The final day of racing at the Plymouth Americas Cup World Series event was to be a three lap fleet race around Plymouth Sound in 19-22 knots of breeze with gusts of up to 30 knots.
Expectations for some exciting racing were high and the crowds of spectators that lined The Hoe were not disappointed, with dramas unfolding right from the get-go until well after the winners crossed the finish line. Team Energy were the first casualties after they botched an attempt to avoid another boat and wound up being massively overpowered and capsized.
Off the start there was a clear split with Oracle Racing Coutts, Emirates Team New Zealand and Oracle Racing Spithill and surging ahead of their competitors on the short reaching leg to round the first mark in that order, and took off downwind, far ahead of the fleet. Team China were the next to bite the dust as they capsized half way along the reach. They were very nearly followed by Artemis Racing who buried their nose, and stood on end for what seemed like an eternity before the bows popped up and they continued racing. It seemed like they struggled to recover from this near miss, and they appeared rather rattled for the rest of the race.
Back at the front of the course, Oracle Racing Coutts managed to hold their lead on the downwind and ETNZ and Oracle Racing Spithill followed them around the bottom mark. Little changed in terms of distance between the boats on the first upwind and they round the first weather mark in similar fashion. Coutts heads the other front-runners and elects to around the starboard gate whereas the other two boats choose the port gate, heading away from the shoreline and sheltered water into more breeze. They were followed by Energy Team, who despite sustaining some damage to the top section of their wing during their capsize held fourth position comfortably ahead of Artemis Racing , China Team. By the time the leaders come back together at the second bottom mark Coutts paid for his misjudgment by slipping from first to third. But recovered to slip past ETNZ.
After slipping behind Coutts, ETNZ again opts to head offshore and makes gains, crossing closely behind Spithill and just in front of Coutts who, being on port tack, is forced to dip, although manages to sneak around the outside of ETNZ at the mark and takes off on the third downwind in second position. ETNZ recovered and passed Oracle Coutts.
As the front runners approached the final top mark the breeze increased with the occasional rain squall bringing through some good gusts. Oracle Racing Spithill rounded the top mark in first place followed by ETNZ who was hotly pursued by Oracle Racing Coutts.
Coutts was well within striking distance and it looked to be all on for the final run to the finish but a terrible first gybe, left Coutts genaker flapping and unable to reset, they are forced to drop early and fall behind. Oracle Racing Spithill sails a faultless race to claim victory from ETNZ.
While the excitement was over for some, for others it was still all too real as Artemis was unable to control their genaker after rounding the final top mark and broached. For a moment it looked as though they had avoided a full capsize as the boat momentarily leveled itself, but was then blown over, resulting in one of their crew falling straight through the wing sail.
The next event is in San Diego, which promises milder breezes and warmer climes than the autumn squalls of Plymouth.