Amid conditions normally considered too light for racing, the powerful and versatile AC45s enjoyed good racing in the preliminary rounds of the first-ever America's Cup World Series (ACWS) event.
Skipper Russell Coutts and crew placed 4-3-5 for 21 points while James Spithill’s crew won two of the three races for 20 points, six points behind winner Emirates Team New Zealand. Spithill might’ve won the day had he and the crew not been disqualified in the first completed race due to being outside the course boundaries in the pre-start.
'We had a problem with the (race communications) system,' said Spithill, the youngest skipper to ever win the America’s Cup. 'We were outside of the boundary with two minutes to go but our screens were blank. The screens came back on after we went around the first mark and obviously it said ‘You’re disqualified.’ I was like, really?
'Anyway, that’s just sorting out a few bugs in the system and us getting used to the boundaries,' Spithill said. Coutts, meanwhile, saw third as leaving room for improvement.
'I don’t feel we sailed that well,' said Coutts, the four-time America’s Cup winner. 'We came out OK results-wise, but we didn’t sail well tactically. We need to grow a few brain cells.'
The first day of the new America’s Cup World Series came with great anticipation. It was the first time that the AC45, the new wingsailed catamaran, was used in competition. And it was also the first time that the defender, Oracle Racing, and challengers for the 34th America’s Cup lined up on the start line.
But Mother Nature had other ideas. Instead of gracing the fleet with 20-knot winds, as are common this time of year, she dumped misty low cloud and rain on the area. So much so that the helicopters needed for the new television graphics system were grounded and the first attempt at a race abandoned.
Three competitive races were held in winds mostly fifth knots or lighter, but which showed the power and efficiency of the new wingsail catamarans. The racing was close to shore and attracted large crowds and the onboard cameras were right in the sailors’ faces, giving great views to those watching from afar.
'It’s a good test for the concept. We got three races in and that’s pretty good,' said Coutts.
The light winds had some traditional crew roles in unusual places. Take, for instance, Oracle Racing Spithill tactician John Kostecki. As tactician he’s used to being in the back of the boat and working the running backstays. On the AC45, he was forward of the front cross beam on one of the smallest pieces of trampoline on the cat.
'He probably had enough of me yesterday so he tried to get away,' joked Spithill. 'Obviously it was a really heads-up day. It was all about sailing the breeze and he obviously did that pretty well.'
Tomorrow’s schedule calls for one fleet race scheduled to start at 2:00 pm local time. After that the ACWS – Cascais Speed Trials are scheduled. Oracle Racing website