AC World Series Venice sets sail on Thursday

Oracle Team USA Spithill one point ahead of Emirates Team New Zealand in the 2011-12 championship

Tuesday May 15th 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: Italy

Racing at the America's Cup World Series Venice sets sail properly on Thursday and today in Venice's Arsenale, where the AC45s and the team bases are located for the duration of this regatta, an introductory press conference was held to introduce the team.

Oracle Team USA Spithill holds a one point lead into racing in Venice, ahead of Emirates Team New Zealand which was knocked off the top spot after the winner takes all final in Naples.

Venice marks the penultimate event of the 2011-12 AC World Series, with the overall winner to be determined in Newport, Rhode Island, next month and today the newly commissioned AC World Series Trophy was revealed for the first time. The trophy is made in polished silver, similar to the America's Cup itself. The nine wing sails supporting the globe represent the nine teams competing in the 2011-12 AC World Series. The globe reflects the international nature of the competing teams and venues, while the overall design is a tribute to the precision of technology that is such an important aspect of the sport.

Between the skippers the consistent line was the parity of the fleet, and how difficult it would be to post a consistent scoreline in the racing this week.

“Every single person here wants to win this Series,” Spithill said. “But Venice is going to be very, very challenging. I think the key is to be consistent. Now the level is such that everyone can win. We've seen that, and in Venice there will be a lot more opportunities for passing. It will never be over until you get across the finish line. For the spectators it will be fantastic and for the sailors it will be a real test.”

Spithill was sporting an 'Italia' jacket, still excited by having taken Italian soccer star Gianlugi Buffon out of sail on the AC45 yesterday. Buffon has been invited to join the team in San Francisco. 

“The battle for consistency is pretty difficult…” agreed Terry Hutchinson, skipper of the third place Artemis Racing. “The challenge is dealing with the conditions and the other competitors and trying to get through some situations that appear quite random at times to get that consistency. The good news is that it's not a big mystery, the difficult part is in executing.”

Emirates Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker said: " Normal 0 false false false EN-GB X-NONE X-NONE MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 Any of these teams can win any race. The way the series works, it is pretty important to win the last race of hte event and anything up until then doesn’t count for very much." A small dig at the heavy points weights on the 'winners takes all' final races, which has since had its points weighting reduced. 

Many crews have been changing crews and one of the most significant is Loick Peyron, returning to the helm of the Energy Team AC. While Peyron was 'coach' as Guichard helmed in Naples, here the roles have reversed. Peyron said: “Yann (Guichard) and the team have done a very good job in San Diego and in Naples and improved a lot. So it's much easier now on the helm. I can push or pull and the guys are just working as they should. We've been sailing for a few days here and it's maybe one of the best places to train. The weather conditions are great.”

A significant feature of Oracle Team USA Bundock, will be having Russell Coutts join his crew, albeit not the helm. There was some titillation over the prospect of the Oracle Team USA boss going forward: ““Russell is a true legend in the America’s Cup and a great addition to our boat tactically. Russell has been thrown in at the deep end. He’s up front, pulling ropes and seeing how physical he’s made these boats! How often do you get to boss the boss around? Normally he’s used to be being at the back of the boat giving orders. Now he’s at the front coping with them.”

Team Korea skipper Nathan Outteridge, has returned to his steed after a 10 hour drive up the coast from Zadar where last week he made the history books claiming his fourth 49er World Championship: "I'm pretty excited to be back here and racing with the best guys in the world. It's a great chance to get back into it. I went for a quick sail yesterday… And I'm looking forward to getting out there again today and gearing up for the event. It's an amazing place to sail here in Venice and hopefully we can build on what we did in Naples.”

Another team rotating their helm is China Team where young Kiwi match racer Phil Robertson is swapped with French legend Fred le Peutrec. At just 25 Robertson is the youngest skipper at this regatta. “It's a big step for us. We're the youngest team. Our average age is about 26 on board, so for us it's all about focusing on boat handling and trying to take the small steps to get to the level of these guys. All of these teams have been together for a while and sailing these boats for over a year, so it's just a matter of trying to catch up to their level.”

Following Luna Rossa's win on home turf in Naples and winning Saturday's racing with straight bullet, there is much expection of Luna Rossa Piranha and her helmsman Chris Draper: “(Skipper) Max Sirena and the team have been very quick to make sure we don't get ahead of ourselves. We still have some massive weak areas we can improve upon. If we keep focusing on ourselves and making sure that we're improving, the results will take care of themselves.”

Paul Campbell-James, helmsman on Luna Rossa Swordfish, said: “Having the two boats allows us to get the most we can out of the training sessions and every day we go out on the water. Our team sailed together last year in the X40s and Chris did so well with Team Korea, so we're learning a lot from each other.”

A practice race is scheduled for Wednesday, but a forecast for poor conditions means Tuesday’s time on the water becomes even more valuable.

Racing at the America’s Cup World Series Venice starts on Thursday at 1215 UTC. Two fleet races along with the first Quarter Final match races are on the schedule for the first day.

2011-12 AC World Series, overall leaderboard

1. Oracle Team USA – Spithill… 67 points
2. Emirates Team New Zealand… 66 points
3. Artemis Racing… 54 points
4. Energy Team… 48 points
5. Oracle Team USA – Bundock… 47 points
5.Team Korea… 47 points
7. China Team… 26 points
8. Luna Rossa Piranha… 19 points
9. Luna Rossa Swordfish… 12 points



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