It’s still very early days, but with two wins in two races, Oracle Team USA has to be the form team – for now anyway.
But no-one should ever write off Emirates Team New Zealand as they had blistering pace yesterday and only lost to OTUSA by 6 seconds, and may well yet prove to be the form team.
On a picture-perfect Saturday afternoon skipper Jimmy Spithill as his team took a convincing win off Groupama Team France in the opener, before making a dramatic pass in the second race to beat Emirates Team New Zealand by just 6-seconds.
“I think the best thing about today was we took two wins,” Spithill said. “Clearly, we still have some things to work on, but it was a good way to start the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers.”
The American defender led off the starting line in both races, but that was where the similarity ended.
Against the French team, Oracle Team USA extended all the way around the race course to win by over two minutes.
Against Emirates Team New Zealand, an early lead of 5-seconds quickly evaporated on the first upwind when the Kiwis made a better tack to overhaul Oracle Team USA.
Then, on the second upwind leg, Oracle Team USA were able to earn a split at the bottom gate and close the gap.
Both boats approached the top gate nearly bow to bow. But with Oracle Team USA holding the inside lane, Spithill was able to force his opponent up into the wind. An appeal for a penalty went unheeded, but the move allowed Spithill and crew to turn downwind first and take the lead.
“That’s something that with coach Philippe Presti and Tom Slingsby and Andrew Campbell, that we’ve spent a lot of time understanding those situations so we can exploit those opportunities when we get them,” Spithill said.
The two wins didn’t come easily. There was a lot of sweat generated from the front of the boat where the four grinders powered the systems that allow for smooth manoeuvring.
“The boys worked very, very hard today,” Spithill said. “It was a physical day. A couple of big races. But we’re in good shape for tomorrow.”
The two wins vault Oracle Team USA into a tie on points for the lead in the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers, which is a double round-robin format. That means ten races for each team.