Ainslie replaces Kostecki aboard Oracle as the home team re-groups and re-boots
Sir Ben onboard and a buzz around the America’s Cup park here in San Francisco as Oracle head out to try to turn around their fortunes as the four time Olympic gold medalist takes over from Oracle’s long term tactician John Kostecki. While the Cup holders are not in dire straits yet, today is clearly very important for the Defenders. Win one, or even two races and their spirits will lift. If that happens the home team will return to being a serious threat and the pace of an already vibrant America’s Cup will step up another gear.
Clearly Ainslie will be in the spotlight today, but what does he bring to the team in it’s hour of need?
First he thinks on his feet and is used to if not world famous for digging himself out of a hole. The trouble is that in this role he’s just one of a big team, thinking a move doesn’t mean you can get 10 other people and a high velocity 72ft carbon missile to do it to order.
But, what he does have that few else have in the team, is a knowledge of what it’s like to hold the wheel. As Spithill’s training partner he more than anyone else knows what it’s like to drive one of these beasts and can adapt his tactics and timing to suit.
Nevertheless, Oracle still has to win ten races while the Kiwis need five to win the Cup, a big ask perhaps, but Oracle Racing has the means and resources to do it.
While their last race was a disaster, it’s important to put their performance so far into context. Yes they goofed the beat in the last race and have looked slow upwind when compared to the Kiwis, but their last start was the third time that they have muscled out the Kiwis off the line. With each of the last three races Oracle has improved in the opening minutes of the race, forcing the Kiwis to play catch up. If Oracle has restored its upwind performance to what we saw earlier and can iron out the tactical mistakes they could well cause the Kiwis some grief.
So what of the weather?
Today saw drizzle and low cloud hover over San Francisco for the first time in this event, a suggestion that things might take longer to get going today. But according to the local experts, inland the desert is cooking as usual and will suck in the breeze as per normal leading to a forecast of 16-18knots. Combined with a flood tide of around 1.8knots for the first race but decreasing later, the wind limits for the two races are 24.8 and 24.4knots respectively.
For those of a nervous disposition, and there are plenty here, today is not the day to overdo it on the coffee.
Racing gets underway at 1315 local (2115 BST)
More news later