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America's Cup - The Answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the Wind

by Bob Fisher on 21 Sep 2013
20/09/2013 - San Francisco (USA,CA) - 34th America’s Cup - Final Match - Racing Day 10 ACEA - Photo Gilles Martin-Raget © http://photo.americascup.com/
In the 34th America’s Cup, the comeback kids are smiling and the match-pointers, having been close to clinching their hold on the trophy, must be desperately disappointed. The day belonged to Oracle Team USA and It has the most unusual weather conditions in San Francisco Bay to thank for it.

Races have been stopped for too much wind, notably in the second half of the allotted starting time, but today, Friday, the 13th Race was abandoned when the 40-minute time limit ran out with the Kiwis over 1,200 metres ahead and about to round the last mark – some two minutes from the finish.

When the 13th Race was re-run, there was a completely new scenario and Jimmy Spithill and the American team was able to live for another day. The question now is whether Oracle Team USA can win six races before Emirates Team New Zealand can nail to one match it needs to carry home the America’s Cup. The answer is blowin’ in the wind.


The first running of Race 13 was packed with excitement. ETNZ had the up-to-now favoured port tack entry, but the start line was slightly skewed from normal as the wind was more in the south-westerly direction than from the west-south-west, which in turn made the second leg starboard tack biased. OTUSA took up the leeward position and held high to the first turning mark, artificially stretching the gap between them to 10 seconds.

With Code Zero headsails set (Oracle had reinstated its bowsprit for this race) after the first gybe, the Kiwis were sailing lower than the US team and it soon began to pay and the positions were reversed. By the time they were at the bottom mark, ETNZ led by 1’:42' and already the 40-minute time limit for the race was beginning to be likely to be called into play.

Upwind the Kiwis gained again and were 750 metres in front as they rounded the windward mark. They went further and further ahead, almost to 1,500 metres as they approached the leeward, and final mark, when the time limit for the race expired. There was bitter disappointment for the team and its supporters ashore.

The breeze had picked up a couple of knots for the second race but it was even more shifty with the usual west-south-west trying to dominate, but without total success. Once more, the port entry was Barker’s and this time he made full use of the advantage it provided, leading out of the start to leeward and rounding the first mark three seconds ahead.


It was on the run that Spithill attacked, picking up a favourable slant when he was on starboard tack and 'Hollywooding' his move to clear the stern of ETNZ. The Kiwis were penalized (correctly) and that put OTUSA ahead, but it was close going into the bottom gate. Ben Ainslie positioned the US boat so that ETNZ had to make an extra gybe, away from the line to the favoured side of the course.

It was as good as over there. OTUSA was away, leading by an additional 40 seconds at the start of the run. The gap grew as the Kiwi shoulders sagged and Oracle Team USA went on to score its third point.

It will be a huge hill for the American team to climb, but skipper Spithill says: 'We believe we can win. We’ve worked hard on the boat and the guys believe we can win.' Barker countered: 'There’s no lack of confidence in our team, we know we can do it,'

Only time and the wind will tell.

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