The first of two days of match racing got underway today with some surprise results. Matthew Sheahan reports
Since catamarans were announced as the vehicle for the next America’s Cup, there has been plenty of doubt as to whether this type of boat could ever provide exciting match racing to rival that of the lead heavy monohulls of the 32nd America’s Cup. Yet today a new wave of converts joined those who have already had their opinions swayed as the match racing element of the AC World Series here in Plymouth got underway.
Earlier this week, fleet racing provided the seeding for the match racing that will finish tomorrow (Saturday), the result of which meant that the top team Artemis was not required to race today, proceeding straight to tomorrow’s semi final. The rest of the fleet locked horns for some superb and frequently close racing, at times with some surprising results.
Among them was a dominant performance from a team that has had little time in the boat and yet still managed to take the biggest scalp of the day. Team Korea, led by Olympic 49er sailor Chris Draper battled from the bottom up to win all three of their races beating Oracle rock star James Spithill after the Korean team overtook the Cup holders on the second downwind leg. Draper and Co. sailed a consistent and gutsy race. The pressure on Spithill showed at one weather mark rounding when his crew made an uncharacteristic error and spun out during the bear away.
Draper has already proved himself to be a bigger threat than many had expected after beating Spithill’s team mate and boss Russell Coutts at the first event in Cascais.
Team Korea went on to win their third race of the day when they took on the French Energy Team led by Loic Peyron, another team to have show a rapid improvement in form in recent days. But despite having beaten Spithill, Draper still had to fight hard to beat Peyron as his team trailed the French for the earlier part of the race.
Once the knockout session had been completed it was then on to the first of the semi finals between Oracle Coutts and Emirates Team New Zealand in a best of three session.
Once again the racing was close with plenty of drama when Coutts started the first race with a double penalty, only to go on to win the race from behind.
In the second match it was the Kiwis that snatched the lead from Coutts to place the score at one apiece. A place in the semi finals hung on the final race. Here the Kiwis made life easier on themselves by leading all the way around the course.
Tomorrow is another busy day as the Plymouth Match Racing Championships reaches its climax. First up is the best-of-three Semi Final between Team Korea and Artemis Racing. Then come the matches to decide the minor placings, and then a best-of-three Finals.
Green Comm Racing defeated Aleph; 1-0
Team Korea defeated China Team; 1-0
ORACLE Racing Spithill defeated Green Comm Racing; 1-0
Team Korea defeated ORACLE Racing Spithill; 1-0
Team Korea defeated Energy Team; 1-0
SEMI FINAL ONE
Emirates Team New Zealand defeated ORACLE Racing Coutts; 2-1
Read what Matthew Sheahan and Elaine Bunting are up to in Plymouth at the AC World Series