Emirates Team New Zealand has 6 more “match points” left following yesterday’s race where they were handily beaten by Oracle Team USA.
The Kiwi team led by sailing legend Grant Dalton leads the America’s Cup 8 to 2, and only needs one more win to bring the world’s oldest trophy in international sport back to New Zealand. Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill is determined however, to pull out a comeback with his crew and boat that appears to be sailing faster and faster every day.
In yesterday’s racing, Spithill was first into the starting box and sprinted out to the right at over 40 knots as Emirates sailed below their stern. On their return toward the starting line, Emirates started back while Spithill was able to gain leeward advantage and “hook” the Kiwis, preventing them from being able to turn down and accelerate toward the starting line.
With seconds to go, Spithill and his crew bore off and were firmly out in front heading toward the favored side of the course.
They soon tacked offshore while Emirates continued straight toward the shore and the faster moving ebb tide which was pulling them toward the windward mark. The 120-or-so meter gap between the two boats briefly closed, but as Oracle tacked over on to starboard and headed back to the left side of the course, the gap again increased as they showed the Kiwis they had learned a few things over the past week about how to make their boat sail faster. At times they were foiling upwind at over 30 knots of speed.
Oracle continued to bounce Team New Zealand out to the unfavored upwind side while they controlled the left. As they bore off around the windward mark, it was all but over as the Emirates-Oracle split was over 300 meters and both 72-foot boats were racing down the bay at about 35 knots of speed.
After rounding the fourth mark, the split was almost 30 seconds and the Oracle team cruised in for the win.
Further racing yesterday was cancelled due to winds that continued to build beyond the safety limit which had been established following the capsize of Team Artemis and the tragic death of Andrew “Bart” Simpson earlier this summer.
With solid winged masts, it’s impossible to “reef” these boats or de-power them like a traditional sailboat, so they truly do have wind limits in which they can be used. America’s Cup veteran Gary Jobson expressed frustration with the wind limits however during yesterday’s broadcast, a feeling which was most certainly felt by the crews of both boats as they were seconds away from starting race two before the wind limit was briefly surpassed.
In a press conference following the race, Jimmy Spithill sought to raise the wind limits for the racing, however Dean Barker shut down any further discussion of the idea. Oracle was beginning to show an advantage in heavier breeze and the Kiwis were not about to let them get their foot in the door.
Can Oracle Team USA pull out an epic comeback and retain the Cup? It’s certainly possible, but it truly seems to depend on Oracle’s ability to control the start and come off the line in front, or at least very close to their competitors.
Let’s hope they continue to win because this year’s America’s Cup is truly spectacular to watch regardless of who wins or loses.