David Glenn gets an extraordinarily close-up view of the 1851 Cup onboard BMW Oracle

Onboard BMW Oracle

I have to say the word seamanlike really didn’t seemed to have a place at all in this inferno of amazingly exciting and yes, very aggressive, sailing. But that’s what these guys do and it sure makes for an exceedingly exciting spectator sport.

Because Ainslie had picked up two penalties this required him to complete a 360 degree turn immediately.

This he duly did and as Jimmy Spithill urged the crew to hoist the new kite quickly enough to sail over Team Origin Ainslie eyed us up for another ‘attack’ – we couldn’t get away and we were taken up yet again this time with Origin coming at us from our port side. Up we went, powerless to do much about it, sails flogging like hell, almost into the wind. This time it was deemed Ainslie had ‘behaved’, he pulled out of the move intact and sailed away ahead of us for the Forts.

There seemed to me to be a sense of shell shock on board Oracle – I don’t think they expected the Brits to come at them with such unfettered aggression and one could almost hear the wounds being licked…

The bad news was that Origin was off and away down to the fort. The good news? She still had a penalty to perform. This was going to be mighty close.
But then disaster struck Team Origin as she went for the kite drop. “Chase boat drop,” observed Mary as Origin lay dead in the water with her spinnaker trailing out behind her, the most effective hand brake known in sailing. Her chase boat duly did its duty.

We sailed on by – it looked like game over. But there were 40 miles or more to go and a long tacking duel ensued between Culver Cliffs and St Catherine’s lighthouse in wonderfully flat water, hot sunshine and a breeze that hovered around 15-16 knots true. There were times when it looked as though Origin had made gains when we stayed out in the tide on a couple of occasions but Ian ‘Soapy’ Moore our navigator never took his eye off the Origin ball and we cleared St Catherine’s to perfection taking another chunk out of her as we set off on the fetch to Bridge buoy and the Needles.

When Origin was still in contention and about two thirds of the way to the turning mark gear failure befell her when her jib halyard appeared to fail and she had to complete the rest of the leg bare-headed. Prior to the race it had been decided that if conditions worsened on the ‘back’ of the island and the boats were being compromised, headsails would be dropped and a re-start organised.

When this came into play a re-start was called in a rising breeze just inside Hurst with a start line quickly set up by race office Harold Bennett and a one-minute advantage given to Oracle. We sped off under spinnaker with the boat speed touching 16 knots at times and watching Origin head out on starboard gybe from the start coming down on the increasing breeze. Still not game over perhaps.

But it was shortly after that. In her first gybe Origin blew up her second and final kite and started disappearing in the low sunlight as we continued our charge to the finish. Origin received an assist when their chase boat delivered yet another spinnaker which prompted us to protest so that in the event that Origin should somehow prevail Oracle would be awarded he race on the basis on the assist.

As it was, we thundered on down to the line off the Royal Yacht Squadron, Extreme 40s flying across our bows, windsurfers hammering across our stern and the rest of the Cowes Week classes looking on. It didn’t provide the grandstand close finish the teams had been hoping for but BMW Oracle came through unscathed in what had been a fairly brutal encounter.

America prevailed on the day in a race which was not so much about looking back in history but re-energising the modern day event for the next real clash in three or four years time.

In terms of putting the America’s Cup back in front of the public The 1851 Cup certainly achieved a lot. It was a terrific display of racing which makes one wonder whether the current format, with some hardware modification should prevail in 2013/14.

  1. 1. Introduction
  2. 2. Onboard BMW Oracle
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