More drama at the America’s Cup as the weather, the clock and Oracle prevent a Kiwi victory
For those that are suspicious there would have been little surprise in the fact that it took three attempts to get a result for race 13.
Yesterday’s race was blown off a minute from the start and today’s first attempt ran out of time 40 minutes after the start. It was only once the breeze had built later in the day that the race finally ran through to finish, but it was not the result the Kiwis wanted.
Once again, just one more victory was enough for Emirates Team New Zealand to take the Cup home. But once again they were denied the opportunity.
“You can cry or you can laugh,” said Barker at the end of the day. “You just have to get back into it. Today we had another opportunity that we let go.”
With so much tension and drama and with the home team fighting back from the ropes, was this now getting personal?
“There’s a fierce rivalry between Australia and New Zealand in sport,” said Spithill after the races. “The fact is that we’re in a battle and both want to kill each other, but we have a lost of respect for each other too.”
So much respect it seems, that the underdogs even felt for the Kiwis when the rug was pulled out from under their feet in the first race.
“While we were very happy, we were also aware that we had been very lucky,” said Ben Ainslie. “We felt for the Kiwis, we’ve all been there at some time too.”
RACE 13 – Second attempt
As the Kiwis rounded the windward mark for the last time in the first race of the day they were no longer racing Oracle, but the clock for the Americas Cup. They had destroyed Oracle on the first downwind leg, spotting the breeze, flying a hull and sailing more nimbly to roll Oracle in the early stages of the race.
Just as well, as the Kiwis had been out manoeuvred at the start once again with Spithill managing to both lead the Kiwis off the line and luff them up later on. Looking back, was this the manoeuvre that ran the race out of time?
The breeze was light and fluky from the start, a completely different picture to what we have been used to seeing so far. This was also new territory for the teams, particularly Oracle who, despite having improved their all round speed in the breeze, had yet to work on their light airs performance. It showed.
Not only were they slower to fly a hull downwind, but with the code zeros in action the boat handling was a little rusty also resulting in a tangle in the code zero halyard and sheet forcing them to delay their second hoist.
On the plus side, the foul up didn’t matter, the Kiwis were over 1,500m ahead but the 40min time limit was going to stop the race before the America’s Cup was won.
When the bar did fall the Kiwis looked dejected, the 34th America’ Cup was just metres away but had eluded them once again.
“It was a bit of a shame’, said the understated Kiwi tactician Ray Davies. “The wind limits are the wind limit and the time limits is the time limit, we just have to get on with it.”
The Oracle crew looked relieved, there were even a few weak smiles.
“Better to be lucky than good,” said Ainslie after the race.
RACE 13 – AGAIN
On the third attempt Race 13 got underway with Spithill performing a high speed swoop from to windward to try to get a hook on the Kiwis before the start. Like a falcon missing its prey, Spithill was a metre or so short and Barker’s transom slipped from his grip.
With their foot flat to the floor the Kiwis then scorched off the line to round the first mark ahead.
In recent races we’ve witnessed how powerful a lead off the line can be but in this race a mistake by the Kiwis resulted in the first downwind pass of the entire 34th Americas Cup.
As their paths converged Oracle came in on starboard, the Kiwis on port. From the camera in the air it looked close and from Spithill’s perspective it was a clear port and starboard as he yelled at Barker seconds before handbrake turning his boat across the stern of Team New Zealand. A protest was made and the umpires dealt the Kiwis a penalty.
But Oracle had also taken a jump on the Kiwis, sailing deep and fast after the incident and rolling into a gybe. When the pair came back together Oracle was enough ahead to get into the 3 boat length zone first and claim rights.
More stress for the Kiwis as they changed heading for the opposite gate, a manoeuvre that cost them even more as their boat speed slowed to a crawl.
After that it was a one way track even though a few gusts and shifts threatened to re-shape the race. In the end Oracle took the win by 1min 24secs denying the Kiwis the Cup once again.
“The guys are very positive we know we can win this,” said Barker after the race. “It’s [the weather] been about as tricky as the Bay can be since we’ve been here and it’s not going to be straightforward. They got a little jump on us today.”
After the race he confirmed that the team had never trained in these conditions since arriving in San Francisco.
“We haven’t sailed in these conditions in the bay at all,” he said. And if his opponents had, they certainly didn’t show it. The trouble for both is that tomorrow, Saturday, is looking even weirder with a light breeze from an uncharacteristic direction which may require a re-alignment of the course.
You shouldn’t be surprised, we’ve had everything else!
Score so far – First to 9
USA: 3 (won 2 races before wiping off their 2 point penalty)
America’s Cup Race 12 NZL USA
Distance Sailed (km) 20.060 20.320
Average Speed (kts) 22.63 24.16
Max Speed (kts) 33.74 33.90
Winning margin 1min 24sec