Emirates Team New Zealand today went to match point in the 34th America's Cup, winning today's only race (race 11) , taking the scoreline to 8-1, one short of winning the competition, before, frustratingly, race 12 made it to within 30 seconds of starting before it was blown off with conditions exceeding the wind limits.
With a powerful 3 knot ebb coinciding with race 12, the wind limit was measly 19.9 knots in the lumpy wind against tide conditions.
Although as Oracle Team USA Jimmy Spithill himself said before racing: "The chop isn't too much of an issue because we're up on the foils..."
Both teams stuck with their same crews as on Tuesday. On board Oracle Team USA were Skipper: Jimmy Spithill, Tactician: Ben Ainslie, Strategist: Tom Slingsby, Wing trimmer: Kyle Langford, Jib trimmer: Joe Newton, Off-side trimmer: Rome Kirby, Grinders: Shannon Falcone, Joe Spooner, Jono MacBeth, Gillo Nobili, Simeon Tienpont.
While in the Emirates Team New Zealand crew were Skipper/helmsman: Dean Barker, Tactician: Ray Davies, Wing Trimmer: Glenn Ashby, Trimmer: James Dagg, Bow: Adam Beashel, Pit: Jeremy Lomas, Pedestal 1: Chris Ward, Pedestal 2: Rob Waddell, Pedestal 3: Grant Dalton, Pedestal 4: Chris McAsey, Float/Grinder: Derek Saward.
With the wind at 14-17 knots from the southwest around the course, Emirates Team New Zealand had the favoured port entry and as is usual with the ebb tide, she gybed around to take up position on the layline into the start line's pin end/leeward mark. Oracle Team USA left it surprisingly late before she maneouvred around setting up behind and to weather, ready for the push. The defenders were too far away to hook the Kiwis and both boats were late for the line. However Emirates Team New Zealand was to leeward and as the boats crossed, she luffed Oracle Team USA, able to bear away at her leisure to cruise into the reaching mark with a 3 second lead over Oracle.
Downwind the two boats appeared very evenly matched, both happily making 37-38 knots. Behind Oracle Team USA put in an extra gybe to get out of phase with the Kiwis. The Kiwis attempted to get back in phase and headed into the starboard gate mark, hardening up. Ambitious as ever Oracle Team USA performed a much harder manoeuvre gybing into the port hand mark and then hardening up, rounding six seconds behind. While on normal boats this would be nothing remarkable, on an AC72 it requires a considerable amount of hydraulic fluid to be passed. After their race losing foiling tack, this time the defenders carried out the manoeuvre faultlessly, heading off to the left and clawing back some ground on the Kiwis.
Coming together the Kiwis bounced Oracle back off to the left but the second time the two boats came together the Kiwis chose to cross and continue on to the port boundary, with Oracle Team USA taking the starbaord side. On port the Kiwis crossed clear ahead but Oracle got a good shift off on the starboard side to close to within a boatlength of the leaders. Unfortunately Oracle Team USA lost this in a poor tack and trailed the Kiwis into the top mark 17 seconds behind, again splitting.
Under normal circumstances, this would have been race over but trailing Oracle Team USA got an impressive lift down the offshore course boundary and again ate up more than half of their deficit. The Kiwis put in two extra gybes to move across to cover, during which Oracle Team USA was able to close within a couple of boat lengths. Sadly Oracle couldn't quite lay the mark and in having to put in an extra hitch lose the ground she'd gained, trailing the Kiwis into the final mark to finish 15 seconds behind at the line.
After the race, Jimmy Spithill admitted that he had again miscalculated his time and distance back in the pre-start, not the first time this crew has made this error. In retrospect he mused it might have been better to gybe earlier coming into the box and set up between the Kiwis and the line, rather than being the 'pusher'.
So Emirates Team New Zealand are now one point away from victory in the 34th America's Cup.
“It’s not over; it’s a long way from over,” said Spithill. “Both teams would’ve liked to sail the second race, but Iain (Murray, Regatta Director) has to stick by the limits that are set.”
He continued: “The boat seems to go well in a breeze, that’s obvious, but I think we can still win races in the light stuff. We’re looking hard every night at what we can do. We’d love to get on with the racing, but we’ve got those wind limits and have to obey them. Whatever the conditions are we’ll go into it 100 percent.”
Emirates Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker added: “Every win here is so hard, they’re monumental battles, so you’re thankful for every win you get. We had a bit of an idea how to attack it and it worked out as well as it could have. We had a nice little jump, sailed a good first run, at the bottom mark another split and backwards and forwards after that. We were happy to sneak away with another win.”
Oracle Team USA tactician Ben Ainslie said afterwards: “I think you just need to keep believing. We are obviously in a very difficult position. But, we are a strong team and we can win races. We’ll keep working on what improvements we can make, and we will go out tomorrow, get the guys fired up and race as hard as we can.”
Race 12 is now rescheduled to take place tomorrow at 20:15 UTC. Could it be the decider?
Race 11 data
Course: 5 Legs/10.16 nautical miles
Elapsed Time: ETNZ – 23:41, OTUSA – 23:56
Delta: ETNZ +:15
Total distance sailed: ETNZ – 11.7 NM, OTUSA – 11.5 NM
Average Speed: ETNZ – 29.88 knots (34 mph), OTUSA – 29.04 knots (33 mph)
Top Speed: ETNZ – 44.57 knots (51 mph), OTUSA – 42.70 knots (49 mph)
Windspeed: Average – 15.4 knots, Peak – 18.0 knots
Number of Tacks/Jibes: ETNZ – 10/6, OTUSA – 10/8
Photos from Carlo Borlenghi / Luna Rossa / www.borlenghi.com