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Fisher's View- The Plymouth Cat and Pony Show pulls local fans

by Bob Fisher on 11 Sep 2011
America’s Cup World Series, Plymouth - Day 1 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 Plymouth for the second 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 1 - America's Cup World Series - Plymouth, England


There are certain restrictions, constrictions even, to the type of course that can be set for the AC-45 racing in Plymouth Sound, particularly if a leg close to The Hoe (the broad greensward where Sir Francis Drake reputedly played bowls as the Spanish Armada sailed up the English Channel) where a large crowd gathers to watch the America’s Cup World Series.

The Race Committee found that with the wind from the south-west – the prevailing direction – it needed to shorten the length of the legs from the already diminutive 0.8 nautical miles to 0.6 nautical miles. 'We are having to make a compromise between top-class yacht racing and a Dog & Pony Show,' laughed one of the race committee.


Did the crowd justify the efforts made for it? Plymouth Argyle, the local Football League team, would have been very happy to have this number for a home game. Estimates varied but on an unpromising opening day when the skies were grey and promised rain, there were predicted to be in excess of five thousand gathered around the Sound. Halfway through the afternoon, the skies cleared and made life far more pleasant while the 18-20 knot winds continued.

For the record, it was a combination of top-class yacht racing and a Dog & Pony Show; the racing was close and the 500-metre speed trials provided the show for the crowd along The Hoe.


Dean Barker and the Emirates Team New Zealand team started where they left off in Cascais, nailing the first start and pulling away to win with relative ease to finish clear of Jimmy Spithill’s crew in Oracle 4 with Artemis Racing third. In the next race, Spithill was a runaway winner from Artemis Racing and ETNZ. Barker displayed true technique at the start of the third race, placing ETNZ at the leeward end of the line for the short reach to the first gate. It took the Kiwis to an early lead which they were not to surrender.

The results of this part of the World Series mean absolutely nothing, but for what it is worth ETNZ finished two points clear of Artemis Racing and Oracle 4. The rest, as they say, were not in the same street. It has to be admitted that Russell Coutts didn’t help his cause by being over early at the start of the first race and not returning.


There’s a lot of luck that determines the result of the 500-metre speed trials. It all depends on how strongly the wind blows during the 40-odd seconds that each boat hurtles down the course at around 24 knots (not that you would ever know it in maritime terms as the results are given in kph, presumably because they look faster as they are bigger numbers.*

After he had scraped into sixth place, thereby just making the cut for the match racing later in the week, Russell Coutts with his veteran crew in Oracle 5 posted the best time when he entered the course at top speed and held a gust throughout the 500 metres to complete the run in 39.69 seconds to be the fastest of the day at 45.35 kph (24.487 knots).

We traditionalists are whistling in the breeze.

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