In the bag for Oracle Team USA
Emirates Team New Zealand won today’s fisticuffs on the Bay of Naples, but it is Oracle Team USA that is on the verge of securing the season-long battle for the 2012-2013 America’s Cup World Series Championship with London 2012 Laser gold medallist Tom Slingsby doing an exemplary job standing in for Jimmy Spithill. Spithill led Oracle Team USA to the inaugural America’s Cup World Series season championship last year, and opened a 44-point lead through the first two regattas in the second season of racing.
Slingsby leads the US team into tomorrow’s match racing championship and is also in with a chance to win the fleet racing championship. But regardless of how he finishes tomorrow, Oracle Team USA is looking all but unbeatable for the overall season championship (barring an unforeseen circumstance).
“It’s great for the team, winning the America’s Cup World Series for the second year in a row,” said Slingsby. “I’m glad I could help in some way, but this championship doesn’t belong to me. It belongs to Jimmy and his team for setting it all up. I came in with a nice big lead.”
In some of the most challenging conditions seen yet at America’s Cup World Series Naples, Emirates Team New Zealand showed jet-like speed, winning both of today’s fleet races. The wind strength ranged between 7 and 12 knots, but was shifting significantly and there was a nasty chop on the bay that placed added emphasis on smooth manoeuvring.
After scoring two bullets today, Emirates Team New Zealand is the third overall leader of the series in as many days. Barker’s crew led the first race from start to finish and then managed to overhaul the Francesco Bruni-steered Luna Rossa Swordfish to win the second.
“I feel like all through training and racing we’ve had good pace through all the conditions,” said Barker. “But there’s a bit of a Mistral pushing a little bit of seaway into the bay. It makes these boats nasty to sail, they don’t like waves, but it rewards good crew work and I think that’s a strength of our team.”
Slingsby placed 2-5 in the two fleet races and trails Emirates Team New Zealand by 5 points. Slingsby also started his day well with a victory in the match racing semi-final over Ben Ainslie’s J.P. Morgan BAR. Although the two are brothers in arms at Oracle Team USA, there was no quarter given in their quick, 11-minute match race.
Slingsby lead around the reaching mark and Ainslie closed on the first beat. Coming into the windward mark Ainslie was on port tack in the three-boatlength circle ahead of Slingsby on starboard tack. Under the racing rules Ainslie had rights to round the mark, but Slingsby crossed and rounded the left-hand mark while Ainslie bore away but had to sail further to round the right-hand mark.
J.P.Morgan BAR trimmer Simon Daubney talked through the race, “We felt we were in a good position at the start but they managed to approach the line from a bit further back and they were able to pull the trigger and get going with enough speed to roll over the top of us. We came back at them and made it interesting but we couldn’t do enough to get past, so we were left to settle for third place in the match race, which was a tough way to start the day."
Oracle trimmer Kinley Fowler gave his side: “We were expecting a close one and that’s what we had. It was a pretty hard day out there with the sea state and the wind, so we were focused on getting the boat going as fast as possible the whole time.”
Bruni won the inter-Luna Rossa semi final race when he beat Chris Draper and the Luna Rossa Piranha crew. “I feel comfortable, I feel all the training we have done in Auckland was very useful,” said Bruni. “We really put a lot of hours into our match racing skills. I think Chris has improved a lot and I’ve improved a lot steering.”
As a result Luna Rossa Swordfish will race Oracle Team USA in tomorrow’s match racing final.
“I want to win tomorrow,” Slingsby said. “New Zealand has a nice lead right now, but if we win tomorrow we’ll take the glory. For the team it’s great, but for me personally my job’s not done yet. I want to win tomorrow. This is my one chance in an America’s Cup World Series. Who knows when the next event will be so I’m trying to make most of it."
Ben Ainslie's team on J.P.Morgan BAR sit in third place overall, eight points from Emirates Team New Zealand, but the team remains within touching distance of the Naples title, as tomorrow's final fleet race there are 40 points on offer for first place, 25 for second and 20 for third from tomorrow’s final fleet race.
In the two fleet races, the team had a good start in the first, but a gybe at the first mark saw several boats roll past them and the team ended up deep in the fleet, stuck fighting for clean air. The crew stayed focused and kept fighting hard, it paid off and they secured fourth place and eight valuable points.
The second fleet race was the best start the team has had since the first day of racing. They rounded the first gate in second close behind Luna Rossa Swordfish with Emirates Team New Zealand chasing in third. The battle for the top three spots was hard fought, the lead constantly changing hands as the crews pushed each other to the limits. In this Luna Rossa Swordfish secured second for themselves from J.P.Morgan BAR after the British team received a penalty for sailing past the boundary line on the first downwind leg.
Skipper Ben Ainslie reflected on the team’s performance, “It was a tough day today, we lost the match racing semi-final which was pretty frustrating. During the fleet races things didn’t really seem to fall into place today for whatever reason, which was again frustrating for us. But the guys hung in there we are just eight points from the leader and still in a good position for the overall victory at this event in the final fleet race. We will regroup, we’ll dig deep and try and have a good one tomorrow.”
Sadly one of the strongest contenders of Friday, the Yann Guichard-leg Energy Team was unable to make the start of the first race due to a technical problem with the martingale on their AC45. However they quickly dealt with the problem and the French team was able to compete in the second race of the day.
After getting off to some great starts yesterday, unfortunately, the start of the race was tricky for Energy Team who rounded the first mark in seventh place on only managed to recover to 6th place by the finish. This leaves them fifth overall, just ten points off the podium.
Racing begins on Sunday at 12:40 UTC with the match race final followed by the high scoring final fleet race of the day.
America’s Cup World Series Naples results
1. Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL): 1(12), 4(8), 5(7), 3(9), 1(12), 1(12) - 60
2. Oracle Team USA Slingsby (USA): 2(10), 6(6), 1(12), 2(10), 2(10), 5(7) - 55
3. J.P. Morgan BAR (GBR): 3(9), 1(12), 6(6), 4(8), 4(8), 3(9) - 52
4. Luna Rossa Piranha (ITA): 4(8), 2(10), 4(8), 5(7), 3(9), 4(8) - 50
5. Energy Team (FRA): 7(5), 3(9), 2(10), 1(12), DNS(0), 6(6) - 42
6. Luna Rossa Swordfish (ITA): 5(7), 5(7), 3(9), DNF(0), 5(7), 2(10) - 40
7. Artemis Racing White (SWE): 6(6), 7(5), 7(5), 7(5), 6(6), 8(4) - 31
8. HS Racing (USA): 8(4), 9(3), 8(4), 6(6), 8(4), 7(5) - 26
9. China Team (CHN): 9(3), 8(4), 9(3), 8(4), 7(5), 9(3) - 22
(Scoring: 1st place = 12 points, 2nd = 10, 3rd = 9, 4th = 8, 5th = 7, 6th = 6, 7th = 5, 8th = 4, 9th = 3)
2012-2013 America's Cup World Series Season Championship
1. Oracle Team USA Spithill/Slingsby – 220 points
2. Luna Rossa Piranha – 171
3. J.P. Morgan BAR – 168
4. Emirates Team New Zealand – 160
5. Artemis Racing White – 151
6. Energy Team – 144
7. Luna Rossa Swordfish – 111
8. Team Korea – 105
9. Oracle Team USA Coutts – 98
10. Artemis Racing Red – 90
11. China Team – 65
12. HS Racing – 26
Super Sunday points scoring
Place / Points: races 1-6 / Points: race 7
1st – 12 – 40
2nd – 10 – 25
3rd – 9 – 20
4th – 8 – 16
5th – 7 – 13
6th – 6 – 11
7th – 5 – 10
8th – 4 – 9
9th – 3 – 8