Six teams have qualified for the America's Cup World Series Match Race Championship on Saturday, following a day of close, compelling competition on the waters off Cascais, Portugal.
On Friday, James Spithill and his ORACLE Racing crew won all three fleet races, but their good work was undone in the ‘all or nothing’ match race for first place, when Emirates Team New Zealand made a pass on the second lap of the course to secure the match, and victory on the day. It was the third consecutive day of scoring maximum points for the Kiwis, who now proceed directly to Saturday’s semi finals.
'It starts again tomorrow,' Barker said. 'The last three days don't matter too much. We've learned a lot in both match racing and the fleet racing. It hasn't been smooth, these boats are challenging to sail well and if you make a mistake you get penalized badly, so it will be case of minimizing mistakes to keep sailing around the track.'
Spithill’s disappointment at losing the match race will be tempered by his second place seeding heading into Saturday; he also earns a bye into the semi finals.
'These have been some of the best match races I’ve ever done,' Spithill said. 'It’s physical, and with the onboard footage, I think people watching are getting a real understanding of how high-pressure these decisions are and how hard it is. And I think that’s great.'
Four teams will be fighting on Saturday for the other two semi final positions. Sixth placed Energy Team will take on third placed Artemis Racing, while ORACLE Racing Coutts faces off against Team Korea. Both matches are ‘sudden death’ with the winner advancing to the semis and loser going home.
'We are really happy to learn and very happy to make the cut - the be in the top six and to be match racing tomorrow,' said Energy Team skipper Loick Peyron. 'It’s a chance to race against the best.'
'We’ve been over the moon with how we’ve been sailing,' said his counterpart with Team Korea, Chris Draper. 'We still feel we’re making some silly mistakes… I think we could have had a couple of top three finishes today, but it’s a whole new game and we’re really pleased with how it’s been going so far.'
The bottom three teams on the leaderboard following Friday’s racing – Green Comm Racing, Aleph and China Team – will not be competing on Saturday.
But they will return to competition on Sunday with the AC World Series – Cascais Championship, a winner takes all fleet race that will determine the winner of the first stage on this new global professional circuit.
The AC World Series continues with events in Plymouth, England in September and San Diego, California in November. And today, it was announced that Newport, Rhode Island will host the closing event of the 2011-12 AC World Series, from June 23 to July 1, 2012.