Things aren’t looking good for the defence of the America’s Cup, so what can Oracle Team USA do to stop the rot? David Glenn comments on today’s post race press conference and senses a crew re-shuffle
The fact that skipper Jimmy Spithill (pictured) failed to confirm that tactician John Kostecki would be aboard Oracle Team USA when racing resumes on Thursday, suggests that personnel changes may be needed and are possibly already underway in the defence of the America’s Cup.
Oracle’s decision to postpone race six and ‘re-group’, as skipper Spithill put it, following their thrashing in race five, will have the American public shifting even more uncomfortably in their seats. Considering Oracle can only play this card once it means they have to win ten races without a structural breakdown which is a pretty big call in these essentially experimental boats.
Oracle have made at least two tactical blunders when ahead in this regatta, including the premature and flunked foiling tack at the bottom mark today which started the rot which lead to Emirates Team New Zealand blowing Oracle away by more than a minute. In this competition that’s a devastating margin.
The fact that Emirates Team New Zealand seemed markedly faster upwind today rubbed salt into the wound, but it would seem that overall and with the right choice of configuration these boats are similar in speed and both have the potential to win. Spithill and ETNZ skipper Dean Barker keep reminding us of this at the post race press conferences. So in addition to getting configuration just right, tactics must surely be examined.
Oracle’s John Kostecki has always been regarded as the master of San Francisco Bay having been brought up on it’s tide-ripped waters, but he and the Oracle brains trust have been exposed on more than one occasion in this regatta. Is his time up?
At today’s press conference Spithill was joined by crewman and current Olympic Laser champion 29-year-old Tom Slingsby and while the skipper dismissed a suggestion that 49-year-old Kostecki’s absence was telling, you can bet your bottom dollar he would have been on stage had Oracle won.
There were more TV cameras and press waiting for this post-race grilling than ever before. Spithill was pressed twice about Kostecki’s future and on both occasions he refused to confirm that his position was safe. He dismissed it with saying his wasn’t either. “You can be a rooster one day and a feather duster the next,” he said, causing some amusement and cleverly moving the discussion on.
Another telling moment was Spithill’s point blank refusal to reveal anything of the conversation he had with Oracle boss Russell Coutts aboard a team tender immediately after the decision to postpone race six. Were they having a frank discussion about crew re-shuffles?
All will be revealed after tomorrow’s lay day when, who knows, there could be a ‘feather duster’ languishing ashore. One well informed source, admittedly a Brit, even suggested that Ben Ainslie could be elevated to rooster status.