ORACLE TEAM USA’s improbable comeback is alive and well in the 34th America’s Cup. Skipper Jimmy Spithill led the defender to another wire-to-wire victory in Race 16 and now needs just three more victories to successfully defend the America’s Cup.
Challenger Emirates Team New Zealand finished 33 seconds in arrears, but still leads on the scoreboard 8-6 (the series is tied 8-8 in victories, but the defender was penalized its first two victories by the International Jury). The Kiwis need one victory to win the America’s Cup. A maximum of three races remains in the series, scheduled tomorrow and Wednesday.
“We’ve got a huge wave of momentum. The boat’s just going fantastic,” said Spithill. “That was a tough start, we had starboard entry and it was a tough time.”
If ORACLE TEAM USA has a wave of momentum, Emirates Team New Zealand still believes it can win the series. The crew sailed a solid race today, but skipper Dean Barker chocked up the loss to a flawless performance from the defender.
“We’re very upbeat here, we know we can win,” said Barker. “The Oracle guys sailed a pretty flawless race. There were no opportunities to get back in it. We did a better job on the downwind legs staying close, but not enough today.”
The wind blew soft at the start, around 10 knots, and made for docile action in the prestart. When the start signal fired ORACLE TEAM USA and Emirates Team New Zealand traded positions from the past few days, with the defender to windward of the challenger.
“The plan was to start to leeward of Oracle and they did a nice job of getting us compressed to the leeward end,” said Ray Davies, Emirates Team New Zealand tactician. “They jumped us pretty quickly, it was evident about 15 seconds after the start they were very strong. The outcome wasn’t ideal, but we were happy to have been to leeward of them, just needed it to be a little bit better shape than it ended up being.”
In an impressive display of boatspeed, ORACLE TEAM USA quickly jumped onto its hydrofoils and sped over the top of the Kiwis to lead at the first mark by 5 seconds.
“Philippe (Presti, coach) and I have been working hard at night trying to figure a couple of plays, and that was Philippe’s idea, it worked nicely,” said Spithill.
Emirates Team New Zealand remained aggressive through the race, tacking and jibing a total of 20 times in the hopes of a foul-up by the defender, but it never happened as ORACLE TEAM USA matched every move and gained time on all five legs of the racecourse.
“The AC72 is completely unique,” said Ben Ainslie, ORACLE TEAM USA tactician. “On the downwind legs the boat ahead a lot of times has the advantage in terms of controlling the opposition and the bad air, and tacking with these boats is a lot harder to keep a cover if they do a good job splitting tacks. It’s very exciting.”
ORACLE TEAM USA has now won seven of the past nine races, including five consecutive victories to tie the longest consecutive unbeaten streak in the modern era. Team New Zealand won the 1995 and 2000 matches each by scores of 5-0, and Alinghi won the 2003 match by a score of 5-0. In the history of the Cup, the New York Yacht Club won 25 consecutive races over a string of 10 matches between 1876 and 1903.
Races 17 and 18 are slated for tomorrow, scheduled to start at 1:15 and 2:15 p.m. PT.
34th America’s Cup Standings (first to 9 points wins)
- Emirates Team New Zealand – 8
- ORACLE TEAM USA – 6
Race 16 Performance Data
- Course: 5 Legs/10.21 nautical miles
- Elapsed Time: OTUSA – 30:43, ETNZ – 31:16
- Delta: OTUSA +:33
- Total distance sailed: OTUSA – 11.8 NM, ETNZ – 11.7 NM
- Average Speed: OTUSA – 23.21 knots (27 mph), ETNZ – 22.46 knots (26 mph)
- Top Speed: OTUSA – 38.05 knots (44 mph), ETNZ – 36.61 knots (42 mph)
- Windspeed: Average – 12.0 knots, Peak – 14.1 knots
- Number of Tacks/Jibes: OTUSA – 10/10, ETNZ – 10/10
Photo Credit: ACEA / Gilles Martin-Raget
– PR –