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Gladwell's Line - Timeout in Bermuda and a decision OTUSA will regret?

by Richard Gladwell, NZ on 20 Apr 2017
Artemis Racing seems to have the measure of Oracle Team USA after Practice Sessions 2 & 3 Austin Wong | ACEA
With Emirates Team New Zealand's AC50 now in Bermuda and being re-assembled, and the third major Practice Session having concluded in Bermuda, it is time to take a breath from what has been a hectic couple of months.

The latest Practice Session was conducted almost entirely in winds of around 16-25kts - starting to get close to the top end of the range for the AC50's.

The obvious take out from the series is the 9-0 score for Artemis Racing, taking four races off the Defender Oracle Team USA.

However, the Swedish team did win their two races against the Defender in the previous Practice Session 2 - and have taken six wins on the trot from the Defender.

By any measure that is a significant result.

For sure Oracle Team USA may not have had their best daggerboards fitted, and Artemis Racing could be a step ahead of the rest in that regard.

Commenting after the finish of Practice Session 2, Oracle Team USA skipper Jimmy Spithill said: 'The fact is, I think everyone only has one set of foils at this point, so in lighter winds everyone was compromised somewhat.'

Given the complexity and options afforded by the daggerboard rules, coupled with the fact that most if not all teams have suffered unexpected breakage, it is not really certain that apples are being compared with apples in the daggerboard stakes.

In other words, Artemis Racing might be the only team of the five with daggerboards optimised for the strong breezes.

Either way it's a guessing game at this stage. Every team knows what they are using, and think they know, to varying degrees of accuracy what their opponents are doing. Those watching from the sidelines have no real idea of what is happening - and can only react to actual events and sighted developments.

There may be some better answers in the next session which gets underway on April 24, local time. That is a five-day session - and may be the first opportunity for Emirates Team New Zealand to line-up with come of the other Challengers at least.

Given Oracle Team USA's current position there would seem to be little point in the Kiwis lining up against the Defender.

Emirates Team New Zealand has always been critical of the Challengers sailing against the Defender, and it would be hypocritical if the Kiwis were to change their stance.

Equally, there is little point in the New Zealanders lining up against Softbank Team Japan. The Japanese are seen as a sub-set of the Defender's campaign and would be too useful a benchmark. Although as Oracle Team USA CEO Russell Coutts noted after the Third Practice Session 'Soft Bank Team Japan needs to address their reliability issues...'

So maybe expect a limited showing by Emirates Team New Zealand in Practice Session 4.

The reality lies in skipper Glenn Ashby's comment on their isolated training in Auckland and what will happen when the Kiwis check in with reality in Bermuda: 'We are either going to come in, in good shape or having plenty on.'

Expect Team New Zealand to continue playing their own game.

While there will be plenty, who expect them to show their hand, forgetting that part of the Team Zealand tradition has been to largely train alone.

In 2013 they turned up in San Francisco having only had a very limited work up against Luna Rossa, who while the second best challenger were slow and were not consistent. In previous Challenges, their way has usually been to train in the Hauraki Gulf, in a patch of water that resembles the Match venue and work away during the New Zealand summer.

From what we have seen on the video from Bermuda, and what we have been able to see with our own eyes on the Waitemata, Emirates Team New Zealand looks to be as sharp as Artemis Racing and may be sharper.

The test will be if the Kiwis can get around the course in Bermuda without a slowing splash-down. They would put them well ahead of the others, and in the video analysis, splash-downs were what cost valuable metres. To some extent, splash-downs are a measure of several factors - and are easily visible on video.

The other issue from the Practice Sessions is that Oracle Team USA may well rue their decision to race against the Challengers.

While giving them some target practice, it does also mean that their results will be compared with the Challengers - and commented on.

It is a lose-lose for the Defenders. If they give the Challengers a resounding hiding, then Oracle Team USA are criticised for getting their measure in a way that is against the traditions of the Cup.

Lose in the way they have against Artemis Racing, and Oracle Team USA get a hammering for being off the pace.

Of course, Oracle Team USA are used to the comeback, but this Practice Session stuff is different. It will be interesting in the next session if they can step up in their handling, speed and results.

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Good sailing!

Richard Gladwell
NZ Editor

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