The America’s Cup World Series has come to a close in Cascais, Portugal with the completion of a final fleet race. Oracle Racing finished with a third and fourth on Sunday with their team founder Larry Ellison onboard.
After yesterday’s victory in the match racing championship, skipper James Spithill appeared poised to capture the event championship as well.
With special guest and team founder Larry Ellison aboard as the sixth crewmember, Spithill absolutely nailed the start at the pin end of the line with speed and precision and opened a lead of nearly one minute at the first leeward gate.
The Oracle Racing Spithill crew maintained its lead at the next windward mark, but leading down the second run they sailed into some patches of light wind. On the opposite side of the course Emirates Team New Zealand found a puff and crossed Spithill about two-thirds of the way down the leg.
A key element of the new class of AC45 catamarans was to create passing opportunities and this happened a second time on the next upwind leg. Oracle Racing Spithill dropped a place to Artemis Racing in a close port-starboard crossing halfway up the leg.
At the end an exhausting 40 minutes, Oracle Racing Spithill finished third for the race, one spot ahead of teammate Oracle Racing Coutts, skippered by Russell Coutts.
'It’s been a good week for us,' said Spithill. 'We would’ve liked to finish with a win today. I think we sailed well in tricky conditions, the other guys just managed to do it a bit better as the breeze got funny. Full credit to Team New Zealand and Artemis Racing, they sailed well.
'The highlight was taking Larry out for his first race,' continued Spithill. 'He’s really the guy who put this concept together.'
The introduction of a new racecourse was designed to keep the racing close and make it exciting for fans and television broadcasts. The wingsailed catamarans were developed for speed and to challenge the crewmembers in an athletic manner. After the first event of the ACWS it appears both goals have been realized.
'I’ve driven an RC 44 for the past four or five years. That, up until these boats, was the most fun I ever had sailing. Now the RC 44 seems like old technology,' said Ellison, who founded Oracle Racing in August 2000.
'We’re very excited that these boats go as fast as they do and can be pushed to such extremes by these great sailors who are driving them,' Ellison continued. 'I think we made the right decision. It’s extreme sailing. Something the kids can get excited about, TV viewers can get excited about and even old monohull sailors like me can get excited about.'
Today’s racing featured plenty of place changing. While Oracle Racing Spithill went the wrong way, Green Comm made a great comeback from last to finish fifth, seconds behind Oracle Racing Coutts. It was only the eighth time skipper Vasilij Zbogar and his crew had sailed an AC45.
Yesterday’s match race final was punctuated by no fewer than five lead changes and top speeds of 45 kph/27 mph.
'Yeah, overtaking, what a shame,' Spithill chuckled. 'It’s hard to defend in these boats and that’s a fantastic thing to have in a boat race. Make it hard to lead and have plenty of passing opportunities. I’m very happy.'
The America’s Cup World Series next moves to Plymouth, England, Sept. 10-18. In departing Cascais crews gave the revamped America’s Cup format a big thumbs up. 'It will only get better,' said Artemis Racing’s skipper Terry Hutchinson. ACWS – Cascais Final Standings
1. Emirates Team New Zealand/Dean Barker – 10 points
2. Artemis Racing/Terry Hutchinson – 9
3. Oracle Racing Spithill/James Spithill – 8
4. Oracle Racing Coutts/Russell Coutts – 7
5. Green Comm/Vasilij Žbogar – 6
6. Aleph/Alain Gautier – 5
7. Team Korea/Chris Draper – 4
8. Energy Team/Yann Guichard – 3
9. China Team/Mitch Booth – 3
America’s Cup World Series website