Neck and neck
The America’s Cup World Series – San Diego started on Saturday with the opening fleet races of the Port Cities Challenge. Conditions were extremely challenging for the nine race crews, who faced light, shifty and very wet conditions.
The first race was designed to last approximately 40 minutes but more than one hour had elapsed by the time the first boat crossed the finish line. The wind strength was more consistent for the second race, which lasted approximately 15 minutes, but the rain still fell.
Just one point separates the top four boats, with Emirates Team New Zealand on top of the fleet after the first day of racing. Artemis Racing is on equal points with the Kiwis, with China Team and Oracle Racing Coutts just one point back. The Chinese won race two – their first win in the AC World Series.
The light conditions only permitted two of the three scheduled races to be sailed, but both featured plenty of drama, despite the slower speeds. In fact, the fickle winds provided countless opportunities for heroic shifts up the leaderboard in race one, as the race course became a minefield for the tacticians.
Two teams to benefit late in Saturday’s first race were Artemis Racing and Emirates Team New Zealand, who both shot up the race course in the final moments, coming back from deep in the fleet. The Swedish Artemis Racing won the race with the Kiwis in second place, ahead of ORACLE Racing Spithill – who had led much of the race – and Oracle Racing Coutts, with new skipper Darren Bundock at the helm.
“It was tough,” said Kiwi skipper Dean Barker. “The first race we were pretty fortunate to hook into a nice pressure line of wind at the end. It's swings and roundabouts, but if you get the last one right it's a good feeling. In the second one we sailed a much better race.”
After waiting for the wind to build, the second race was sailed on a shorter race course. Oracle Racing Spithill and Team Korea jumped the start line and were penalised, while China Team sailed a flawless race to earn the win - their best finish to date in the America’s Cup World Series.
“That’s our first win,” confirmed China Team skipper Charlie Ogletree. “It’s a great feeling. We’ve been working hard and I think the whole team deserves it, from shore team to management, to everyone. It’s huge. Everyone has been doing double duty, working really hard, so it’s a very positive thing for us.”
“It was good to get out there and get a couple of races, despite the weather,” said Oracle Racing skipper Jimmy Spithill. “We had a good one in the first race and broke the start in the second and had to fight our way back. But it was good fun to get a couple of races done.”
Darren Bundock at the helm of Oracle Racing Coutts said: “I think it was a pretty good first day. Despite the weather I think it was a solid day for us to get a 4-2. I’m still getting used to the boat and team, but all in all I think it was pretty good for us."
This is Bundock's first regatta at the helm of the solid wingsail AC45. “You don’t need much breeze to get the hull out and the boats are very reactive. It does get to the point where it’s a little bit tricky but good sailors have to deal with it and usually you find that the good teams come out on top.”
Despite the weather conditions, local fans braved the rain to gather at the end of Broadway Pier where the race boats ventured in just a few yards from the dock to make their turn around one of the marks of the course. The racing was up close and very personal for spectators on the dock.
The Port Cities Challenge continues on Sunday with three additional fleet races scheduled to begin at 1:10 pm local time.
Representatives from the member cities will be aboard the race boats on Sunday. The event culminates with a public prize-giving ceremony at the AC Village following racing.
Results – Day One – Port Cities Challenge
|1||Emirates Team New Zealand||Dean Barker||2||3||17|
|2||Artemis Racing||Terry Hutchinson||1||4||17|
|3||China Team||Charlie Ogletree||5||1||16|
|4||ORACLE Racing - Coutts||Darren Bundock||4||2||16|
|5||ORACLE Racing - Spithill||James Spithill||3||8||11|
|6||Energy Team||Yann Guichard||7||5||10|
|7||Green Comm Racing||Vasilij Žbogar||9||6||8|
|8||Team Korea||Chris Draper||6||9||8|