dry when the topic turns to opportunities for the next sailing generation. I caught up with KL via email to learn more.
Posted on 13 Jun
A Q&A with Andrew Howe about winning the 2015 Marion to Bermuda Race
I interviewed Andrew Howe, the 2015 Marion to Bermuda Race’s winning co-navigator, to learn more about their race. In 2015, skipper Greg Marston and the crew of Ti, a 1967 Alden Mistral, racing under celestial rules, were the overall winners of the Marion Bermuda Race Founders Division, beating boats that were enjoying GPS accuracy. On the eve of the 2017 edition of the race, I reached out to Andrew Howe, the team’s co-navigator, to gain perspective on this impressive win and hear about his 2017 plans.
Posted on 7 Jun