Emirates Team New Zealand...again
The Emirates team picked up where they left off yesterday, winning two of the three fleet races to qualify at the top of the pile for today's match racing final. Then, they beat the Artemis Racing crew handily, when the Swedish team accumulated a series of penalties around the race course.
“It’s very satisfying for us to feel like we are really improving and starting to get more and more to grips with the multihulls,” said a very understated Dean Barker, the New Zealand skipper, when he returned to the dock.
The day was not without its drama for the Kiwi team. In the first fleet race, they were penalised twice for sailing outside the race course boundaries which in the new era of digital racing are monitored electronically. Lights fitted to the yachts’ cross beams flash as the boundary nears. The faster they flash, the closer is the boundary.
The penalties are delivered electronically too. Rather than the penalty turn of old, yachts discharge the penalty by slowing down which is monitored electronically by the umpires. When the umpires are happy the yachts are signalled.
Today Barker was penalised twice when the instruments on his AC45 showed he was inside the course. Barker said after the race that they did not know why they were being penalised: ”When we got the second penalty the on-board instruments showed we had 50m to go to the boundary. We did not know what was going on. We have learned that there was a fault in the system ... teething troubles in a complex system that is so new. The race organisers have a very strong technical team working to make the system flawless. I think everyone expects that it might take a little time.”
Commenting on the racing so far, Barker said the Emirates Team New Zealand boat showed good speed most of the time.”We are going well and our crew work has been great. We are learning every day and We’re pleased with the progress we are making. Everyone here is making mistakes and it’s coming down to who makes the fewest mistakes.”
Today's racing came after the Kiwi team's shore crew had worked through the night to repair damage caused yesterday in a pre-start collision when their AC45 was damaged in the aft port hull when it was hit by Oracle Racing Coutts. Inspection at the end of racing yesterday revealed damage was extensive; one section required immediate work to prevent water getting into the core. The rest of the damage will be repaired at Plymouth, venue for the next AC45 World Series regatta.
The battle for third and fourth on the day was between Oracle Racing stable mates Russell Coutts and James Spithill. But the highly anticipated match was nearly over before it began, as Coutts was forced to restart after he jumped the line ahead of the starting gun, handing an insurmountable lead to Spithill.
For the Oracle Racing teams, both struggled to get consistently good starts, the split second timing of the acceleration on the line being the vital factor. “We been over the line four races out of seven,” said Coutts of today’s and yesterday’s races. “That’s not good in any kind of boat. You can’t expect to score well if you do that. We’ve got to work together at racing the boat better.”
Earlier Spithill had his own early start worries but recovered from last in the third fleet race finish third. “We were slow to get off the start line today but had a fantastic day around the course,” said Spithill. “That gives us huge confidence going into tomorrow.”
There were also flashes of brilliance from many of the teams further down the table, as Team Korea, Energy Team and China Team all performed well at various times during the day. The Koreans beat Energy Team for fifth place, while China Team led for much of the third fleet race before it all unraveled during the second lap of the course.
“It’s been a difficult day,” admitted China Team skipper Mitch Booth. “We sort of saw glory and ran the other way… In the last race we were leading for the first lap but then we had a crew handling error and that cost us from qualifying for the match racing. But we are happy with the team’s performance and the improvement. We are racing against the best teams in the world, so we are relatively happy.”
Among the guest racers on Thursday was America’s Cup legend John Bertrand, the skipper of Australia II, the first challenger to win the Cup in 1983. "This was my first race on an AC45,” he said. “The boats are extremely physical and the racing puts the crews under tremendous pressure to make the right decision at the right time. There is no margin for error… We haven’t seen anything yet!”
The daily seeding points from yesterday and today’s races will be added to points earned tomorrow to determine Saturday’s finalists for the AC Match Race Championship. Only the top six teams will advance to race on Saturday.
The event concludes on Sunday with the AC World Series – Cascais Championship, a winner takes all fleet race that will determine the winner of the first stage on this new global professional circuit.
Results - ACWS – Cascais Match Racing Championships Day 2
1. Emirates Team New Zealand/Dean Barker 1-1 – 20 points
2. ORACLE Racing Spithill/James Spithill 2-3 – 17
3. Artemis Racing/Terry Hutchinson 5-2 – 15
4. Team Korea/Chris Draper 3-5 – 14
5. ORACLE Racing Coutts/Russell Coutts 6-4 – 12
6. Energy Team/Loick Peyron 4-6 – 12
7. China Team/Mitch Booth 8-7 – 7
8. Aleph/Alain Gautier 7-8 – 7
9. Green Comm/Vasilij Žbogar 9-9 – 3
More images from Jesus Renedo/www.sailingstock.com