The final race of today between Artemis Racing and Emirates New Zealand came to a halt after skipper and helmsman Nathan Outteridge fell overboard - but was the crew tiring?
Artemis’s skipper and helmsman, Nathan Outteridge, fell overboard in the final race against Emirates Team New Zealand today, bringing to a premature end some thrillingly close racing in the America’s Cup playoff finals.
The race petered after Outteridge slipped on the back beam of the boat during a tack and fell in the water. Iain Percy jumped aft to the wheel. Then he got Luke Parkinson back to take his place and with, safety clearly at the forefront of his mind, leapt to the leeward side to keep Outteridge in sight.
“I’m going to look at him,” he said as he handed over to his team mate.
A chase boat picked Outterridge out of the water and delivered him back on board. Relief rather than disappointment was clearly the uppermost emotion on board as Percy greeted him with a smile and quipped: “Where have you been?”
This was an incident that could have been much more serious, as Outteridge explained when he talked to Elaine afterwards – see the video below. He says his immediate worry was that he might be run down by Emirates Team New Zealand on their way back downwind. His mic had stopped working at 100m distance from his boat, so he was not in radio contact.
Up to that point, the races between Artemis and Emirates Team New Zealand had each been tight. In all three, Artemis got better starts and led to the first mark. In race one, however, Artemis misjudged distance to the boundary and sailed outside. The penalty incurred allowed Emirates Team New Zealand to take the lead and that was that.
In the second race, the Artemis crew sailed perfectly from the start, going on to cover their rivals efficiently and foil the entire way round the course, only the second time this has been done in this America’s Cup.
But things got a little more ragged in the final race, and just before Outteridge went overboard Artemis Racing had bled away most of their lead with a poor tack during which they came heavily off foils. When we asked him about this afterwards, Outteridge denied that their grinders had been having trouble keeping up hydraulic pressure.
Nonetheless it begged the question: was that sudden instability, and even Outteridge’s own miscue, due to fatigue? Were grinders’ arms tiring out before ‘cyclors’ legs? This was, after all, the third hard race of the day.
At a press conference afterwards, it seemed Peter Burling thought so. He alluded to it, saying:
“We thought we were going to have a pretty good shot at [passing Artemis] at that top mark. Our guys have been working super hard and although it was the end of the day they were still generating a serious amount of power on board so we could just keep throwing through some pretty good manoeuvres.”
Burling and Outteridge, long-time rivals
Today, for the first time, there was a bit of gamesmanship on show at the press conference. Peter Burling and Nathan Outteridge may be friends on land but are adversaries of old in the 49er class – Outteridge beat Burling into Silver medal position in the 2012 Olympics and Burling reversed the order in Rio. A little of that rivalry was on show.
Outteridge rubbed it in that their starts were better.
“Our starting was spot on today,” he said. “I can’t remember a day when we’ve been able to start so well.
“In race 1 we were foiling across the line and had Team New Zealand completely in our bad air. In race 2 we took them off the course and in the third race we got to roll them on that reach. That’s really powerful going in to tomorrow.
“A few mistakes crept in after that but we can easily eradicate that [whereas] getting better at the starting is, I think, quite a difficult thing to do.”
And he jabbed: “If I had not fallen off in that race it would have been 2-1 [to us].”
Peter Burling gave those comments the Easter Island statue treatment – also his default function setting while sailing.
But he wasn’t averse to a little dig himself: “We didn’t feel like we had it set up at 100 per cent today just because the breeze was going up and down and we were chasing it all day,” he said.
And in the interview below with Elaine, hear him quietly dismiss Artemis as valuable sharpening practice on their route to the Cup match against Oracle Team USA.
“We feel we’ll be pretty match-hardened by the time we race [Oracle] again,” he said quite casually.
Ah, the America’s Cup just how we all love it, with battle lines drawn. Three more races between those two tomorrow, conceivably with a finale.