Gear failure causes TeamOrigin to drop a point
Despite a 180 degree wind shift prior to proceedings getting underway at the 1851 Cup today, causing the race committee to move the course just to the east of Cowes, fans were treated to one of the most spectacular displays of match racing with protests galore and a large chunk of each team’s play books being enacted, in winds that built to over 20 knots.
In race one TeamOrigin held the favoured starboard entry and the key moment came when mid pre-start the British team afterguard made the call to go for the left side.
As British skipper and helmsman Ben Ainslie explained; “We quite liked the right, but then Bart [Andrew Simpson], Mark [Mendelblatt] and Iain [Percy] saw some breeze coming down the left, so we switched just as we were coming back about 2 minutes 30 before the start. It was a crucial call because we could have gone for either side.”
TEAMORIGIN extended through being on the left of the first beat to round the top mark 46 seconds ahead and from there James Spithill and his crew on BMW Oracle Racing were unable to get back into the race. 3-0 to TeamOrigin.
The second race of the day Ben Ainslie described as being one of the most exciting in his whole sailing career. “It had everything. I guess the reason why it is so close is that the courses are relatively small and there are two really good teams who are fighting really hard and handling their boats really well.”
BMW ORACLE RACING appeared to get the upper hand in the pre-start shovelling TeamOrigin across to the wrong side of the start line, but the British team managed to recover successful to start just ahead.
“Jimmy [Spithill] took the decision to try and get the penalty,” said BMW Oracle Racing navigator Ian Moore. “It would have been fantastic, but when they green flagged it, it gave them the chance to get back into the start. They were going to have an awful start but they did a very nice turn up and they must have been spot on the line. We were in a pretty strong position, but it didn’t feel that way after the start.”
TeamOrigin strategist Andrew Simpson felt they had been fortunate to get back into the race following that pre-start: “Ben did a great job of getting us out of a very difficult position. We were very happy to be in the race at that point rather than outside of the starting box. All the boys did a good job of wrestling us back into the race.”
On the first beat the advantage line swung back and forth between the boats and at the top mark with both boats on port and heading for the starboard layline, TeamOrigin to weather was close enough to BMW Oracle Racing to prevent them from tacking for the mark. The British team led around the mark with their opponents on their transom.
Down the run, BMW Oracle Racing successfully performed a dummy gybe, which TeamOrigin responded to and ended up sailing into a small hole in the breeze, giving the American team the opportunity to move ahead. But not enough. The British team were overlapped approaching the leeward gate and were able to claim the inside berth on the rounding.
“On the second beat we were a bit luckier with the current on the right hand side and got lifted up to the guys and the boys trimming made it easier for us to get back into the race,” described Andrew Simpson.
There was more engagement on the second approach to the weather mark with TeamOrigin this time on the right and BMW Oracle Racing having pulled ahead on the left, but again not by enough.
“There was no way of crossing them,” described BMW Oracle Racing navigator Ian Moore. “If we could get behind them and shoot to the mark it was a big advantage to us. We did start the dial down nice and early, but we weren’t able to complete that manoeuvre exactly as we wanted to. There was a chance that we could have still rolled them there, but ultimately it was a tricky situation as the port boat.”
TeamOrigin led around the top mark. Despite Spithill keeping it close on the run Ben Ainslie and his crew managed to hang on to the lead, British fans breathing a sigh of relief as TeamOrigin crossed the finish line just five seconds ahead.
Unfortunately in today’s third race, TeamOrigin were doing well in the pre-start when a pin within the tripping mechanism for the main halyard lock came undone causing the mainsail to fall down. The British team were unable to fix the problem and they were forced to concede the race.
So going into the final day of windward-leeward racing on Friday TEAMORIGIN are a promising 4-1 ahead but with races on the final day counting for triple points the competition remains wide open. As Ian Moore warns: “In match racing the momentum can turn and it can start to go all your way.”
Starting at 11:30 BST tomorrow is the race around the Isle of Wight, re-enacting the course sailed in 1851 for the first running of what has become known as the America’s Cup.
“It is going to be very interesting to sail these boats at sea,” commented Ben Ainslie. “They are not really designed for it, so we might have to be backing off a little bit to make sure we don’t break the boats. Strategically it is going to be quite tough with the tides and what the wind is doing, but it will be great to re-enact the race where it all started in 1851.”
One forecast presently has the second section of the race around the Isle of Wight being upwind and against the tide in 20 knots of wind. As Ian Moore predicts – it could be a 16 mile tacking duel.