“Talking Sailing” by Richard Crockett – issue 04 – America’s Cup Special

America’s Cup Special
Tonight’s Race is a ‘must watch’!

Who would have thought that the America’s Cup would go down to the wire in a ‘winner takes all final’ race as Oracle Team New Zealand (OTUSA) have clawed their way back from an impossible position of being 7 races down with Team New Zealand (ETNZ) needing just one win to secure overall victory and win the America’s Cup, to being tied going into the final?

The Kiwis have lost 7 Races in a row making the score line 8 – 8 with a winner-takes-all final race tonight – a must watch race.

Having been quite negative recently about this event I must admit to having enjoyed it more and more and I have been glued to my iPad as the races unfold. The racing has been closer than most believe, and there have been more position changes than in any other America’s Cup event. That’s all any true yachtie could surely want?

Whatever the result, the real facts show that as things stand now with just the final race to sail, OTUSA has won 10 races and the Kiwis just 8! The difference being the 2 point penalty incurred by OTUSA before the America’s Cup even commenced. So even if the Kiwis do win the decider tonight they will have won fewer races than their opponents!

Should OTUSA win they will have staged the biggest comeback in sailing and even sporting history.

Before looking at the OTUSA victories it’s worth returning quickly to race 12 When ETNZ quite simply outsailed OTUSA and looked to be securing that vital final victory to secure the cup when they simply ran out of time due to the 40-minute time limit.

The time limit of 40 minutes imposed on each race has seemed too low as some races have come close to being abandoned as the boats have pushed this time limit. But those are the rules which were accepted by both boats. Irrespective, it was a fair contest, cut short by an unreasonable time limit.

In that race the Kiwis gave the world a lesson in tactical sailing as they came from behind and quite simply outsailed OTUSA with superior tactics. The race commentators were quite correct when they pointed out that despite being in the lead the ETNZ tactician kept his head out of the boat and looking FORWARD. It’s easy in that situation to keep looking back at the opposition, but as they said the race is ahead of them, not behind. That’s a lesson all tacticians should learn from.

Only twice before in the 162-year history of the America’s Cup has there been a winner-take-all final race, those being in 1920 and 1983. In 1920 the defender won and in ’83 the challenger won.

Jimmy Spithill, the OTUSA skipper said “The exciting thing for me is seeing how this team has gelled together. Sometimes you need to face that barrel of the gun to come together. You can get wobbly in the knees or you can look into the barrel. Every day we’ve managed to step it up more.”

Last night OTUSA won Race 17 by 27 seconds and Race 18 by 54 seconds.

Having won the last two races Spithill said “It’s not over. We’ve got to finish it off . We’ve worked very, very hard to come back from where we were. And, the guys want it. You can sense it onboard and you can sense it around the base – the whole team just wants it. There’s this huge wave of momentum we’ve been riding for the past few days and it just builds and builds and builds, and we’re going to carry that in to tomorrow.”

The Kiwis were put on the back foot early in Race 17 when OTUSA skipper Jimmy Spithill got a late leeward hook in the pre-start, which forced ETNZ’s Dean Barker to stay clear. But the boats collided twice, with OTUSA’s starboard hull hitting Emirates Team New Zealand’s port hull, and the Kiwis were penalized twice for failing to keep clear.

“That start was an absolute shocker,” said Barker. “We tried to mix it up a bit but really put ourselves in a bad, bad spot. We tried to bring them down the line, but we were just way too early; 40 seconds before the start we knew we had a bit on.” It was game over at the start.

And then the Kiwis let a great opportunity at victory slip through their hands in Race 18. Barker fended off Spithill in the pre-start, gaining a leeward position off the start line, and led at the first turning mark by 5 seconds with both boats blasting along on the verge of control. In fact, Emirates Team New Zealand set the outright speed record for the Summer of Racing at 47.57 knots (55 mph/88 kph/80 feet/second) at the mark rounding.

Barker increased his lead to 7 seconds at the leeward gate, but on the upwind leg OTUSA showed the blazing speed that makes it look at times unbeatable. Spithill guided his steed onto its hydrofoils and sailed over the top of the Kiwis and into the lead.

Once in the lead the defender sped away, foiling at more than 30 knots, and turned the 7-second deficit into a 49-second lead at the windward gate, averaging more than 1 knot faster on the 3-nautical-mile upwind leg.

So what has made the difference between the teams. It’s hard to tell at this point other than to say that since OTUSA called a ‘time out’ after successive massive defeats, she has come back much stronger. She also came back with a new tactician in Sir Ben Ainslie – a four time Olympic Gold medallist. But OTUSA been faster on all points of sailing and their tactics, crew work and boat manoeuvres have been superior.

“You just have to approach it like every other race,” said tactician Ben Ainslie regarding the winner-take-all final race. “You really have to go out and go through the same preparations with the boat, the maintenance, in the morning meetings, and with the pre-start warm-up. And of course, like every other race, the guys will give it everything all the way to the finish.”

The stats of the final two races are interesting and tabulated below:

RACE 17 DATA
Course: 5 Legs/10.11 nautical miles
Elapsed Time:     OTUSA – 24:04,     ETNZ – 24:31
Delta: OTUSA +:27
Total distance sailed: OTUSA – 11.8 NM, ETNZ – 11.6 NM
Average Speed: OTUSA – 29.62 knots (34 mph), ETNZ – 28.63 knots (33 mph)
Top Speed: OTUSA – 44.02 knots (51 mph), ETNZ – 46.33 knots (53 mph)
Windspeed: Average – 16.8 knots, Peak – 20.0 knots
Number of Tacks/Jibes: OTUSA – 8/6, ETNZ – 7/5

RACE 18 DATA
Course: 5 Legs/10.11 nautical miles
Elapsed Time: OTUSA – 22:01, ETNZ – 22:55
Delta: OTUSA +:54
Total distance sailed: OTUSA – 11.7 NM, ETNZ – 11.9 NM
Average Speed: OTUSA – 31.92 knots (37 mph), ETNZ – 31.23 knots (36 mph)
Top Speed: OTUSA – 45.79 knots (53 mph), ETNZ – 47.57 knots (55 mph)
Windspeed: Average – 19.3 knots, Peak – 21.8 knots
Number of Tacks/Jibes: OTUSA – 7/7, ETNZ – 10/6

So tonight is the final race of the longest America’s Cup ever. It is one which simply has to be watched as history will be made whichever way the result goes.

As for those lucky red socks I mentioned last time, maybe they aren’t so lucky any more!

Racing can be viewed on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/americascup) Or if you have a tablet, via the America’s Cup App which can be downloaded free.

Whatever the outcome, the best team will win – of that there is absolutely no doubt.

“Talking Sailing” is written by Richard Crockett, the Publisher & Editor of SAILING Magazine, South Africa’s monthly sailing mag.

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