Team Korea in unbeatable mode

Three straight wins for Chris Draper's team at the America's Cup World Series match racing in Plymouth

Friday September 16th 2011, Author: James Boyd, Location: United Kingdom

Today was always going to see six teams knocked out of contention for the Plymouth Match Racing Championships title, but the big surprise was that both Oracle Racing boats would be among them.

After beating China Team in his opening match of the day, Chris Draper and Team Korea pounced on Oracle Racing Spithill when they were struggling with a faulty jib clutch. Once Spithill fell behind, the Korean team never looked like giving up their surprise lead and went on to take an upset victory. Then, the Koreans dispatched Energy Team to move into the semi-final phase tomorrow; a best-of-three match against Artemis Racing.

The first Semi-Final between Emirates Team New Zealand and Oracle Racing Coutts, brought two former team mates head to head, Russell Coutts and his fellow Kiwi and former apprentice Dean Barker. With each team scoring a come-from-behind win in the first two matches, it went down to the third before Dean Barker and the Kiwi team prevailed in a close deciding race, to sail into the Final. In the first race Coutts had a penalty for sailing outside the start box boundary and then got another for colliding with the Kiwi boat.

"If anything we didn’t hit them hard enough!" quipped Coutts later. "After the penalty if we could have sunk them we might have had a chance! In fact we lost a bit of control there. The wind shifts backed the jib a little bit and we flipped on to port and at that point we were going to hit them..."

As Coutts had to slow down with a double penalty, so the Kiwi tore off into what looked like a comfortable lead. However in the shifty gusty conditions, with the WNWerly wind occasionally 10-12 knots, occasionally gusting to 25 there were opportunities all around the course. And this enabled Coutts to pull of a magnificent win the first race.

We made it hard,” Barker said. “Those guys are pretty quick and start the boat well, and it was pretty close in all three races. But we're a lot happier with the way we finished off the last race.”

With another big crowd enjoying the racing from the seafront of Plymouth, the crowd witnessed many dramatic matches, starting with Green Comm Racing’s contest against Aleph. Aleph were fastest out of the blocks, but when Green Comm Racing pounced on the French team when into the race they experienced problems with their genniker hoist.

Aleph now sit out the racing tomorrow, and will be scored as ninth place in the Match Racing Championship. Green Comm Racing made the best could when they sailed against Spithill, but never really threatened the reigning America’s Cup skipper, who blasted out of the start line at twice the pace of their rival. The Spanish team goes up against China in tomorrow’s matches to decide seventh and eighth.

Team Korea dominated China Team in their match, leading from start to finish helped when Charlie Ogletree's team were awarded a penalty for a late entry into the start box. "We thought we had the entry nailed perfectly but it was 1 seconds too early," Ogletree admitted later. "Even after that we weren’t too far out of the game. We just need to continue to work on our boat handling."

Draper came from behind to win his next two races. In the first against Spithill both teams incurred penalties for straying outside of the start box. Spithill set up in the leeward berth and was marginally faster out of the block to arrive at the reaching mark first. Team Korea overhauled Spithill on the fourth leg and at the next leeward gate just one second separated the two boats, however any closeness in the match ended when Spithill's AC45 was struck by a monster gust on the last run forcing them to come up hard or risk a capsize.

Against Energy Team, Loick Peyron’s start was excellent, but on one beat the Koreans surged ahead in better pressure offshore, to earn them their third victory of the day and their spot in the Semi-Finals.

Three victories from three matches was a perfect score for a team with very little match racing experience. It also marks the second time that Chris Draper has handed out a match racing lesson to Oracle Racing, having also toppled Russell Coutts in Cascais a month ago. "I've nothing against Oracle!” said Draper. “We are trying to improve our match racing skill. The changing format has given us some more opportunity. Our experience in match racing is limited but we have some smart guys on board."

"We did nine laps today which was pretty full-on. We need to make sure we get some food into them now and get their energy stores built up for the next two days.

Draper continued: "It was nice to have a reasonable feel for the course, but the tide was changing all the time so it didn’t matter all that much. We were definitely more exhausted. We hadn’t realised they [Energy Team] had the Code 0 and when I saw they had pulled that out at the first mark, but evidently our sail was a bit quicker. They gained a bit on the corners, but generally we were pretty quick in a straight line."

As to his mistake today Draper admitted they made a slight unforced error when they crossed Spithill in the pre-start, but they managed it only to find themselves outside the start box boundary. "The start box was so small. It was so hard to stay within it and get a decent layline for the start. In the last match they had to do double tacks to get across the start line. Then on the last race we had course 3 on our comms box and when we got ready to complete course 3 there were no marks there, so we had to work out what was going on..."

Spithill meanwhile was generous in defeat: “Certainly Korea has caused some problems to Oracle Racing but full credit to those guys. They hung in there. We had a few issues with the gear and we made a tactical error on the run. We got what we deserved.”

Tomorrow is another busy day as the Plymouth Match Racing Championships reaches its climax. First up is the best-of-three Semi Final between Team Korea and Artemis Racing, which sat out today’s competition after winning the fleet racing phase yesterday. Then come the matches to decide the minor placings, and then a best-of-three Finals.

Friday’s Results

Qualifying races

Green Comm Racing defeated Aleph; 1-0
Team Korea defeated China Team; 1-0
ORACLE Racing Spithill defeated Green Comm Racing; 1-0
Team Korea defeated ORACLE Racing Spithill; 1-0
Team Korea defeated Energy Team; 1-0

Semi final One

Emirates Team New Zealand defeated ORACLE Racing Coutts; 2-1

From Ingrid Abery/




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