In the America’s Cup World Series Plymouth, a new Challenger and the only new nation to enter the 34th America’s Cup, Team Korea is shaking up the establishment as after the first two regattas of this inaugural Series. They are in a remarkable second position overall in the Match Racing Championship behind two of the powerhouse teams in the sport, and fifth overall with the combined results.
It is an astonishing achievement to be ‘mixing it up’ with the well financed, long established teams like Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) and Oracle Racing (USA), given that the team was only established a few short months ago, and first sailed their AC45 yacht in mid-July.
After good results this week which included a first place in one of the seeding fleet races, the team was back in action on the final day of the event in Plymouth, where ‘Super Sunday’ was the 40 minute fleet race for all the teams, and as last week it tested the best sailors in the world to the limits of their skill. In England they have a saying when it is super windy, so windy it is ‘blowing dogs off their chains’, and that was the case today as the nine yachts went into their starting sequence and the’ Cup carnage’ began again.
First to capsize was Energy from France as they came up close behind Korea, who at that very instant were hit by a huge gust of some 30 knots which almost tipped them over backwards, Skipper Chris Draper from the UK just managing to hang on and keep it all together as Loick Peyron on the Energy boat tried to avoid them. It was all so fast that the gust overpowered the massive French wing and they tipped sideways, evidently the first time in his long and esteemed career that Peyron has capsized a multi-hull of any kind. The team had the boat quickly upright again and despite damage to the top of the wing, carried on into the race, eventually finishing sixth.
Next was a collision between France’s Aleph and Green Comm from Spain, both suffering damage, and within seconds, Green Comm and Artemis Racing from Sweden engaged in full contact, the hull of the Swedish boat riding right under the stern of GreenComm causing serious damage to the boat, as well as fracturing the hand of one of GreenComm’s crew, forcing them out of the race.
The countdown clock kept going however, and right on time both Oracle Racing yachts and ETNZ hit the line to join battle, as Team Korea held back with China and Aleph. A massive gust swept across the start again, and wisely, Draper decided to hold off and sail conservatively as the big three sped down the course, waiting and sailing well wide of the first gybe mark to allow a safe turn after experiencing a dramatic capsize a week earlier. Draper said afterwards, ‘’we lost touch with the first three because of that, but I think it was the right decision as a few boats got caught out pretty badly in that gust’’. China Team went full throttle into the turn and paid the price with a spectacular spill, but were righted by their support boat and carried on with minimal damage.
Draper decided not to risk any mistakes in these frightening conditions, and dropped to fifth in the race as the contest between ETNZ and Oracle Racing’s teams of Spithill and Coutts at the front intensified. James Spithill, Oracle’s Australian skipper, went on to win in a superb display of high wind, high performance sailing, leading Dean Barker on Emirates Team New Zealand across the line. Artemis Racing became the third capsize casualty later in the race, the damage to the wing severe when a crewman went through the it after falling some 20 feet from the hull in spectacular style. Like Energy and China, they too decided to continue the race but ran over the allocated time limit.
Given the value of finishing the race in these extreme conditions, Team Korea’s tactics from the start were to stay safe, take no risks and score points which is exactly what they did. In the overall Fleet Racing World Championships, Team Korea are now sixth, and Draper said, ‘
’it was very close to being survival conditions out there, and we wanted to keep the boat in one piece and finish the race. I just wanted to have a decent and safe result as it’s so important for the overall world championship series’’.
In the separate ACWS Match Racing Championship, counting a fourth in Portugal and yesterday’s outstanding second in Plymouth, Korea are second overall after two events, a position that would have been unthinkable before the series started. He continued, ‘’I think we’ve exceeded all our expectations and I feel really proud of the team and everybody involved, I am very, very happy to be part of it and I’m ecstatic with how it’s gone so far’’.
Korea are now ranked fifth overall in the America’s Cup World Series with both disciplines of Match Racing and Fleet Racing combined, and Team CEO Kim Dong-Young feels that a top three overall position in Match Racing is ‘’an incredible result for us as we are such a new team. The work has been fantastic this week and I am extremely proud of the sailors and the shore crew. Everyone has given their all to achieve this, and we are delighted. Now we are moving into the planning stages for the next event where we hope we can improve even further’’.
The third event of the AC World Series takes the circuit to San Diego in the USA next November, where the 2011-2012 Championship continues. In the meantime, Team Korea can reflect on their top five position overall, and that extraordinary achievement of a top two in Match Racing. Plymouth Fleet Racing Championships – Final Results:
1. ORACLE Racing Spithill 10 points
2. Emirates Team New Zealand 9
3. ORACLE Racing Coutts 8
4. Aleph 7
5. Team Korea 6
6. Energy Team 5
7. China Team 4
DNF Green Comm Racing 3
DNF Artemis Racing 3
Team Korea wwebsite About Team Korea: Korea is the newest nation to enter the America’s Cup, representing the Sail Korea Yacht Club based in Seoul. Fondly known as the ‘White Tiger Challenge’, the White Tiger is a revered and ancient Guardian God of the west. The team recently hosted a visit of the America’s Cup trophy in Seoul for the first time in history, courtesy of Brooks Brothers Korea. The prestigious Louis Vuitton Cup was also presented to the press at the same time on a very significant day in the continued development of Team Korea. Sponsors of the team include Sail Racing high performance clothing.