Kiwis win one, Oracle wins the other in a thrilling day’s racing. The Cup has come alive

Two races, two winners and an event that has sprung to life, the second day’s racing in the 34th America’s Cup was even more spectacular than the first. Here on the dockside in San Francisco there is absolutely no doubt that the event has come alive with two breathtaking days of racing and promise of more to come.

Today, with two losses and a further deficit of two negative points, Oracle Racing knew their backs were getting uncomfortably close to the wall. Two further losses today could plunge them into dangerous territory. The pressure was clearly on but Spithill is a fighter as the battle to the first mark in the first race of the day proved. From there on the action simply got tighter.

Kiwis trip up at the start, take a penalty at the first mark and trail on the first leg. But a thrilling tacking duel upwind saw Dean Barker and his crew take the lead before stretching off into the distance on the downwind leg to finish 28 secs ahead.

A third Kiwi victory had many wondering whether the 34th America’s Cup was going to be a one sided event but left no one in any doubt as to whether close racing at high speed was realistic. Today we found out it was.

Race three was indeed a spectacular display of high speed match racing, but we also saw Oracle up their game from yesterday with more speed and hotter angles downwind. Yet the outcome was still the same leaving Spithill and Co. trailing and placing them under even more pressure to put a point on the board.

“It was a matter of metres,” said Dean Barker after the finish as he described the fast and close action at the first mark of the course.

Barker had tripped up slightly in the pre-start, getting too close to the line and having to kill speed more than he would have liked. Meanwhile Spithill came charging in from behind and to leeward with enough pace to keep them clear to leeward on the fast reach to the first mark.

From here the USA team managed to keep an overlap, pinning the Kiwis out. Expecting Oracle to bear away around the mark Barker started to come down but Spithill had other ideas and luffed the Kiwis planting a penalty on them as he did so.

The Kiwis were quick to play out the penalty and lost little, but Oracle were doing a good job of protecting their position downwind.

At the bottom mark Spithill was trailing by 18 seconds but the battle was to take place half way up the beat when a tacking duel started to play out. At one point when the action got close Oracle protected their position by tacking on the Kiwis face, a brilliantly executed manoeuvre. But rather than tacking the Kiwis put their bows down and drove through to leeward. Oracle tacked off allowing the Kiwis to press on and, when they came back together, the Kiwis were ahead.

In a clever use of the boundary and the way that this acts as an obstruction, Barker came out on port tack but Oracle who were on starboard had to give them room. Although it wasn’t clear in the heat of the moment, this was the defining move of the race as the Kiwis stretched their lead on the final minutes to the windward mark.

By the finish they were 28 seconds ahead.

The fog came in, the visibility came down and the pressure came up as Oracle tried to put a point on the board.

The pre-start saw the Defenders line up to leeward and the Kiwis to windward but this was a very different start to what we have seen so far. Both boats were way back from the line, Barker to windward, unable to bear away until Spithill decided it was time to go.

When the boats did hit the line they were neck and neck and at full speed. As they thundered into the first mark Oracle had the advantage on the inside, holding Team New Zealand up to windward and demonstrating the potential advantage of being the leeward boat.

Taking his time for the bear away Spithill was able to dictate terms at the first mark and lead the Kiwis by 6 seconds.

On the downwind leg the Kiwis tried to keep up but Oracle started to eek out their lead, metre by metre. But then drama.

First came the audio off the boat, ‘oh shit’ called one of the crew, before a dramatic plunge as Oracle touched down at speed after the board was accidentally dropped. Although Spithill’s team recovered, the Kiwis were now on their tail – the race was back on.

The Kiwis have been strong upwind, but this time Spithill and his tactician John Kostecki were determined to protect the best corners of the course which they did expertly and extended their lead by the top mark to round 16 seconds ahead.

While Oracle had settled into a new confident pace the Kiwis were starting to look a little out of shape as their boat started to behave strangely at times. A wheelie upwind, huge angles of heel through a tack or two and a jittery mark rounding at the top mark – was their set up more for lighter breeze?

But on the last downwind leg Barker and Co hitched a ride with a handy gust and came storming back into contention to close the gap. Suddenly race 4 hung on two gybes into the last mark and the blast to the finish. Both boats executed them perfectly as they charged to the finish to cross the line 8 seconds apart.

Oracle had put a point on the board, the race is now on for the Cup.


Current Score: NZL 3
                     USA -1

Americas Cup Race 3      NZL                   USA
Distance Sailed (km)       22.026              22.471
Average Speed (kts)        28.57               28.62
Max Speed (kts)              42.25                41.37
Winning margin               28sec

Americas Cup Race 4       NZL                    USA
Distance Sailed (km)       21.766   21.702
Average Speed (kts)       30.92                  30.99
Max Speed (kts)             44.98                  45.97
Winning margin   8sec