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America's Cup - Oracle closer taking Match point with vital Day 6 win

by Richard Gladwell Sail-World.com/nz on 1 Jun 2017
Emirates Team NZ - Round Robin 2 - America's Cup 2017, June 1, 2017 Great Sound Bermuda Richard Gladwell www.photosport.co.nz
America's Cup fans got a new insight into the capabilities of the Challengers and the Defender, as racing continued on Day 6 in winds that were barely above the minimum threshold for racing.

All starts had the countdown clock restarted at least once as the average wind strength dropped below the prescribed the minimum 30second average of 6kts.

Emirates Team New Zealand was impressive in their match with Land Rover BAR, with the British team eventually retiring to effect repairs on a new daggerboard, before her second race of the day against Groupama Team France.

While Sir Ben Ainslie conceded a race for the first time in his illustrious sailing career, the AC50 showed little improvement over her competitor in the final race of the day. Groupama Team France led around the penultimate mark of the race, but couldn't match the British downwind as the wind increased to a whole 7.6kts average gusting to 8.7kts on the final run.

Around 7kts of breeze is sufficient for the AC50's to be able generate sufficient apparent windspeed to make an efficient course downwind. In a lesser strength of wind they are, in the words of top sailor and Race Director, Iain Murray, 'like a blunt saw.'


This was the first time Emirates Team New Zealand has been tested in light airs against other AC50's and she responded very well to the questions asked.

The Kiwis had and average breeze of less than 7kts for their race against Land Rover BAR, and went around the track in 18m 50 secs compared to the 18minutes taken by Oracle Team USA - although both courses were shortened after the start and distances were not the same.

At one point the Kiwis were doing 26kts in just over 6kts of air.

Oracle Team USA looked very good, albeit sailing in 7kts plus of breeze. However, they were led around the course by Softbank Team Japan for more than half the race after the Defender suffered a pre-start penalty from the Umpires.

Softbank skipper Dean Barker sailed well, really only losing it on the final beat when they went hard left and got out of phase with the shifts, allowing Oracle Team USA's Jimmy Spithill to pounce.

Some questioned as to whether 'team orders' might have dictated that Barker should wave training and development partner Oracle Team USA through to help tie up the America's Cup Match point that is the Defenders is they win this Qualifier round.

When questioned on whether there were team orders, Barker denied that he had let Spithill through, putting the lead change down to his decision to go left, while Spithill went right.


On reflection that is the way, it looked on the water too. Rarely on this course and wind direction has it paid to bang the left. The strength always seems to be down, and if your opponent goes right, there seems to be more pressure and a handy shift, just as a bonus.

Artemis Racing was not rostered to compete today - she has three races left - two on Saturday.

It would now seem the Land Rover BAR has sufficient points with her win today, her other two wins in the regatta and her two bonus points from the America's Cup World Series to join Emirates Team New Zealand in the play-offs.

However with unless her performance improves dramatically the erratic British will be out after the Semi-Finals - when they have to survive on race wins alone.


The other two semi-finalists will be Artemis Racing and Softbank Team Japan.

As for Oracle Team USA, the major question is whether they can eke a point out of this series to take into the America's Cup Match.

For her to miss collecting that point, she would have to lose to both Artemis Racing and Emirates Team New Zealand. Artemis Racing has her crack at the America's Cup Champions on Friday and Emirates Team New Zealand on Saturday.

Saturday also marks the last race day for Oracle Team USA as they have to sit out the Semi-Finals and Finals of the Challenger Series ahead of the America's Cup Match starting on June 17.





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