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Fisher's View- Day 1 ACWS Newport - Barker's world turns upside down

by Bob Fisher on 29 Jun 2012
Not Happy, jammed gennaker sheet Emirates Team New Zealand AC 45 World Series Newport RI Stephen Fasano

Bob Fisher, one of the world's top international yachting journalists, and certainly the top writer on the America's Cup, is in Newport, RI, USA for the sixth 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 - Newport, RI, USA

Newport, RI is a strange place and her moods are fickle. Today had all the attributes of the Curate's egg - good in parts, but evil in others. Ask Dean Barker. He went up and down the ratings in the opening fleet race, which provided the seedings for the subsequent match racing, in the light and fickle morning breeze, and then dramatically and spectacularly capsized at the first mark in his opening match race.

The sunshine brought out the crowds in force - this town, where the Cup was raced for 53 years, has been suffering withdrawal symptoms, but today (a weekday at that) they were out in force, swarming all over the foreshore at Fort Adams, and while the racing was slow at the beginning, it was consummately interesting as places changed with great frequency.

The Cup defenders, with two teams entered, made the best showing in the fleet race. One cannot better their one-two finish. Oracle Team Spithill nailed the leeward end of the start line and was never headed. At one time Jimmy and his crew had a massive lead, almost half a leg clear of the pack, but towards the end of the race, the wind played its own tune and there was a massive shake-up.

While Oracle Team Spithill finished 25 seconds clear, the gap had narrowed and Oracle Team Coutts had wriggled through into second place, making the very best of those stretches of breeze that were favourable. Behind the second boat was a rash of close finishers with Luna Rossa - Piranha eight seconds later and Terry Hutchinson with Artemis Team, coming from the back of the pack to finish fourth. Then came Energy Team, the winners in Venice, Emirates Team New Zealand, Luna Rossa Swordfish and bringing up the rear Nathan Outteridge with Team Korea.

The sea-breeze filled in at around 15-18 knots and the match racing began. Apart from Outteridge and Team Korea defeating Oracle Team Spithill in the first of their best-of-three, the centre of attention of that round occurred at the first weather mark when ETNZ had a small but comfortable lead over Chris Draper's Luna Rossa Piranha, when the world turned upside down for the Kiwi team.

'We bore away around the mark boat,' said Barker. 'The boat started to heel and when we eased away the wing, it would not go more than a few inches.' The leeward runner was trapping the free movement of the wing and in seconds the boat was at 90 degrees. Barker takes up the story again: 'The wing extension filled with water and that made righting the boat extremely difficult. On one occasion we were almost upright but the weight of the water in the wing extension pulled the boat backwards until the hulls were standing on the transoms!'

It was a bizarre sight and ETNZ was capsized for over an hour, their racing concluded for the day. 'It will be a long night for the shore crew,' admitted Barker, who intimated that three of the aft wing flaps were virtually destroyed among other damage, but he was certain that the boat would be fit to race the next day, but for this day ETNZ had to give Luna Rossa Piranha the match.

In the next round of the match racing, Jimmy Spithill levelled at 1-1 with Team Korea and then completed his victory with a second win. Terry Hutchinson was hard pressed in the pre-start by Loick Peyron in Team Energy, but Peyron was a second early at the start and had to take a penalty, which completely spoiled his chances of levelling the match.

While Russell Coutts won the first match against David Campbell-James with Luna Rossa Swordfish, the Prada team skipper hit back to level the score, setting up a crucial match for Oracle Team Coutts. Russell took it in his stride and while the two boats arrived together at the first mark after the start, Russell's experienced crew had a faster spinnaker hoist to sail over their rival and was never subsequently headed. It was a tough day on the water for the man, who at the start of this campaign had admitted: 'I'm too old for this sort of sh*t.' He admits that very little has changed.

Tomorrow sees the semi-finals of the match racing: Oracle Team Spithill versus Artemis Racing, and Oracle Team Coutts versus Luna Rossa Piranha. Then there is the second in the fleet racing series with ETNZ hopefully repaired and hoping to improve on its sixth in today's race.



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