Oracle Racing Spithill claims the double
San Diego saved the best for last, testing the AC45 crews with the strongest winds of the week, with gusts approaching 20 knots on Sunday afternoon, making for great racing conditions for the winner-takes-all fleet race and speed trials. The teams didn’t disappoint the fans gathered on Broadway and Navy Piers – the race was full of intrigue, with plenty of lead changes and lots of near misses and thrills and spills from start to finish.
Oracle Racing Spithill, winner of Saturday's Match Racing Championship, came from behind to win the Fleet Racing Championship, becoming the first team to secure a double win at a America's Cup World Series event. Once again, team principal Larry Ellison was on board with the team today.
“We really wanted to win the double, It was a goal of ours when the ACWS started,” said skipper James Spithill afterwards. “We started okay, but got mixed up in the pack going up the first beat, but JK (tactician John Kostecki) did a great job setting us up for the windward mark rounding and then the boys did a fantastic job. We were able to stretch away and use our speed.”
It was Emirates Team New Zealand which exploded off the starting line to lead the fleet of nine AC45s into a tense, action-packed turn at the first mark just a few hundred yards away. While the Kiwi team led early, the long leg upwind allowed several teams to shine, none more so than Artemis Racing who worked their way up to the front of a very tight pack by the top gate.
But Oracle Racing Spithill chose the favoured mark at the top and was soon leading the fleet downwind at speeds near 25 knots, slowly extending away from the pack of boats giving chase. Artemis Racing had a near disaster at the bottom mark, their headsail not deploying cleanly, with a near-capsize dropping them well down the fleet.
While Spithill moved away from the fleet, Team Korea, Emirates Team New Zealand, Energy Team, and Aleph were locked in a dogfight for second place. The advantage was first with Korea and then the Kiwis, but the two were just yards apart for most of the race, until a poor gybe on Korea allowed the Kiwis and both French boat to go past. At the finish, it was Emirates Team New Zealand in second, with Energy Team just one second ahead of Aleph for third, and Team Korea in fifth.
Artemis Racing’s Terry Hutchinson made a late charge to take sixth place just one second ahead of China Team, with Green Comm Racing and Oracle Racing Coutts at the back of the pack.
Team Korea skipper Chris Draper said: "We sailed a good race, in fact I am pleased with how we sailed all week, we just haven’t had the ‘run of the green’. I am proud with how we are sailing, and we can leave with some real positives, as we have done with the last few events. Obviously we have been very frustrated at times, the margins are so close in this, and we had a few problems with the spinnaker sheets this week which we need to address. That’s been the difference between qualifying for the Match race finals and having a 2 or a 3 today. We have an opportunity to catch up with the leaders with some training, and we’re now seeing there are a few of us pushing the racing hard already. The future looks really bright for the team, and it’s an exciting time for Team Korea."
Vasilij Zbogar, skipper and helmsman on Green Comm Racing commented: “I'm very satisfied with our team in San Diego. We have made good process all around and our level has clearly risen since the first event in Cascais. All the teams have gotten better these last few months and we still haven't reached their top level because we didn't have much time on the water and made quite a few changes in the crew.
"The entire team is happy with the progress we made so far and they all look forward to our training in Valencia. We feel confident that after three months of hard training we will have improved and we will perform much better in Naples next April. We aren't far behind the rest of the fleet, we stay close but we still make small mistakes. With such a competitive fleet, the difference between finishing fourth or eighth is extremely small.”
Earlier, in the AC500 Speed Trial, the fastest runs came on the teams’ second attempt down the course. First it was Emirates Team New Zealand setting the pace. But then came the Oracle Racing juggernaut. First Spithill and then Darren Bundock, skippering Oracle Racing Coutts, broke the record, with Bundock’s speed of 26.87 knots standing up as the winning speed.
San Diego is the last event of the calendar year for the America’s Cup World Series. The teams will now have four months of winter training before the next AC World Series stop in Naples, Italy from April 7 to 15, 2012. Venice, Italy then follows from the 12 to 20 of May, 2012.
“We're going to go to some fantastic venues,” said Regatta Director Iain Murray. “The ACWS has grown legs of its own, it has proven itself as a concept. It excites the people, we fit it into the geography of the bays, and creating the stadium racing means we can broadcast our racing from the inside out. I see the World Series going from strength to strength. The AC72s are starting to be built, teams are getting stronger and more confident. We're heading towards some great events.”
“It is very easy to forget how far we've come in a very short space of time,” said Richard Worth, Chairman of the America’s Cup Event Authority. “Three months ago the America’s Cup World Series didn't even exist. Now, we have had three spectacular events, thanks largely to our sailors, these sportsmen of outstanding quality. We have created a stunning sporting event. We saw that today, with some outstanding sport, inches between the boats at the end and real drama throughout. So through a very short space of time the America’s Cup World Series has absolutely come alive.”
Results – San Diego Fleet Racing Championship
1. ORACLE Racing Spithill
2. Emirates Team New Zealand
3. Energy Team
5. Team Korea
6. Artemis Racing
7. China Team
8. Green Comm Racing
9. ORACLE Racing Coutts
Results – AC500 Speed Trial
Oracle Racing - Coutts - 26.87 knots
Oracle Racing - Spithill - 26.79 knots
Emirates Team New Zealand - 26.56 knots
Artemis Racing - 25.98 knots
Energy Team - 25.96 knots
China Team - 25.67 knots
Aleph - 25.19 knots
Green Comm Racing - 24.74 knots
Team Korea - 24.30 knots
|1||Emirates Team New Zealand||NZL||Dean Barker||55|
|2||ORACLE Racing Spithill||USA||James Spithill||54|
|3||Artemis Racing||SWE||Terry Hutchinson||40|
|4||Team Korea||KOR||Chris Draper||36|
|5||ORACLE Racing Coutts||USA||Darren Bundock||36|
|6||Energy Team||FRA||Yann Guichard||34|
|8||Green Comm Racing||ESP||Vasilj Zbogar||23|
|9||China Team||CHN||Charlie Ogletree||20|
Watch the full replay of the racing here: