Six teams were scheduled to be knocked out of contention for the Plymouth Match Racing Championships title on the penultimate day, but the big surprise was that both Oracle Racing boats would be among them.
After beating China Team in his opening match of the day, Chris Draper and Team Korea pounced on Oracle Racing Spithill when his team was struggling with a faulty jib clutch. Once Spithill fell behind, the Korean team never looked like giving up their surprise lead and went on to take an upset victory. Then, the Koreans dispatched Energy Team to move into the semi-final phase tomorrow; a best-of-three match against Artemis Racing.
The first Semi-Final between Emirates Team New Zealand and Oracle Racing Coutts, brought two former team mates head to head, Russell Coutts and his fellow Kiwi and former apprentice Dean Barker. With each team scoring a come-from-behind win in the first two matches, it went down to the third before Dean Barker and the Kiwi team prevailed over the Defender in a close deciding race, to sail into the Final.
'We made it hard,' Barker said. 'Those guys are pretty quick and start the boat well, and it was pretty close in all three races. But we're a lot happier with the way we finished off the last race.'
With another big crowd enjoying the racing from the seafront of Plymouth, the crowd witnessed many dramatic matches, starting with Green Comm Racing’s contest against Aleph when Vasilij Zbogar pounced on errors by the French team to move to the next phase.
Aleph now sit out the racing tomorrow, and will be scored as ninth place in the Match Racing Championship. Green Comm Racing sailed well against Spithill, but never really threatened the reigning America’s Cup skipper. The Spanish team goes up against China in tomorrow’s matches to decide seventh and eighth.
Team Korea dominated China Team in their match, leading from start to finish. Then Draper came from behind to win his next two races, first against Spithill and then against Energy Team. Loick Peyron’s start was excellent but handling errors allowed the Koreans back into the game. Draper seized his chance to earn his spot in the Semi-Finals.
Three victories from three matches was a perfect score for a team with very little match racing experience. It also marks the second time that Chris Draper has handed out a match racing lesson to the Defender, having also toppled Russell Coutts in Cascais a month earlier. 'I've nothing against ORACLE,' said Draper. 'We are trying to improve our match racing skill. The changing format has given us some more opportunity. Our experience in match racing is limited but we have some smart guys on board.'
Spithill was generous in defeat: 'Certainly Korea has caused some problems to Oracle Racing but full credit to those guys. They hung in there. We had a few issues with the gear and we made a tactical error on the run. We got what we deserved.'
Tomorrow is another busy day as the Plymouth Match Racing Championships reaches its climax. First up is the best-of-three Semi Final between Team Korea and Artemis Racing, who sat out today’s competition after winning the fleet racing phase yesterday. Then come the matches to decide the minor placings, and then a best-of-three Finals.
All racing can be seen live on www.youtube.com/americascup
unless you are unfortunate enough to live in New Zealand in which case the live commentary version is blocked.
Quotes of the day can be found on www.americascup.com Friday’s Results
Green Comm Racing defeated Aleph; 1-0
Team Korea defeated China Team; 1-0
Oracle Racing Spithill defeated Green Comm Racing; 1-0
Team Korea defeated Oracle Racing Spithill; 1-0
Team Korea defeated Energy Team; 1-0 Semi Final 1
Emirates Team New Zealand defeated Oracle Racing Coutts; 2-1