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Fisher's View- Day minus 2 ACWS Newport - Coutts- Do we need 11 crew

by Bob Fisher on 27 Jun 2012
Emirates Team NZ hits official Timing Boat Newport, ACWS Newport Training day Luna Rossa/Studio Borlenghi

Bob Fisher, one of the world's top international yachting journalists, and certainly the top writer on the America's Cup, is in Newport, RI, USA for the sixth 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 minus 2 - America's Cup World Series - Newport, RI, USA

Russell Coutts was unbending when questioned about the crew numbers on the AC-72s. At the public press conference, I put it to him that the consensus was that eleven men would find sailing one of these boats for an hour would be exhausting - a fact that I had garnered from many of the AC-45 sailors - and there was no indication from him that this number would be increased, rather the opposite; Coutts spoke of ten, even nine as being numbers of crew that might be employed voluntarily.

That question was delivered after the showy public conference at which the audio was heavily overdone in an attempt to prove the America's Cup had moved from the Flintstone era to that of the Facebook. It didn't work as the music (?) drowned the commentary and the points of the pre-filmed video were lost to the essentially young audience of local sailors.

Earlier Lincoln Chafee, the Governor of Rhode Island State, who sails a J-100, spoke of his association with sailing in Newport and of the days when the 12-Metres held sway and how they had been the focus of his attention, but said after seeing the AC-45s sailing, from his J-100: 'Now, I'm a believer,' adding: 'Twelves, you've had your day; now we are moving on.'

Iain Murray, the CEO of America's Cup Race Management, who had raced a 12-Metre here in 1983, explained why the Cup had been held here for 53 years: 'It's a perfect venue, so no one wanted to win the Cup. It would have had to have gone elsewhere.' He added: 'We (Australians) didn't figure that out!' It brought a roar of approval.

The ACWS first edition is coming to a close with this regatta and with Emirates Team New Zealand four points astern of Oracle Team Spithill at the top of the points table, Dean Barker was quizzed on what he most wanted to give him a chance of overall victory. 'I hope we get the wind coming straight down the Channel (the entrance to Newport harbour - it would be a south-westerly) and I must stay clear of Russell [Coutts] at the starts.'

On the same subject, Jimmy Spithill said: 'Dean's confident, but we will push him hard.' The odds are somewhat in his favour, but indications are that Dean will get his wish with the weather. The current nor'-westers are forecast to back into the south-west.

After the last two regattas in which the French Energy Team has been highly successful, Loick Peyron put this success down to the standard of the competition. 'The best way to improve,' he said: 'is to sail against the best, and that is what we have been doing.' On the subject of the team continuing into the Louis Vuitton Cup [in an AC-72], Peyron would only say: 'It's a big question. It is not going to be easy, and it would be a pity if we don't make it.'

The other teams - Luna Rossa and Team Korea - have a wealth of talent in their crews from sailing small, fast boats. Nathan Outteridge, for example, is the favourite to win the Olympic gold medal in the 49ers and Chris Draper already has a bronze. The Luna Rossa skipper, Max Sirena, claims: 'We are still in the learning process, and we hope to sail better here than we did in Venice.' That will be difficult.

Third placed Terry Hutchinson with Artemis Racing blamed himself for not leading the fleet racing at this stage, although he is in front in the match racing. 'I haven't started the boat well,' he admitted: 'and that's been the Achilles heel. The scores don't necessarily reflect the performance so far.'

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