James Spithill crowned first match race champion in new era of America’s Cup
In a pair of thrilling match races that featured four lead changes, skipper James Spithill and his impressive ORACLE Racing Spithill crew won the America’s Cup World Series Cascais Match Racing Championship with a 2-0 defeat of Dean Barker’s Emirates Team New Zealand.
Spithill’s team of John Kostecki (USA), Joe Newton (AUS), Dirk de Ridder (NED_ and Piet van Nieuwenhuijzen (NED) displayed slick work, sharp thinking and calm attitudes in reversing the tables on their old foes from down under. They previously had lost the daily final to the Kiwis on Wednesday and Friday.
“It feels fantastic to win. It’s good to get a couple of wins back on Deano and his guys,” said Spithill of today’s two fast and thrilling matches.
The ORACLE Racing Spithill crew succeeded on a day when the wind was shifty and puffy. The windspeed appeared stronger on the bottom of the racecourse than the top, which made it tricky sailing upwind.
“The guys did a fantastic job today,” Spithill said. “JK (tactician Kostecki) was on fire calling the tactics and wind.”
In the first race, Spithill and crew won the start and led at the first mark rounding but the Kiwis closed up on a puff and the two crews were racing boat-for-boat again, just as they had finished Friday afternoon.
ORACLE Racing Spithill held a slim lead around the leeward mark. On the ensuing upwind leg the two crews swapped the lead three times. ORACLE Racing Spithill was overlapped to the outside at the next mark rounding, and then overtook and sailed away from the Kiwis when they had troubles with their gennaker, the large sail at the front of the catamaran that is mounted on a roller-furling system.
Team New Zealand got the jump off the start line in the second race, but ORACLE Racing Spithill overtook the Kiwis at the first mark rounding when they again had trouble with their gennaker.
The two crews were essentially even at the leeward gate, but ORACLE Racing Spithill gained control on the next leg and then sailed away to a large win of more than 2 minutes.
“The crew with the minimum amount of errors wins. We feel that we’ve ramped up through the competition,” Spithill said. “When we started last week we were missing a few things. But we’ve put it together through the week.”
The ORACLE Racing Coutts crew also advanced to today’s final rounds of the match racing championship, but was vanquished in the quarterfinals by Team Korea. ORACLE Racing Coutts, led by skipper Russell Coutts, placed fifth overall.
“We just haven’t had a great regatta tactically. It’s tough, you know,” said Coutts, the four-time winner of the America’s Cup. “Team Korea sailed a very, very nice race and got some good shifts.”
While Coutts may have lost on the water, his vision of an America’s Cup in catamarans appears a sure victory. Today’s racing for the championship was as good as match racing gets. The action was tight with plenty of lead changing.
“There’ve been a lot of comments about match racing in catamarans; guys sitting on the fence and the jury’s out,” Spithill said. “But it’s obvious that it’s going to work.”
ACWS – Cascais Match Racing Championships Final Standings
1. ORACLE Racing Spithill/James Spithill – 10 points
2. Emirates Team New Zealand/Dean Barker – 9
3. Artemis Racing/Terry Hutchinson – 8
4. Team Korea/Chris Draper – 7
5. ORACLE Racing Coutts/Russell Coutts – 6
6. Energy Team/Loick Peyron – 5
7. Green Comm/Vasilij ?bogar – 4
8. Aleph/Alain Gautier – 3
9. China Team/Mitch Booth – 3