Oracle lives to fight another day
A second match point day for Emirates Team New Zealand, but it was Jimmy Spithill's crew on Oracle Team USA that won, taking the scoreline to 8-2. Once again, partly thanks to the strong ebb tide, today's second race - race 13 - was postponed when the wind strength exceeded the maximum limit.
With the wind at 14-15 knots from the southwest, Oracle came in with the favoured post entry. They were late with Emirates Team New Zealand on the button swishing by their transom at 40 knots. Emirates Team New Zealand gybed in front of Oracle, taking up position to leeward and ahead of Oracle Team USA. With Oracle set up as the pusher, they parried Emirates Team New Zealand back to the line - a dangerous position, where in the past the Kiwis have simply managed to stay between Oracle and the line. However today the boats were early heading back and having to kill time, Emirates Team New Zealand came up, allowing Oracle to get their bows beneath them, hooking them, and the Kiwis were forced to tack away. With the Kiwis having to put in yet another speed-sapping tack to start, Oracle Team USA powered away in the lead to round the reaching mark with a five second advantage.
In a role reversal of the earlier America's Cup matches, downwind Oracle Team USA looked much more locked in, foiling with more stability, than the Kiwis.
At the bottom mark, Oracle Team USA, came into the starboard mark on port gybe and hardened up, while 11 seconds later the Kiwis performed the opposite manoeuvre, rounding the starboard mark, creating the split. It was thought odd that Oracle chose the offshore side in potentially less favourable tide. In the event Oracle put in a short leg out to the right before they tacked. Still the period the Kiwis spent in the favourable curent was enough for them to momentarily pull into the lead until they tacked allowing Oracle to cross ahead, both boats in their upwind 'skimming mode'. Particularly impressive was Oracle Team USA's boat speed, sailing in a low mode causing them to sail some 0.5 km further up the beat than their opponent but with an average speed of 24.92, almost a knot and a half faster than the Kiwis.
After some reasonably flawess tacking by the two boats, in the latter part of the beat Oracle claimed the left hand side, with the favourable current to round the starboard top mark with just a 9 second lead. Once again Emirates Team New Zealand split, taking the side of the course with the biggest tidal hit, but once again Oracle Team USA made good use of the extra pressure and tidal relief behind Alcatraz to extend their lead to 28 knots on the second run, to get their fourth win of this series by with 31 second delta.
Race 13 got well into its pre-start before the Race Committee canned it with the wind exceeding 20.3 knots.
Post race, Jimmy Spithill commented: “We were able to get a nice jump off the line, and from there Ben [Ainslie] and Tom [Slingsby] sailed a very nice race – up the beat they had some tough decisions to make. The way the guys were sailing the boat was the best they’ve sailed it. Upwind, to be foiling in that breeze, was pretty impressive. There were zero mistakes, so it was a very satisfying race.
“Through a lot of hard work, and through our design, engineering and boat building teams, we’ve been able to improve the performance of our boat, to the point now where we think we’re very competitive around the race track. Certainly the guys sailing believe we can win it – we believe we’ve got a great boat, we’ve improved it, and we haven’t finished yet."
Emirates Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker says his team hasn’t lost its confidence or direction: “We’re very aware of the support back in New Zealand and very thankful for it. Today we made a meal of the start and got on the back foot. These guys (Oracle Team USA) are sailing well enough that you don’t have a chance to get past them. We have to do better than what we did today. We’re very pleased with the way the boat is going, and if we sail properly we’ll give it our best run.”
Wing trimmer Glenn Ashby commented: “As the boats have gotten faster and faster they’re reaching speeds in much less wind than we were six, eight, 12 months ago. The boats have become more powerful in a sense because they accelerate faster, stop faster, and turn faster than 12 months ago. You have to speed up the learning process as the boat’s going faster as well. But you just don’t need the wind strength anymore to get those top end speeds.”
Race 12 data:
Course: 5 Legs/10.16 nautical miles
Elapsed Time: OTUSA – 23:49, ETNZ – 24:20
Delta: OTUSA +:31
Total distance sailed: OTUSA – 11.8 NM, ETNZ – 11.6 NM
Average Speed: OTUSA – 29.90 knots, ETNZ – 29.01 knots
Top Speed: OTUSA – 42.62 knots, ETNZ – 41.24 knots
Windspeed: Average – 14.8 knots, Peak – 16.3 knots
Number of Tacks/gybes: OTUSA – 10/6, ETNZ – 10/8
Photos: Carlo Borlenghi / Luna Rossa / www.borlenghi.com