2-0 to Oracle Racing Spithill
The Oracle Racing Spithill crew swept across the finish line ahead of Energy Team to a 2-0 win on Saturday afternoon, earning appreciative applause from the large crowd gathered just a few yards away on Broadway and Navy Piers. The victory gave Oracle Racing Spithill the Match Racing Championship at the AC World Series in San Diego.
“We’re really happy,” Spithill said. “We worked very hard after the last regatta on our match racing; the sail design team, the shore team, our preparation was second to none, so it’s great to reward the team with victory. Energy Team have had great speed and been sailing very well… We did a good job of hanging tough, keeping composed and really keeping close. When we found the opportunity we took it and didn’t look back. I’m very happy.”
Like yesterday’s semifinal round, team principal Larry Ellison was aboard Oracle Racing Spithill today as the 6th crewman. He noted the growth the crew has undergone since August. “We’ve constantly improved throughout the year, which is what we wanted to do,” said Ellison. “Compared to Portugal, the quality of the sailing, the communication and the decision making is dramatically improved and that’s what we wanted to see.”
Tactician John Kostecki added: “This is our third regatta now with the same team and we’re only getting better. For me, our biggest improvement is in our light-air speed. We’re a lot faster in the lighter winds. We have a new gennaker and jib. They’re pretty radically different from before and a huge improvement.”
Conditions were tricky again on San Diego Bay, with the wind variable in direction, and ranging from 5 to 11 knots in strength. The sun was out for much of the day, bringing the crowds down to the AC Village.
“It was really difficult today, the wind was very shifty,” confirmed Energy Team skipper Yann Guichard. “We had a good start in the first race, but then I made a small mistake and they passed us. In the second race there was no opportunity to come back. Jimmy was better today. They were the stronger team on the water. But I’m happy. We’ve done a good job all week.”
On Sunday afternoon the full fleet is on the water again, scheduled to race in another AC500 Speed Trial before the big, winner-takes-all, Fleet Racing Championship.
“There’s no question we want the double (winning the fleet and match racing events),” Spithill said after racing, with great conviction. “We want to be the first team to win both events. So we’re going to do everything we can tomorrow to get a victory.”
San Diego Match Racing Championship – Final
Energy Team’s Yann Guichard looked like the more experienced match racer in his first start against Oracle Racing’s Jimmy Spithill, winning the favoured side of the line and leading into the first mark. But Guichard and crew made a crucial mistake halfway through the race, allowing the American team to sail away to the opposite side of the race track where Spithill found the wind he needed to get ahead. Protecting a slim lead, Spithill then forced Energy Team to make a very slow double tack, gaining enough of an extra margin to sail comfortably to the finish and a 1-0 lead.
Oracle Racing Spithill was strong in the second pre-start and led Energy Team across the starting line and into the first mark. In lighter conditions, Spithill was firm in protecting his position against a French team that showed good speed in the flat water and lighter winds. But on the second lap of the course, Oracle Racing extended away for a convincing race win, taking the Match Racing Championship 2-0.
Dean Barker, the skipper of Emirates Team New Zealand hounded Artemis Racing towards the starting line, pushing them close earlly, and preventing the Swedish team from building speed before the start, allowing the Kiwis an early lead. Artemis skipper Terry Hutchinson initiated a furious tacking duel to break cover on the first upwind leg, but despite gaining his freedom, he didn’t find the favorable wind shift he needed and New Zealand continued to lead onto the second lap of the course and through to the finish. ETNZ is third, with Artemis Racing fourth.
Artemis Racing's Terry Hutchinson commented :“From our perspective ETNZ were OCS at the start, but clearly they weren’t. We felt like we had pushed ETNZ into a hard spot to start the boat yet they got away a little bit better than we did. From there we pushed them fairly hard but it was a bit of a one-way track out of the bottom so we had to follow them around the left gate to mitigate any more loss. We sailed a really good first long beat. We were gaining on them pretty much tack for tack, it was a little bit unfortunate at the end of the beat where we didn’t quite lay the right mark we got the split that we wanted. It just didn’t quite go our way today.”
Aleph rolled over the top Oracle Racing Coutts moments after the starting gun fired to grab a small lead at the first mark. French skipper Pierre Pennec, with limited match racing experience, sailed like a veteran from that moment onwards, trying to cover his opponent whenever possible the rest of the way around the course to win fifth place. Oracle Racing Coutts is sixth.
Team Korea was given a penalty in a pre-start dominated by Green Comm Racing’s Vasco Zbogar and trailed around the first lap of the course. But at the bottom gate, the Spanish team gave Korean skipper Chris Draper an opportunity to split away to the opposite side of the race course where he found a favorable wind shift to steal a narrow lead. The Korean team would sail flawlessly to the finish to earn seventh place. Green Comm Racing finishes eighth.
Team Korea's Chris Brittle said: "We were very pleased, we came through to win the race, but started a bit slowly, and thought the penalty decision was a little unfair at the start. Then up the first beat we couldn't seem to get in phase with the shifts so every time we tacked it seemed to head us, and GreenComm got a good lead. Then we managed to find some pressure down the run and began getting in phase, and round the leeward mark we seemed to have good speed, so when we tacked we crossed them ahead up the beat and from there we managed to just hold them off, so yes, pretty pleased’’.
Skipper Chris Draper added: "We had a bit of a hiccup at the start of the race and we thought they had got away from us, but we sailed well and managed to come back and win so we are a lot happier after this performance. There was no breeze at the left of the course which was disappointing, and we realised quickly the other side was favoured, and managed to get the opportunity to get there and were very pleased with our straight line boat speed." He continued: "We are a little frustrated with our performance in the third race Wednesday, and feel we could have been in the semi-finals and perhaps made it to the final again, so we’re feeling more confident looking to the fleet race tomorrow and hope we can do well."
Results – San Diego Match Racing Championship
Team Korea (7th) beat Green Comm Racing (8th)
Aleph (5th) beat Oracle Racing Coutts (6th)
Emirates Team New Zealand (3rd) beat Artemis Racing (4th)
Final - Oracle Racing Spithill (1st) beat Energy Team (2nd), 2-0