Carlo Borlenghi / Luna Rossa

Oracle Team USA in the chocolates

Spithill leads the fleet racing with an all-Oracle match racing final set at the America's Cup World Series

Saturday August 25th 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: United States

After throwing out the first pitch on America’s Cup day at the San Francisco Giants’ baseball game, Oracle Team USA’s Jimmy Spithill had a great day on the race course at the America’s Cup World Series on Saturday.

Spithill started his afternoon with a come from behind win in the Match Racing semi-final over his arch-rivals on the Dean Barker-steered Emirates Team New Zealand, to advance to tomorrow's Final. He followed it up with strong performances in today's two fleet races to lead the field heading into Sunday’s grand finale.

“The first fleet race was probably the best one for us,” said Spithill, despite once again being OCS along with both Luna Rossa boats. “We were under a lot of pressure. It was my fault for breaking the line, but every challenge I throw at these guys they somehow claw us back. The key is when we get behind we fight the whole way around the track and the guys are rewarded for it.”

Yann Guichard’s Energy Team sailed smartly to come from behind to pass Spithill and Barker late in the race and steal the win. Impressively Spithill had fought back to second after being OCS while Barker, was forced to settle for third place despite having led around first four mark roundings.

In the second race, a pile-up at the bottom gate allowed Spithill’s team on one side, and Team Korea on the other, to break free and escape the pack.

Given a clear path, Spithill raced away, building the biggest lead of the week, 1 minute, 11 seconds, en route to his fourth win in six fleet races – a dominant performance. Team Korea’s Nathan Outteridge, more than 1 minute behind, recovered from a poor opening race with a second place finish, while Guichard and Energy Team, in third, posted their second podium finish of the afternoon to lift the French team into second place on the leaderboard.

“Today was a big day for us," said Guichard. "It wasn’t easy because the wind is really shifty, but I’m so happy for my team because they did a fantastic job. This morning we changed the set-up of the headsail and found some extra speed. It’s so much easier to have good tactics with good speed.”

Spithill added: “We put a big emphasis on boat handling in this regatta, and I think it’s showed. Every day you go out sailing you sharpen your skills and get better, and JK [John Kostecki] just had another fantastic day. We're really having a blast sailing out in front of these crowds. We have thousands of people down here cheering us on – it’s awesome.”

The fleet racing concludes on Sunday with the seventh and final race. The Super Sunday race is weighted more heavily in the scoring, meaning at least four teams are in the mix to win the championship tomorrow.

In the semi-finals of the match racing championship, Oracle Team USA Coutts (Russell Coutts) sprinted off the starting line with a small lead that the veteran skipper was able to extend further on the first downwind leg. But Terry Hutchinson’s Artemis Racing White narrowed the gap on the race upwind, closing right up to where the boats nearly collided at the top mark. Coutts held his nerve, sailing over the top of the Swedish boat to lead through to the finish to earn his spot in Sunday's Final.

Coutts’ teammate, Jimmy Spithill made the final an all-Oracle Team USA affair by winning his match against Emirates Team New Zealand. Kiwi skipper Dean Barker timed his run to the starting line to perfection, crossing at top speed on the inside track to the first mark. The Kiwis led around the bottom gate, but Spithill chipped away making tiny gains on the shore-side up the next leg, before finally making the pass right at the top mark and holding on for a come-from-behind win.

"Russell is still not talking to me,” Spithill joked after he closed the door on his team mate as the start of yesterday first fleet race which saw Oracle Team USA Coutts T-bone the Race Committee boat. "He's got plenty of incentive from yesterday, so it will be like a bare-knuckle brawl out there.”

The AC Village at the Marina Green was bustling with an enthusiastic weekend crowd and the race course boundaries were marked by a large spectator fleet all afternoon.

Fleet racing results:

Pos Team Helm R1 R2 R3 R4 R5 R6 Tot
1 Oracle Team USA Spithill James Spithill 2 1 7 1 2 1 61
2 Energy Team Yann Guichard 4 7 3 7 1 3 48
3 Team Korea Nathan Outteridge 7 4 4 2 8 2 45
4 Luna Rossa Piranha Chris Draper 3 8 2 5 4 5 45
5 Artemis Racing White Terry Hutchinson 5 3 6 9 6 4 39
6 Luna Rossa Swordfish Paul Campbell-James 9 10 1 6 5 7 35
7 Emirates Team New Zealand Dean Barker 8 9 5 3 3 9 35
8 Oracle Team USA Coutts Russell Coutts 1 6 DNF DNS 7 6 29
9 Artemis Racing Red Santi Lange 6 2 8 8 9 11 28
10 J.P. Morgan BAR Ben Ainslie 10 5 9 4 10 8 26
11 China Team Phil Robertson 11 11 10 10 11 10 9


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