America's Cup World Series 2011-12 final event is currently underway in Newport, RI. Racing before another enthusiastic crowd estimated at nearly 9,000 people, Oracle Team USA kept providing thrills for its American fans.
Helmsmen Jimmy Spithill and Russell Coutts advanced their crews to Sunday’s match racing championship by beating Artemis Racing (Terry Hutchinson) and Luna Rossa Piranha (Chris Draper), respectively. Both Oracle Team USA sailors gained advantages on the start line that they wouldn’t relinquish.
In the second fleet race of the event, sailed after the match race semifinals, Spithill staged a late comeback to overtake longtime rival Emirates Team New Zealand on the short ninth and final leg to the finish line to win by seven seconds.
'It was a fantastic race track, very, very challenging,' said Spithill. 'There were a lot of opportunities out there. I thought our boathandling was very sharp and our speed was good. It was a very polished performance from the guys onboard. They have a never-give-up attitude, fought their way around the track and were rewarded. It’s very satisfying.'
Coutts, the four-time America’s Cup winner, did a masterful job in the pre-start of his match race against Luna Rossa Piranha. Coutts pushed Draper to the start line and positioned himself to leeward of his rival, a setup that allowed Coutts to sail Draper to the course boundary after the first reach mark and gain control of the match.
'I had a plan to push him. Because of the way the current was setting up it was going to be hard for him to defend, and he was just a bit too early,' said Coutts. 'Taking him out to the boundary was the safe option because you close his avenues off.'
Coutts’ fortune turned a bit sour in the fleet race. He had a poor start and then encountered a penalty halfway through the race that relegated him to seventh.
'With 30 seconds to go we were setup nicely for the start, and then I messed up the timing from there,' said Coutts. 'We also got a stupid penalty halfway through the race. You can’t make those types of mistakes and expect to win in this fleet. The level’s just too great.'
Spithill had his own troubles in his match racing pre-start versus Artemis Racing. He was late into the start box, but quickly regained control when Artemis Racing received a time penalty for starting too early. The match was close for the first two legs, but Spithill and crew gained control on the third leg, and upwind leg, and covered to the finish.
In the fleet race, Spithill had a good start near the windward end of the line and quickly settled into a battle with Emirates Team New Zealand and Artemis Racing. All three crews showed fine form in extending from the fleet and settled into a battle of nip and tuck, each taking turns making gains.
Spithill and the Kiwis swapped the lead a couple of times before Team New Zealand settled in at the front on the last downwind leg, Leg eight of nine. Spithill took the left side of the racecourse (looking downwind), opposite from Team New Zealand.
The two crews converged from opposite sides of the course within 100 meters to the last turning mark, but Team New Zealand had to jibe while Spithill came in with speed. He was able to sail through the lee of Team New Zealand as they completed their maneuver, and then sped to the finish for the satisfying victory.
'We liked that side of the course downwind all day,' said Spithill. 'They had to do one more maneuver to get around the mark, which also factored in our decision making. We had a real enjoyable battle with them and Artemis; it was just a case of never giving up.'
Two fleet races are scheduled tomorrow afternoon, after the ACWS – Newport Speed Trials. The match racing championship is slated for Sunday, before the fleet race finale from which the Newport champion and first-ever ACWS overall champion will be crowned.
Oracle Team USA Spithill – Jimmy Spithill (skipper/helmsman) John Kostecki (tactician), Dirk de Ridder (wingsail trimmer), Joe Newton (headsail trimmer), Piet van Nieuwenhuijzen (bowman).
Oracle Team USA Coutts – Russell Coutts (skipper/helmsman), Kyle Langford (wingsail trimmer), Simon Daubney (headsail trimmer), Matt Mitchell (runners), Sam Newton (bowman).
2011-12 ACWS – Newport Fleet Racing Championship
Team (Country) R1-R2 — Total Points
1. Oracle Team USA Spithill (USA) 1-1 — 20
2. Artemis Racing (SWE) 4-3 — 15
3. Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL) 6-2 — 14
4. Oracle Team USA Coutts (USA) 2-7 – 13
5. Energy Team (FRA) 5-4 — 13
6. Luna Rossa Piranha (ITA) 3-8 — 11
7. Luna Rossa Swordfish (ITA) 7-5 — 10
8. Team Korea (KOR) 8-6 — 8
(Scoring: first place = 10 points, second = 9, third = 8, fourth = 7, fifth = 6, sixth = 5, seventh = 4, eighth = 3)
Match Racing Championship – Semifinal Results
Match 1: Oracle Team USA Spithill d. Artemis Racing, 1-0
Match 2: Oracle Team USA Coutts d. Luna Rossa Piranha, 1-0
Oracle Team USA website
Americas Cup website
by Tim Jeffery
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8:34 AM Sat 30 Jun 2012GMT
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