The America’s Cup World Series has witnessed victories in the preliminary round in Cascais today with Oracle Racing’s Russell Coutts winning the long (40-minute) fleet race and ORACLE Racing’s James Spithill placing third.
Brilliantly sunny skies returned to Cascais today after yesterday’s grey weather as did better wind conditions. Also out in force was an enthusiastic spectator crowd on all sorts of craft and perched along the seawall at the Clube Naval de Cascais, the marina and on the resort’s beaches and waterfront.
Russell Coutts and crew won the race by 14 seconds over Emirates Team New Zealand, passing their old foe on the final leg to the finish. The 10 points earned for the race win helped Oracle Racing Coutts place second for the opening weekend’s prelims, four points in arrears of the Kiwis.
'We’re a lot happier today, we did not have a good day yesterday,' said Coutts. 'It was a great little race. I don’t know how it looked from the outside, but it was spectacular from the inside.'
Oracle Racing Spithill had a nice comeback as well, climbing up to third after clearing the first leeward gate in fourth. Skipper James Spithill and crew placed fourth for the weekend with 28 points.
'Russell's guys did a nice job today,' said Spithill. 'We had a good race with the French and were able to hold on to third and almost got second.'
With one race on the schedule today the race committee lengthened the course between the windward and leeward gates to .6 nautical miles. The course was also placed close to shore to maximize spectator viewing.
The race lasted 41 minutes and in the stronger winds the AC45 cats were an exhausting workout. Skippers were alternately asking for trim or ease as they tried to balance the windward hull just above the water in the puffy conditions.
'The conditions were magical,' said Murray Jones of Oracle Racing Coutts. 'It’s why we came to Cascais.'
Oracle Racing Coutts led the fleet to the first mark at the end of a .2 nautical mile reach. At the mark crews had a choice to jibe or bear away for the .6 mile run to the leeward gate.
Oracle Racing Coutts jibed while Emirates Team New Zealand carried on. When the two crews converged halfway down the leg the Kiwis easily crossed on port and led through the leeward gate.
'We had a choice; do we do our jibe or do we go straight,' Jones said. 'The jibe seemed the safer option. As it turned out, Team NZ got a better puff and got away, so straight was a better thing to do.'
The Emirates Team New Zealand crew would become hampered at the next windward mark when a crewman fell overboard after the winch handle he was grinding broke. The loss of the crewmember lightened the total crew weight and seemed to reduce upwind performance.
'Somebody said they lost a person overboard,' said Coutts. 'If they were one down in terms of weight, it would hurt them badly.'
After the fleet race the speed of the AC45 was on display as the nine crews took three passes each through the AC 500 Speed Course. The 500-meter, one way race track was oriented approximately 90 degrees to the wind direction and allowed each crew to light-up their craft and the winning yacht clocked more than 42 kilometers/hour.
'It would be even more fun if it was windier, the wind was a bit light,' said Coutts. 'The course should be even closer to shore.' ACWS – Cascais Preliminary Round Results
1. Emirates Team New Zealand/Dean Barker 3-2-2-2 – 35 points
2. ORACLE Racing Coutts/Russell Coutts 4-3-5-1 – 31 points
3. Artemis Racing/Terry Hutchinson 1-4-3-7 – 29 points
4. ORACLE Racing Spithill/James Spithill DSQ-1-1-3 – 28 points
5. China Team/Mitch Booth 6-6-6-4 – 22 points
6. Team Korea/Chris Draper 5-7-4-6 – 22 points
7. Energy Team/Loick Peyron 2-8-8-5 – 21 points
8. Aleph/Alain Gautier 7-5-9-8 – 16 points
9. Green Comm/V 8-9-7-9 – 13 points
(Scoring: first = 10 points, second = 9, third = 8, fourth = 7, fifth = 6, sixth = 5, seventh = 4, eighth-9th = 3) ACWS – Cascais Speed Trial
1. Emirates Team New Zealand – 42.35 km/h
2. Team Korea – 39.28
3. China Team – 37.43
4. ORACLE Racing Spithill – 37.16
5. Artemis Racing – 35.10
6. Aleph – 35.02
7. ORACLE Racing Coutts – 34.05
8. Energy Team – 30.99
9. Green Comm Racing – 24.77
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