“We still have to look at the boat and what we can do to improve it. There’s a long way to go in my mind.” — James Spithill, after today’s loss to Barker and Team New Zealand.
America’s Cup defender ORACLE TEAM USA grabbed headlines this morning when the day’s crew lists were released. The defender had changed tacticians, inserting four-time Olympic gold medalist Ben Ainslie in place of past America’s Cup champion John Kostecki.
Later in the day on the racecourse, it was Emirates Team New Zealand that stole Races 6 and 7 from the defender and now stands two-thirds of the way to winning the oldest trophy in international sport.
Emirates Team New Zealand leads the series 6-0 after winning Race 6 by 47 seconds and Race 7 by1:06. The winner of the 34th America’s Cup will be the first team to win 9 points. For the Kiwis that means three additional race wins and for ORACLE TEAM USA it means 10, due to a penalty imposed by the International Jury.
“We’re very satisfied with the day; it’s nice to get two more points, but there’s still a long way to go,” said Emirates Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker. “It’s only two-thirds of the way to actually winning the Cup. You have to win 9 points. Three more races is a lot of hard work, and we know that it’s far from over. One bad day out there and momentum changes and things can be quite different. We’re under no illusion, there’s still a very hard road ahead.”
In Race 6 Barker said he was asleep all through the pre-start of the race, which put the team on the back foot. But in a similar scenario to Race 5, the team fought from behind on the upwind leg and passed the defender to gain the lead and then extend.
The win in Race 7 was a wire-to-wire performance. The Kiwis started to windward of ORACLE TEAM USA and crossed onto the racecourse riding on their hydrofoils and doing approximately 38 knots. They rounded the first turning mark in the lead and were never threatened the rest of the race.
Emirates Team New Zealand was untouchable on the two upwind legs. In Race 6 the Kiwis gained 55 seconds on the 3-nautical-mile leg and 50 seconds in Race 7.
Upwind, downwind? It’s still a tacking war.
“We didn’t know about the designs before the match started,” said ORACLE TEAM USA skipper Jimmy Spithill. “Both teams spent a lot of time and energy focused on each other and where we stood. I think it’s a shock they have the edge upwind and potentially we have an edge downwind.”
That upwind speed edge rendered moot ORACLE TEAM USA’s decision to change its decision maker. Kostecki, who guided Spithill to victory in the 33rd America’s Cup in 2010, opened the match in the back of the boat, but after five races came under fire for some of his decisions.
Spithill decided yesterday to insert four-time Olympic gold medalist Ainslie in his place. Ainslie has been the team’s B boat helmsman and is widely considered a skipper, but the team felt change was needed for the sake of change.
“Sure we made a change in the back of the boat. Both John and Ben are fantastic sailors, two of the best sailors in the world. We’re very fortunate that we can rotate guys like that. But we’ll have to study the data and see what we can do to change up the boat.
“We still haven’t seen some conditions. Those guys have an edge upwind and tacking, but we still haven’t seen the light-air end of the spectrum and we haven’t seen the Code 0s,” Spithill said. “We still have to look at the boat and what we can do to improve it. There’s a long way to go in my mind.”
As it was my day to be out on the bay following the action from one of the Defender speed boats, I was hoping that Oracle Team USA would have at least one win. It’s my Birthday for goodness sakes! Just one win… that’s not too much to ask for, right?
Spithill and crew had a great start to race 1 but as we watched them heading for the finish, I saw Oracle jibe left toward the Marina Green, leaving New Zealand headed straight for the gates. Whaaa? I was dumbfounded. What were they thinking?
It was exciting to finally get out there and watch the racing “up close & personal” and I did get some great shots of both yachts as well as some of the cheering fans. And so the day wasn’t a complete loss.
…just for Oracle Team USA.
Racing resumes on Saturday with Races 8 and 9, scheduled for 1:15 pm PT and 2:15 pm PT. In the U.S., the America’s Cup Finals will be broadcast live on the NBC Sports Network. Replays will be available on the America’s Cup YouTube channel.
Thanks to Americascup.com.