Bob Fisher, one of the worlds top international yachting journalists, and certainly the top writer on the America's Cup, is in Plymouth for the second round of the America's Cup World Series.
Bob is a multihuller from way back, having competed for Britain in the Little America's Cup and has been covering the America's Cup since 1967.
He writes: Dear Diary – Day 5 - America's Cup World Series - Plymouth, England
The invitation to join PRO John Craig and his worthy number two, Harold Bennett, was not to be missed. It was eye-opening. The extension of the technology was paramount, but even more importantly the way in which it was treated. The use of the widely varying inputs to select the best courses for the competitors within the confines of Plymouth Sound was virtually limitless, but the cool, calm and collected manner in which this was achieved is testament to the professionalism of those involved.
Not only do the courses have to provide a test for the sailors, but they have to meet a tight time limit. The race committee therefore has to estimate how long they are going to take to do each leg and make an aggregate time close to 20 minutes. That each of today’s eight races finished between 19 and 20 minutes displays the accuracy they have achieved in the constantly varying wind speeds.
There is an array of data screens on the bridge on which incoming material is obtained and a course plotted that pinpoints where the boats that are used as turning marks are to be moored – none of the guestimation found elsewhere – these courses are positionally accurate to the same degree that the electronic positioning of the boats and course limits are made. The course limits are overlaid over the PRO’s course and racing can commence. I watched fascinated for two and a half hours while the course was prepared and the work never ceased.
I was prepared for the racing to be anticlimactic, but it was far removed from that. The bookies would have made a fortune because the upsets were more regular than the predicted results most of the time. It began with the match between Green Comm and Aleph in a westerly 12-not breeze. Aleph, at pace by the committee boat, won the sprint to the first mark. Green Comm closed on the first windward leg but Aleph held sway for most of the race. At the penultimate mark Aleph had a problem setting her gennakers and Green Comm took full advantage to pass her downwind and take the winning flag by 14 seconds
China Team incurred a pre-start penalty in her match with Team Korea, leaving the advantage to Chris Draper and hiscrew. They needed no further encouragement, keeping a loose cover on the China Team to win bt 14 seconds. The next race caused no surprise; it was a procession with Jimmy Spithill in Oracle 4 beating Green Comm by 1:09.
Oracle 4 was back on the course for the next race – against Team Korea. By then the wind was up to 19 knots. The pre-start was spirited and includes a Y-flag from Spithill, but the umpires green flagged that one and Oracle 4 crossed the start line with pace to round the first mark with a narrow lead. She held this to the third mark and downwind the boats were neck and neck, going to different sides of the leeward gate. Team Korea went ahead on the final beat and Oracle 4 almost capsized on rounding the weather mark as Team Korea sped away to a 1:06 victory, Who would have predicted that?
Team Korea then met Loick Peyron’s Energy Team which had finished fifth in the seeding races and after a close battle all the way round emerged as victors by six seconds to become a semi-finalist. Draper and his crew will meet Artemis Racing in a best of three match tomorrow.
The first of the semi-finals was another best-of-three match between Emirates Team New Zealand and Russell Coutts’ Oracle 5. In the first, Coutts didn’t make life easy for his team by going outside the boundary in the pre-start and incurring a second penalty before crossing the line with a 'love tap,' as Dean Barker described it wwhen the two boats came together. ETNZ led for two laps, but Oracle 5 hit a good right-hand shift on the third beat and went ahead to win by 19 seconds.
The next two races went to ETNZ – the first after the best tacking duel that has been seen with these boats, finishing 38 seconds in front. The wind was down to 12 knots for the last race, and ETNZ led for most of it to be 26 seconds ahead on the line to go into the final by 2-1.
There is more to come tomorrow with the other semi-final, between Artemis and Team Korea, together with all the matches for the places before the grand final of the Plymouth Match Racing Championship.