Mother Nature smiles on Oracle Team USA
While there is an element of Groundhog Day to the end of this America's Cup - since Tuesday Emirates Team New Zealand has been in a position to take home the Auld Mug only for them either to lose to Oracle Team USA or for Mother Nature to find a way to intervene. However today they were dealt their cruellest blow to date when a light wind race 13 they led around the race track only for the clock to run out on the 40 minute time limit. Emirates Team New Zealand was literally one mile from winning the 34th America's Cup with Oracle Team USA languishing almost the same distance astern of them.
In race two the Kiwis picked up a penalty and then were unable to match the race of the defender who won by 1 minute and 24 seconds, taking the scoreline to 8-3. So we are now left in a similar tantalising position wth the challenger still on the brink of victory but with Oracle Team USA slowly but surely clawing her way back.
“It was disappointing to be that close yet so far away,” said Emirates Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker. “Sometimes it’s just not meant to be. The guys are very positive. We know we can win, we just have to put it together on the day.”
Of today's first race, Oracle Team USA skipper Jimmy Spithill said: “What can you do? Sometimes a couple of things go your way. We’re in a position where we have to take those things, but what a fantastic second race by the guys, really standing strong.”
In the re-sail of Race 13, Oracle Team USA went for a late push 25 seconds out from the start, but Dean Barker positioned the Emirates Team New Zealand AC72 forcing Spithill to head up and into their bad air, allowing the Kiwis a three second lead at the reaching mark.
On the first run, Oracle Team USA rode a puff into a compromising position for Emirates Team New Zealand. The Kiwis were penalised for crossing ahead of Oracle Team USA on starboard.
“The better move would’ve been to gybe before them and protect the long starboard,” said Kiwi tactician Ray Davies later. “In a click more breeze you’re able to jibe in front of them and keep forward, but in that lighter air, by the time you hook up, you’re in their gas.”
The Kiwis further complicated their race at the leeward gate. They were close behind Oracle, but the defender got to the three-boatlength zone and earned rights to round the right-hand gate. That forced Emirates Team New Zealand to round the left-hand mark at approximately 5 knots boat speed leaving Oracle to steam upwind at 20 knots.
“There was a big right-hand shift coming into that gate,” said Oracle tactician Ben Ainslie. “We waited until the last second to make our decision. We were waiting to see their move before making our choice. It was a last-second thing which went well.”
Barker commented: “Luck is something you never walk away from. It’s a case of executing a race. We entered today with a much better attitude than yesterday. Maybe we didn’t sail as well as we could’ve in that race, but we have a lot of confidence that we can go out and race to win.”
Spithill added: “We believe we can win. It’s as simple as that. With these boats on that racecourse, you can dodge all sorts of bullets out there. At the start of regatta it felt like everything was going against us. Now it feels like it’s starting to turn.”
Races 14 and 15 will be sailed tomorrow, starting as ever at 20:15 UTC.
Course: 5 Legs/10.08 miles
Elapsed Time: OTUSA – 27:20, ETNZ – 28:44
Delta: OTUSA +1:24
Total distance sailed: OTUSA – 10.9 NM, ETNZ – 10.8 NM
Average Speed: OTUSA – 24.16 knots, ETNZ – 22.63 knots
Top Speed: OTUSA – 33.90 knots, ETNZ – 33.74 knots
Windspeed: average – 9.8 knots, Peak – 13.2 knots
Number of tacks/gybes: OTUSA – 5/7, ETNZ – 6/8
From Carlo Borlenghi/Luna Rossa/www.borlenghi.com