Although the AC World Series events count for points and therefore counts in the long run, winning an event this far out from the America’s Cup itself is rarely a major victory. But for Artemis Racing, going home with the silverware this time meant more than normal.
“That last gybe was the event,” said Iain Percy to his team as they crossed the finish line of the third and final race of the day. Artemis Racing had won the Bermuda stage of the 2015 America’s Cup World Series.
They had crossed the line in fourth place, overtaking Oracle Team USA on the final downwind leg and in doing so had beaten Jimmy Spithill and Co. in the overall standings for this AC World Series event.
For Percy’s team, the third race result felt fully justified after Oracle had snatched the lead from them on the final gybe of the first race, a race that Artemis had led from the start.
But today’s racing and victory champagne shower on the blue and yellow boat was about far more than sneaking a win from a perfect gybe.
Scoring a second in the first race wasn’t ideal but it was a good start. After a miserable Portsmouth showing and a deeply disappointing Gothenburg event, Artemis needed to prove to themselves as much as their backers and followers that they had shaken off the problems that had dogged them in the previous two events.
On the water on Thursday during the first practice session, when the breeze had been up they had looked very good, especially downwind and through the mark roundings. A subjective assessment perhaps, but looked to me like they had got their mojo back.
Then, at the press conference at the beginning of the event Nathan Outteridge had said that the team had worked hard on figuring out how to reduce the pressure on themselves to release the performance they knew that they had. It showed.
Their impressive performance in the first race seemed to suggest that the team had indeed shaken the monkey off its back.
And then, just minutes later, their world came crashing down once again – literally.
Just seconds before the start, as Artemis’ helmsman Nathan Outteridge bore away towards the line he found himself going head to head with one of the umpire ribs. A collision was unavoidable.
“We were trying to set up for the leeward end. We went behind Dean [Barker] and were ready to own the leeward end,” he said. “But just as we came around his stern there was this umpire boat flying at us at 20knots. We were probably doing 10 knots. They went right under the trampoline and one of the umpires got stuck under the boat.”
As the performance of these boats has increased and the size of the course area reduced, everyone involved has become more anxious about the prospect of a crash. Now it had happened.
But it is difficult to imagine how Artemis Racing’s skipper Iain Percy was feeling. He, of all people, has had to deal with the most tragic Cup sailing incident.
“I was suddenly very fearful for one of them being hurt or trapped,” he said afterwards. “Myself and a couple of others jumped forward and we got round and underneath and saw that while he was trapped he wasn’t hurt.”
But, as is so often the defining factor with top performers, he and the team simply focused on what was possible rather than what had happened.
Stripping the damaged bowsprit and code zero gear off the boat and repairing what they could, the team then went on to nail the start and win the race. Artemis was on fire.
“If you could see the boat after the incident you’d think there was no way that we could carry on. But in 10 minutes the boat was not only ready for racing but ready to win. It’s a credit to our team.
“To then pull it [race 2] off was incredibly composed, especially for Nathan and I’m very proud of him and the rest of the guys,” said Percy.
But no one in this fleet gives up. And the Kiwis who had had a shocking first race in which they had come fifth after a penalty at the start were also fighting back and took second in the second race.
Meanwhile Ainslie’s Land Rover BAR was also having a tough time having come last in race 2. A tricky call that went wrong at the windward gate saw them drop from the front runners and then came problems with the foil controls.
“We couldn’t control our starboard dagger board downwind,” he explained. “We were flying very high and skidding sideways badly. A combination of the two things dropped us from first to last.
“It was either a flat battery or a bad connection [the angle of attack on the foils and hence ride height is controlled by raking the dagger board back and forth using an electrically driven system]. The foil was stuck on max rake so we were flying high and going sideways.”
The team tried to fix the problem between races but to no avail although BAR managed to hang onto a second place in the third race.
Having scored a second and a first the Kiwis had achieved enough to extend their overall lead for the season.
Winning one race doesn’t get you a bottle of bubbly but the Kiwi team were clearly chuffed at their performance.
But as the sun went down and teams started to reflect on what had been an intense day of quick fire racing, it was Artemis that were clearly the most satisfied.
“This success means more than anyone would imagine,” said Outteridge. “It’s been a tough year and we’ve had no excuses for our results. We’ve had a lot of pressure on us to perform but everyone has remained calm. We haven’t freaked out or changed anything. For us to step it up under pressure was just huge, it means so much.”
Final Results – Bermuda
1. Artemis Racing (SWE), Nathan Outteridge (AUS), 2-1-4, 52
2. Emirates Team NZ (NZL), Peter Burling (NZL), 5-2-1, 50
3. Oracle Team USA (USA), Jimmy Spithill (AUS), 1-2-5, 48
4. Land Rover BAR (GBR), Ben Ainslie (GBR), 3-6-2, 44
5. SoftBank Team Japan (JPN), Dean Barker (NZL), 4-4-3, 44
6. Groupama Team France (FRA), Franck Cammas (FRA), 6-5-6, 32
Series Results – After 3 events
1. Emirates Team NZ (NZL), Peter Burling (NZL), 122
2. Oracle Team USA (USA), Jimmy Spithill (AUS), 112
3. Land Rover BAR (GBR), Ben Ainslie (GBR), 109
4. Artemis Racing (SWE), Nathan Outteridge (AUS), 105
5. SoftBank Team Japan (JPN), Dean Barker (NZL), 100
6. Groupama Team France (FRA), Franck Cammas (FRA), 82