ORACLE TEAM USA, the two-time defending champion of the America’s Cup, won both of its races on Saturday, to close out the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers at the top of the leaderboard.
The victory in the Qualifiers means ORACLE TEAM USA will start the America’s Cup Match on June 17 with a one point advantage over whichever challenger emerges from the Playoffs.
“That was our goal coming into the competition,” Spithill said. “We wanted that point as did the other teams. To be honest, it was great to be under some pressure. We had to win that race, Team New Zealand had to win that race. It was great to see our guys respond. I’m very, very proud of the team.”
The first race of the day was the marquee match of the event, pitting the defender against the top scoring challenger, Emirates Team New Zealand.
ORACLE TEAM USA won the start and sailed a controlling race to beat Team New Zealand for the second consecutive time and take a valuable one point advantage into the America’s Cup Match.
In the pre-start, the Kiwis dived down to set a hook, but ORACLE TEAM USA skipper Jimmy Spithill and tactician Tom Slingsby turned the tables, protecting their leeward position and putting a penalty on the New Zealanders off the starting line.
Spithill and his team had a 7-second lead at mark one, extending to 9-seconds at the bottom gate.
The Kiwis made a gain on the upwind leg, and actually crossed ahead near the top gate, but Spithill and Slingsby held their nerve, taking the inside lane at the mark, leading through the gate and extending away.
ORACLE TEAM USA protected its position well from then onwards, taking a 29-second win. Spithill said the match racing move at the top of the course was the race winner.
“Both times we’ve raced Team New Zealand they’ve made some pretty fundamental mistakes,” Spithill said. “I think that’s something that’s powerful for us, having a dedicated tactician like Tom Slingsby to tackle those tricky situations on the race course.”
Starting six for the race against the Kiwis:
Skipper / Helmsman — Jimmy Spithill
Wing Trimmer — Kyle Langford
Tactician / Grinder — Tom Slingsby
Grinder — Louis Sinclair
Grinder — Sam Newton
Grinder — Ky Hurst
ORACLE TEAM USA then closed out the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers with a relatively straightforward victory over Land Rover BAR.
For the second time in the day, Spithill and Slingsby won the start and led into the bottom gate.
From there, it was a matter of smart race course management to take the win. With the boat configured for stronger winds the team was pushed hard physically to keep enough power distributed to get around the marks.
Results and Leaderboard – Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers (Team — wins / losses — points)
ORACLE TEAM USA — 8 / 2 — 9 points (including 1 bonus point)
Emirates Team New Zealand — 8 / 2 — 8 points
Land Rover BAR — 4 / 6 — 6 points (including 2 bonus points)
Artemis Racing — 5 / 5 — 5 points
SoftBank Team Japan — 3 / 7 — 3 points
Groupama Team France — 2 / 8 — 2 points
Photo Credit : Gilles Martin-Raget