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Fisher's View- Day 2 ACWS Newport - Spithill and Barker in thriller

by Bob Fisher on 30 Jun 2012
Racing Day2, America’s Cup World Series, Newport RI ACEA - Photo Gilles Martin-Raget © http://photo.americascup.com/

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 2 - America's Cup World Series - Newport, RI, USA

The good news is that Emirates Team New Zealand's shore team, working all through the night, managed to have the team's boat out on the water in time for a practice before the racing began. Gone was much of the advertising decals, replaced by clear film panes of the new wing sections - the entire trailing edge and one of the top panes forward, but the rig was there and efficient as Dean Barker and his crew were to prove.

Racing began with the match racing semi-finals and these, as expected were very close. Jimmy Spithill and his Oracle Team USA took on Terry Hutchinson and the Artemis Racing crew and imposed a penalty on his rival just before the start. It gave the American team a three second lead at the turning mark to being the first downwind leg. Spithill doubled this before the next mark. Upwind John Kostecki chose better shifts for Spithill to increase the lead and from then on he was not seriously challenged.



In the other match, before a near-capacity crowd close to 10,000 spectators, Russell Coutts and his Oracle Team USA squeezed inside Chris Draper's Luna Rossa - Piranha and that gave him the inside advantage at the first turning mark. Coutts increased his lead on most legs but not all, and Draper was never far behind, but he could do nothing to stop and all-Oracle Team USA final on Sunday.

The south-easterly breeze was around 10-13 knots for the fleet race and that had plenty of excitement. Once again the two Luna Rossa boats took up their positions at opposite ends of the starting line, but nothing could stop the Kiwis who approached the line to leeward with pace and Luna Rossa - Piranha was penalised for an early start.

At the first mark ETNZ held a narrow lead of a boat's length over Jimmy Spithill who had started at the windward end of the line and they set off on the run pursued by Artemis. By the leeward mark, ETNZ had stretched the lead to 13 seconds, while Nathan Outteridge snuck into third place with Team Korea ahead of Artemis. Upwind, Spithill picked a good shift to go ahead of ETNZ by two seconds with Artemis another 13 seconds behind.

Downwind ETNZ flew into the lead again and was almost 20 seconds ahead at the bottom mark and it seemed the race was a one-way affair, but all sailing aficionados understand that this sport is anything but certain. At the top mark ETNZ had what appeared to be a comfortable lead, but by gybing to the left hand side of the course, Spithill picked up more breeze and as the two boats approached the final tuning mark Oracle Team Spithill was on the inside.

Barker appeared to have timed his gybe perfectly to blanket Oracle Team Spithill but Jimmy luffed inside the Kiwis at the mark and led around on to the final short leg to the finish. It was close, but the seven seconds must have been as big a disappointment for Barker as they were of elation for Spithill and his crew. Artemis was third and the fast-finishing Energy Team of Loick Peyron was fourth. The rest, as they say, were scattered.

It gave Oracle Team USA Spithill a five point overall lead from Artemis Racing with ETNZ a further point behind in third place, one clear of each of the Energy Team and Oracle Racing Team Coutts.

Tomorrow, Saturday, there are the speed trials over a 500-metre course and two fleet races.




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