Artemis Racing back in the chocolates
With the arrival of the weekend in Venice, so spectator numbers both on and off the water had swelled even more for day three of the America's Cup World Series racing as the nine AC45s competed on two courses down towards the leeward gate and finish line of Piazza San Marco.
Today the wind was lighter than yesterday, at 6-8 knots and with the course was as narrow, but thankfully almost a one tacker/gybe resulting in the racing being marginally less strenuous on the crew.
In the first race, the boats got away cleanly with the exception of Oracle Team USA-Bundock who was OCS, while their team mates on James Spithill's boat making an equally good, but in their case legal start in the middle of line with Luna Rossa-Swordfish powering down from the boat end of the line deploying their genniker early.
At the all-important first turning mark it was Spithill out in front, continuing on past the mark, ahead of Emirates Team NZ, which gybed immediately. However it was Luna Rossa Swordfish which came out of the turning mark melee the best to pull into the lead followed by Oracle Team USA Spithill. With the Kiwis and Artemis Racing hoping to find something out on the city side of the race course, this costly gybe allowed the Phil Robertson-steered China Team to move up to third - the highest position we've seen them.
This order among the leaders continued with Swordfish continually extending her lead on every leg. For the young crew on China Team their glory was diminished slightly on the second run as they were rolled to leeward by the mighty Emirates Team New Zealand and they almost lost fourth place as Artemis Racing attempted the same maneouvre on them during the final run. Nonetheless it was a good result for Phil Robertson in his first go as skipper for the team (China Team's fourth skipper since the start of the America's Cup World Series after Mitch Booth, Charlie Ogletree and Fred le Peutrec, who helmed for them in Naples).
By the finish Luna Rossa Swordfish had extended her margin to 53 seconds over Spithill with Emirates Team New Zealand had closed to a further 15 seconds behind. The result pulled Swordish into the overall lead by three points ahead of Energy Team. It was a disappointing race for the series leaders, Energy Team coming home in eighth, ahead of Oracle Racing-Bundock, which never recovered after their OCS penalty.
"That went near perfectly," said Paul Campbell-James of his second bullet and third podium position. "We got a pretty good start, but the boys did a good early kite set which gave us a lot of speed around the outside of the top mark and from there we stuck to the boundaries, kept it pretty tight on those and benefitted pretty heavily from doing that."
Clearly having studied Swordfish's tactics in the previous race, it was Artemis Racing which deployed her genniker from the off in the second race. All the boats had closed on the line too early and were slow out of the blocks, while Paul Campbell-James was squeezed out at the committee boat end of the line. Flying the big gear, Terry Hutchinson and his crew led around the first turning mark and clearly fired up by their performance in the previous race, it was China Team which rounded in second. Chris Draper's team on Luna Rossa Piranha shaved the turning mark and came to a near standstill in the process.
Within seconds of rounding the first mark, Terry Hutchinson had the bit between his teeth and was extending away with Piranha up to second as China Team fell into a hole on the corner leading into the main channel off Venice. By the leeward gate Artemis Racing's lead was up to 56 seconds over Piranha with Oracle Team USA Spithill third.
The course for the second race saw a variation on a theme with more but very much shorter legs. This did nothing to alter the lead three positions, although coming into the leeward gate for the third time, Luna Rossa Piranha had managed to pull up to the leader, rounding bow to stern with Terry Hutchinson and the Swedish team. But this was the closest they got and by the finish line, after 11 legs, Piranha was back to 21 seconds astern with Oracle Team USA Spithill 55 seconds behind the leader.
Behind, Energy Team had done another fine job of pulling back from last place to finish fifth, while after their unfortunate start, Swordfish in this race brought up the rear and after their champagne results to date had to face the ignominy of being lapped by the leaders.
"It was hard work," said Terry Hutchinson. "The guys on board today have done really really good work. I didn’t put my best foot forward yesterday. It was nice to come back strong today and get a couple of good starts. We watched Paul [Campbell-James] hard yesterday evening and we made some adjustments and got back into it."
According to Hutchinson the shortening of course during the race had not been without issue. "We got the call that the course was shortened and that was fine until the top mark kept coming at us at pace... That increased the frenzy level."
The end result of today's races is a significant tightening at the top of the leaderboard, where Loick Peyron and his French crew on Energy Team's result today has left them one point clear of the two Luna Rossas, with Emirates Team New Zealand no doubt breathing a sigh of relief to be in fourth but only two points from the leader.
Oracle Team USA-Spithill is also in the hunt four points off their Kiwi rivals. “We sailed better today, particularly downwind,” said their skipper. “The match racing was unfortunate. We had our chances, but to be honest we weren’t good enough.”
However the situation hasn't improved for Darren Bundock and his crew. “It was a pretty disappointing day, frustrating in fact because it’s not the result we want or we're used to,” said Bundock. “Yes, we’ve had some crew changes and most of the other teams have been pretty consistent, so that's probably a factor. But we haven't been getting off the start line well. It's a very tight space and here in the Canal there is a current which sweeps you towards the line. Once you're behind, the course was pretty much a one way track up and down the boundary, so the opportunities were minimal."
Later in the afternoon, Artemis Racing and Luna Rossa-Piranha advanced to the final of the Match Racing Championship. Both teams are now in position to ‘win the double’ if they can capture both the Fleet and Match Racing Championships on Sunday.
Tomorrow, the AC500 Speed Trials are scheduled for 1150 UTC. Racing starts at 1240 UTC with the Match Racing Final – a one race duel for the title, followed by the seventh and final fleet race at 1310 UTC, where the winner 30 points, enough for anyone in the top seven in the standings to have a chance of winning the title.
“The way the points work in the fleet racing it's all about tomorrow,” confirmed Team Korea’s Nathan Outteridge, currently in seventh place, but still with a chance winning overall on Sunday. “We've learned a lot this week and it's all about going high risk tomorrow. I think everyone will have the same attitude. We haven't been dialing up the risk enough yet. You dial it up, and you're either going to get it right or wrong… that’s what we’ve got to do tomorrow.”
Fleet Racing Championship (after six races)
1. Energy Team…44 points
2. Luna Rossa Piranha…43 points
3. Luna Rossa Swordfish…43 points
4. Emirates Team New Zealand…42 points
5. Oracle Team USA Spithill…38 points
6. Artemis Racing…37 points
7. Team Korea…37 points
8. Oracle Team USA Bundock…22 points
9. China Team…18 points
Match Racing Championship – Semi Final Results
Semi Final 1: Artemis Racing defeated Energy Team; 2-0
Semi Final 2: Luna Rossa - Piranha defeated Oracle Racing USA - Spithill; 2-1
3. Oracle Team USA - Spithill
4. Energy Team
5. Emirates Team New Zealand
6. Team Korea
7. Luna Rossa Swordfish
8. Oracle Team USA Bundock
9. China Team
From Sander van der Borch/Artemis Racing