America’s Cup Match Day 3. Has the Fight-Back Begun?

pic by ACEA 2017/Gilles Martin-Raget

Having waited for five days for racing commences it was fitting that day 3 was full of drama, incident and history-making action.

Obviously though the big question is whether this is the beginning of a Fight back by Oracle Team USA, or merely a flash in the pan?

From the outset it was clear that ORACLE TEAM USA had found significant boat speed since the two teams last raced on Sunday 18th June, although the super-slick Kiwis did give the Americans a severe drubbing I the first race of the day – beating them by over 2 minutes. This despite the ‘new’ speed the Americans appeared to have.

Gone were the significant differences in boat speed on all points of sail as shown by the Kiwis in the first 4 races. Performance looked more even, although the Kiwis were slick in terms of boat handling and tactics, and simply looked far more calm and competent than their rivals.

By winning race 6 Jimmy Spithill tied with Sir Russell Coutts’ winning record in America’s Cup Match races, recording his 14th victory, the same as Coutts. But one needs to put this in perspective as back in the days when Coutts reigned, there were far fewer races than there are now.

pic by ACEA 2017/Sander van der Borch

The battle on the water also carried on into the press conference after the action concluded on the Great Sound with the rivals looking back at the two races on day three, and the week they’ve both had to prepare for the resumption of hostilities on Saturday 24th June.

“We felt like we gave away that last race a bit, but it is great to see a little fight out of these boys,” remarked Burling, on ORACLE TEAM USA’s revival, to which Jimmy Spithill replied, “It is only just beginning mate.”

Reflecting further on his team’s vast improvement and the importance of ORACLE TEAM USA cutting the overall deficit to Emirates Team New Zealand, Spithill added, “We all saw that the boat is faster, obviously we are not sailing as well as we should do, but the important thing is that the boat is faster.

“We’ll be going straight back out on the water today to work on a few things. That’s a good position to be in, knowing there is more on the table and that the changes are working, the boat is getting quicker.

“It was five very long days but the good thing is we’ve been able to reward the entire shore crew with a win. We now have confidence in the tool we have, which is the most important thing.

“It does remind me of San Francisco when, once the guys can see that the boat is faster, then you start building some momentum.

“Getting that first victory was important today but I believe there is more speed in the tank.

“The boat is clearly faster because of the changes and it showed in the second race that if we as athletes can do a good job then the boat responds.

“We know we can do much better, but all in all we are just happy with the performance of the boat, to be able to get that race win, and to know that the boat is faster.”

pic by ACEA 2017/Ricardo Pinto

In reply, Peter Burling acknowledged the new greater threat from ORACLE TEAM USA but remained confident in Emirates Team New Zealand being able to hold their advantage.

“We knew to expect a battle and now it appears we have got one,” remarked Burling.

“We felt they were a little rusty last weekend, but we are under no illusions. When we entered this we knew we were in for one hell of a battle. It was nice to get those first wins and take a lead.

“We came out of a good battle today and managed to take another win but we feel we have plenty more to come.

“We didn’t sail particularly well today, but it was great to walk away with another win. We’re really happy with the lead we have got and we’ll come back stronger, expecting a really great battle in the coming races.

“It’s no secret that when you look at our team, we are all very young and the advantage that gives us is that we are all pretty open and learn fast. We have an incredibly talented group of guys and we’re excited to get back out there and race again tomorrow.”

pic by ACEA 2017/Gilles Martin-Raget

Race Five
After five days away from racing Jimmy Spithill’s ORACLE TEAM USA’s Fight back against Emirates Team New Zealand started in the worst possible style in Race Five, the team being handed a penalty for crossing the start line too early, allowing Peter Burling’s Emirates Team New Zealand to sail into a clear lead.

“All of our onboard gear had us behind the line at the start but it was wrong,” bemoaned Spithill of the early penalty. “We both rely on pretty sophisticated software at times and in these boats you get one knot of difference and it changes everything.”

However, despite the setback, the American team responded spectacularly, closing the gap completely rounding the second gate before taking the lead in the first pass of the America’s Cup Match, presented by Louis Vuitton, on leg 3/7.

However, just as they had taken the lead, ORACLE TEAM USA were punished once again as the boats crossed for a second time on leg 3/7. Both teams appealed against the other but it was Jimmy Spithill who was penalised, his team having to fall two boat lengths behind his rival, effectively handing them the race victory.

To add insult to injury, the Defender’s pursuit of Emirates Team New Zealand was hampered even further as a poorly executed manoeuvre then saw them lose all momentum, allowing the Kiwis to sail well clear on leg 4/7.

The Kiwi team’s advantage stood at just over a minute at the fifth gate and by the time they crossed the finish line Emirates Team New Zealand were two minutes and four seconds ahead of their rivals, putting them 4-0 up at the end of race five.

Race Six
With the pressure mounting on Jimmy Spithill and ORACLE TEAM USA, they finally halted Emirates Team New Zealand’s charge, securing a timely and vital 11 second victory over the Kiwis in the sixth race of the America’s Cup Match, presented by Louis Vuitton, to cut the deficit to 4-1.

In contrast to the first race of the day, both teams crossed the start line cleanly, with ORACLE TEAM USA beating Emirates Team New Zealand to mark one for the very first time in the America’s Cup Match, presented by Louis Vuitton.

The lead then changed hands twice on leg two but it was Jimmy Spithill’s team which held a slender 12 second advantage at the third gate.

At gate four Spithill took a gamble, gybing in the run up to the next gate, but it proved to be an error and Burling took the shorter course to the gate to edge ahead of his rival.

However, ORACLE TEAM USA’s new-found speed paid dividends on leg 5/7 as they cut the gap to their rivals and engaged in close-quarter racing. Two passes then ensued between the two teams, with Spithill coming out on top, nudging ahead at the fifth gate.

Having eradicated the mistakes that had held back ORACLE TEAM USA in race five, Spithill kept his rival at bay in the run up to the finish line and sealed an 11-second win which, vitally, keeps ORACLE TEAM USA firmly in the America’s Cup Match, presented by Louis Vuitton.