America’s Cup World Series (ACWS) second stop is currently underway in Plymouth, England. The event is being held from 10 to 18 September 2011, and will feature both fleet and match racing. In spectacular conditions that tested man and machine and tripped a few along the way, Oracle Racing’s two crews placed first and third in today’s thrilling fleet race on Plymouth Sound.
Oracle Racing Spithill won the physically taxing race in winds steadily around 25 knots, posting a neat come-from-behind victory over Emirates Team New Zealand after leading at the first mark rounding.
Oracle Racing Coutts then went on to top the post-race 500m Speed Trial for the second day running.
Another large crowd in excess of 10,000 people lined the cliffs of Plymouth Hoe for the unbridled racing. By the time skipper James Spithill and crew had finished, in 37 minutes and 41 seconds, three boats had capsized and a fourth, Artemis Racing, had withdrawn with minor wing damage.
'They were beautiful conditions, mate. It was fantastic racing, a lot of fun,' said a buoyant Spithill. 'We had fun racing Team New Zealand and Artemis was in there for awhile, too. The conditions were strong, but we were nowhere near the limit of the boats. I think the boats had plenty left in the tank.'
Oracle Racing Coutts placed third, also coming from behind to capture a spot on the podium. At Mark three of the nine-leg race Oracle Racing Coutts trailed at the back of the fleet.
'We had a close race going with Energy Team, it was too bad they got penalized,' said skipper Russell Coutts. 'We’re handling the boat better and getting more comfortable in the stronger winds.'
The second day of the America’s Cup World Series Plymouth began with Oracle Racing team members and the America’s Cup community remembering the victims of the 9/11 attacks in the U.S. 10 years ago.
Hours later on the racecourse there was no quarter left behind, other than a frothy and foamy quarter wake. With the windspeed the strongest ever experienced for an ACWS race, the crews were challenged in every maneuver. Many didn’t unfurl their gennakers for offwind legs until safely turned downwind.
The risk was digging the bows in and capsizing, as Aleph, Team Korea and Green Comm Racing all demonstrated. The more experienced teams reveled in the conditions, hitting top speeds in excess of 30 knots and ripping around Plymouth Sound in a flurry of spray.
'It’s great,' said Coutts, 'the better sailors made the difference, and that’s how it should be. You’ll see skills rise the more teams sail in these conditions. When we go to San Francisco, crews will race in conditions like this every day.'
After the race Coutts announced that he will hand over the helm of Oracle Racing Coutts to multiple world champion and two-time Tornado class Olympic silver medalist Darren Bundock (AUS) for the next round of the ACWS in San Diego, Calif., as Oracle Racing starts to rotate its squad of sailors.
Oracle Racing Spithill had a flying start, nailing the line at the gun and speeding towards the reaching mark point two miles away neck and neck with Green Comm and Emirates Team New Zealand, both to leeward.
Spithill and crew got to the mark first and as the skipper turned downwind the bows dug in and a massive wall of water came rushing over the five crewmembers, each of whom took a deep breath of air and then shaking their heads to get the salt water out of their eyes.
Oracle Racing Spithill lost the lead to Artemis Racing on the ensuing leg, and the Swedish team kept the lead until halfway up Leg 5 when they had to withdraw due to damage.
Oracle Racing Spithill regained the lead at the windward mark rounding, sailing over the top of Emirates Team New Zealand when the old foe got stuck in a tack.
Oracle Racing Coutts showed its refined form in posting the comeback to third for the race, and then went out and blistered the 500m speed trial course with a time of 37.44 seconds, good for a speed of nearly 26 knots (48 km/h, 29 mph).
Oracle Racing Sailors’ Quotes: Russell Coutts: 'It was a lot of fun but obviously I have lot to learn about handling a multihull in those conditions. 'The boat had our full-attention, particularly in the gusts. I was pretty conservative all day. We made a decision early that if we sailed sensibly and got the boat around the course, we’d get a top-three position.
'It’s rewarding racing. If you’re good at it you see a big difference in performance. That’s great for the sport going-forward.
'I always thought Plymouth would be good because of the way the harbor and seafront are situated. The racing was spectacular.'
Jimmy Spithill: 'I think we can race these boats in a lot more wind. The reason you saw boats go over today was because of sailor mistakes, not because of too much wind.
'This is the way it should be. The racing should be hard, should be challenging. Once you got the gennaker out, it was just so good.
'These boats are so much fun. It was over too quick.'
ACWS Plymouth Open Results: 1. Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL) – 37 points 2. Oracle Racing Spithill/James Spithill (USA) – 36 3. Artemis Racing (SWE) – 29 4. Oracle Racing Coutts/Russell Coutts (USA) – 26 5. China Team (CHN) – 22 6. Aleph (FRA) – 20 7. Energy Team (FRA) – 19 8. Team Korea (KOR) – 17 9. Green Comm (ESP) – 13 Full results after four fleet races?nid=88329
Oracle Racing Crew Lists: Oracle Racing Coutts: Russell Coutts (helm), Murray Jones (wing trim), Matthew Mason (middleman), Simon Daubney (trimmer), Simeon Tienpont (bow).
Oracle Racing Spithill: James Spithill (helm), John Kostecki (tactician), Dirk de Ridder (wing trim), Joe Newton (trimmer), Piet van Nieuwenhuijzen (bow).