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Auckland On the Water Boat Show

Fisher's View- 'Isn’t that a dainty dish to set before the King?'

by Bob Fisher on 19 Nov 2011
Emirates Team NZ stares down the barrel of a defeat - Match Racing Semi-Finals America’s Cup World Series, San Diego ACEA - Photo Gilles Martin-Raget http://photo.americascup.com/

Bob Fisher, one of the worlds top international yachting journalists, and certainly the top writer on the America's Cup, is in San Diego for the Third round of the America's Cup World Series.

Bob is a multihuller from way back, having competed for Britain in the Little America's Cup and has been covering the America's Cup since 1967.

He writes:

Dear Diary – Day 5 - America's Cup World Series - San Diego, California, USA

Semi-finals Friday

With owner Larry Ellison in the sixth-man seat aboard Oracle Racing 4, Jimmy Spithill and his crew turned on a strident performance to beat Emirates Team New Zealand in two straight races to go into the final of the ACWS Match Racing Championship.

It wasn’t totally one-way traffic, but Spithill’s match racing ability provided him with an edge that Dean Barker did not seem able to match.

In the first race, Oracle Racing 4 attacked in the pre-start and Jimmy lived up to his soubriquet 'Pitbull' to force the Kiwis over the line two seconds early. When ETNZ had taken her penalty, the Oracle Racing team was nine seconds ahead at the first mark.

From then on, Spithill drew away on each leg of the course to finish 1:09 in front. One up and so was the Oracle Racing team’s tail, but this time all the hunting was to no avail. ETNZ was just ahead as they started and led around the first mark where Oracle Racing gybed instantly, but it was not a good one and ETNZ led by 12 seconds through the leeward gate.

John Kostecki, the Oracle Racing tactician had sensed that the left-hand side of the windward leg would be favoured and called Jimmy to head that way. Barker failed to cover and the split was as much as 500 metres. There was indeed more wind on the left side of the course and as both boats tacked the advantage switched from the Kiwis to the Oracle Racing team who led by 22 seconds through the gate.


The fight appeared to go out of ETNZ and slowly Spithill and company drew ahead to finish 34 seconds in front to claim a place in tomorrow’s final. 'I’m very happy,' said Oracle Racing CEO Russell Coutts, 'In these boats you don’t need much extra breeze to make a big difference.'

Crewman Joey Newton admitted that there had been a great deal of work carried out on the 'soft' sails since the last regatta, in Plymouth: 'We have changed the sizes and the shapes, and it has made a big difference.' 'Cheese' de Ridder explained that the trimming of the wing, with its three different elements was much more of a matter of experience than it had been with the eight element wing on the 90-foot trimaran USA-17 in which Oracle Racing had won the America’s Cup: 'There are no instruments, I have to do it all by feel.'

Yann Guichard, the skipper of the French Energy Team said: 'We spent much of the morning deciding what we wouldn’t do in the pre-start,' and true to his word, acted on the decision to stay away from Artemis. It obviously frustrated Terry Hutchinson and his team that the Energy team refused to engage.

Artemis led from the start with Energy Team close behind at the first mark, but when both boats went for their first gybe simultaneously, the technique of the experienced French multihullers proved devastating. They turned inside Artemis and were up to speed before the Swedish team and shot into the lead. Nothing that Hutchinson could do made any difference and the French drew away to win by 26 seconds.


Their second race was a carbon copy of the first with Artemis leading by six seconds around the first mark and Energy Team gybing inside the leader soon after rounding to take the lead with a better accomplished manoeuvre and sail away to a 1:03 victory and the place in the final to meet Oracle Racing Spithll.

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