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Gary Jobson's Notes from the 34th America's Cup

The America's Cup Trophy. Photo by Gilles Martin-Raget.

The America's Cup Trophy. Photo by Gilles Martin-Raget.

Gary Jobson, President of the National Sailing Hall of Fame, is posting a series of notes on the America's Cup, which began with his thoughts during the Louis Vuitton Cup and will continue each race day during the America's Cup.



Note 9: Kiwi Power PDF Print

By Gary Jobson, President
National Sailing Hall of Fame

September 13, 2013

    For the first time in my sailing career I saw the perfect start. I mean PERFECT. In Race 8 of the 34th America's Cup defense, New Zealand's skipper Dean Barker approached the starting line to windward and ahead of Oracle Team USA's Australian skipper, James Spithill. In seven previous races Barker has won two starts, while Spithill has taken the other five. The Kiwis have been dominant throughout the series, except for the starts. After race six, I asked Barker what he was going to do to improve? Through gritted teeth he simply said he needed to do better. And boy did he deliver.

    When the gun fired, Emirates Team New Zealand was exactly on the line. The screen grab showed they were just two inches behind the line. The boat was sailing at 41.2 knots! In contrast, Spithill was late to accelerate and quickly fell behind. OTUSA's owner Larry Ellison was in a tender alongside the race committee boat where I call the action for the NBC Sports Network, along with Todd Harris and Kenny Read. Ellison put his head down when he saw his team lose the start. He must have realized at that moment that the America's Cup was slipping from his grasp.

    Two weeks ago I predicted in my pre-America's Cup report that OTUSA would defend...barely. I got it wrong. New Zealand is going to win big and here's why.

    The Kiwi boat is faster through tacks, is lightning quick up wind, their management is focused, and the team is a smooth-running operation. I spent some time with them on Wednesday and visited every part of their compound. There are no politics. The 107 workers are all fully engaged with their assigned duties. Barker was reviewing tactics with coach Rod Davis. The designers were at their computers. Workers had the boat apart and were servicing every component. I spoke with tactician Ray Davies. He is having a good time sailing. His big smile, friendly demeanor and impressive record on the water were in sharp contrast to the turmoil over in the American camp.

     James Spithill decided to replace his long-time tactician John Kostecki with four-time British Olympic Champion Ben Ainslie. On Day Four of the AC, Ainslie did a fine job working with Australian strategist and Olympic Champion Tom Slingsby, but the boat is just not up to speed. Until last week, OTUSA's New Zealander CEO Russell Coutts had never lost a single race. Now his team has lost seven.

     With Kostecki benched there is now only one American sailor on the American boat. I sure hope New Zealand returns the Cup to all national crews as the author of the America's Cup Deed of Gift, George Steers, envisioned. I will have more about that later.

    So what has New Zealand done so well? Sailing through tacks, the fuller hull shape helps the boat keep its momentum. The wing on NZL operates smoothly as it changes sides. In contrast, OTUSA's wing has to be punched through. This split second pause hurts. The New Zealand boat does not have cockpits for the crew. The deck is flush with the trampoline. The USA features cockpits. It takes a little longer for the crew to get into position. New Zealand also uses a self-tacking jib. The sail slides on a track in front of the wing. OTUSA uses jibs that are longer on the foot, and more difficult to trim in tacks. Many little things add up to big differences. On every tack the Kiwis gain. When sailing upwind on a straight line, ETNZ is really fast. It must be a horrifying sight to watch the Kiwis gain from the view on board the American boat. Downwind it appears OTUSA might have a very slight edge in speed. Two of the three legs are downwind, so this should help the American boat. But nearly even downwind speed is not enough when you are so slow to windward.

    Occasionally, our television director, Wayne Leonard, will position the helicopter to capture some compelling images of the deck of the two boats. Again, there is quite a contrast. OTUSA has a narrow endplate underneath the wing. The endplate helps give the wing more power by using the wind. This is a complicated subject that can be far better explained by naval architects. We will surely get to read some interesting scientific papers after the Cup. ETNZ has a much bigger platform under the wing that seems to give the boat more power and at the same time give the whole structure more strength. This will become more evident this weekend when we have an ebb current. The ebb will flow against the prevailing WSW wind and will create choppy waves. So far the races have taken place in flood current.

    Funding an America's Cup is a daunting challenge. ETNZ has recruited eleven sponsors including the New Zealand government to provide funding. In addition to the corporate sponsors, the Kiwis have received substantial help from several long-time sailors, including Michael Fay, Gary Paykel, Matteo Nora, Steven Tindall, and Neville Creighton. Dalton told me they will spend over $120 million. I wonder what Larry Ellison has spent? Grant Dalton, the ETNZ team leader, uses his backers for advice and encouragement. To give you an idea of how important winning this regatta is to the 4.4 million people who live in New Zealand, consider this: Last Saturday, for the first day of racing, 62% of the televisions in that small country were tuned-in to the America' Cup.

    Over the past two months our television team has been working hard to produce compelling shows. Like the sailing teams we try to get better every day. There are 92 people involved in the production. Veteran America's Cup and Olympic Games sailing producer, Denis Harvey, has done a good job bringing all the pieces together. When we are on the air, our producer is Leon Sefton. He is a cool hand. Todd Harris, Ken Read and I are constantly talking with Leon about upcoming shots and leading us through the storyline. From my unique view on the water, I tell Leon about things I see that Todd and Kenny do not see in the booth. The three of us are always ready to add some comment. I think one of Leon's most important jobs is to guide us when to talk and lay out. The conversation coming off the boats is very interesting. It is tricky knowing when to talk and when to lay out. Ken Read and I have to remember that we are talking to an audience that includes many experienced sailors, along with many viewers who have never been on boat. Our conversation must be balanced. It has been a pleasure working with Todd, Ken, Leon and our director, Wayne Leonard. For the NBC shows last weekend, David Michaels was our producer. Long time sailor Gordon Beck is producing our cable shows.

    The AC LiveLine graphics are an amazing addition to our telecasts. Stan Honey and his team will also write an interesting paper about this groundbreaking innovation. Separately, Virtual Eye uses GPS technology to gives us 3D animation of the race boats. AC LiveLine's graphics are over live pictures. I marvel at the mechanics of how our team operate seven cameras on each race boat, along with taking the sound from the microphones worn by five sailors on each boat. On the water, we have a modified Extreme 40 camera boat that can speed along at 40 knots and provide remarkably stable pictures thanks to a Cine-flex camera. These are the same cameras used on the helicopters. When viewers see our pictures and hear our audio all of this has to be synced up. This all happens live. So, if I suggest to Leon that I want to talk about back wind, the helicopter has to get in position, Alan Trimble prepares the animation, Todd Harris sets me up and off we go. Meanwhile Ken Read might have an observation about one of the crew. So while I am talking about backwind, the team is setting up the next shot from on board. This includes getting the correct microphone linked with the picture. Todd then sets up Ken and he tells us about Glen Ashby and how he trims the wing. The production of these races is never seen by viewers but is system that runs with impressive precision. I hope we get to televise some for other sailing events at this level.

    New Zealand needs to win 3 of the next 12 races to reclaim the America's Cup. OTUSA needs to win 10 of the next 12 to defend. My prediction was wrong. Perhaps we will see a turn around. In 1983, Australia II was down 3-1 and won three straight to win it all. In 1920, Resolute was down 0-2 and came back to successfully 3-2, and in 1934 Endeavour was up 2-0 against Rainbow and lost 4-2. Can that happen again? We will show you the races live on Saturday and Sunday on the NBC Sports Network, starting with a pre-race program at 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time, (12:30 p.m Pacific).

 

 
Note 8: Overcoming Adversity at the America's Cup PDF Print

By Gary Jobson, President
National Sailing Hall of Fame

September 11, 2013

    After three days of racing at the 34th Defense of the America's Cup, the challenger, Emirates Team New Zealand, needs to win five of the next 14 races to defeat Larry Ellison's Oracle Team USA. In contrast, OTUSA must win ten of the next 14 races to successfully defend. This is a daunting task for the American team, based on the performance of both boats in the five races that have been sailed so far on San Francisco Bay. The USA elected not to sail the second race on Day Three. Skipper Jimmy Spithill said, "It is time we regroup; we need to make some changes." There is a scheduled lay day before racing resumes on Thursday. Can Spithill and his team turn adversity into victory? It will not be easy.

    First, a review of Race Five. Once again, Spithill won the start. For the first time in the match he took the windward position. At the first mark, OTUSA had a nice lead. The wind direction was more southerly than usual. The boats were able to sail on the port jibe for an extraordinary distance toward the leeward gate. This took away any chance for the Kiwis to pass. Approaching the gate, American tactician John Kostecki called for a foiling tack. Their plan was to turn the mark on the foils and immediately tack and sail for the backside of Alcatraz Island, where there is little effect from the flood current. The boat appeared to stop during the turn. The Kiwis made up four boat lengths in a few seconds, and were now out of phase on the opposite tack. Kostecki made a poor choice. The Kiwis were closing.

    Sailing upwind at 25 knots, New Zealand was gaining at an impressive rate. When the USA tacked onto starboard, the Kiwis could not cross and dipped behind. New Zealand was sailing fast; the American boat was not. Less than one mile after the turn, the Kiwis took the lead and sailed away. Spithill, Kostecki and the crew all looked stunned. On Sunday they won a tight thriller. They have led at the second mark in three out of five races. Something is wrong with Oracle Team USA. The boat is slow going to windward, and their tactics have been very inconsistent. So what is going on, and what can be done?

    John Kostecki is one of the most successful sailors in the world, with an around the world race victory, an America's Cup win, and an Olympic medal. He grew up sailing on San Francisco Bay and is very familiar in these waters. Throughout the race, Kostecki constantly grinds one of the winches to power the hydraulics, and helps trim the sails. It is hard, exhausting work. Over on the New Zealand boat, the tactician Ray Davies, does not have grinding duties. He looks around and studies the wind, the current and his boat's performance vs. the USA. As a former America's Cup tactician, I like to listen to them and watch their performance. Of course, it is easy for me as a television commentator to critique their moves, but I think the physical work for Kostecki (who is 49) might be hurting his ability to look around. The New Zealand boat is set up so the tactician does not grind a winch.

     ETNZ syndicate head, Grant Dalton, (who is 56) sails on his team's boat. In every sport having a seasoned veteran on the team, and in the locker room, is always a benefit. It makes me wonder if it is time for the Oracle team's manager, Russell Coutts, to get on the boat? After Race Five, Coutts summoned Spithill to his tender for an in-person meeting. Our television camera's recorded the scene. We don't know what was said, but I’ll bet there was a difference of opinion on whether to postpone the second race of the day. When asked after the race, Spithill said they talked about the weather. Later he said they discussed rugby. Let there be no doubt that they talked about their performance, and I’ll bet it was a one-way conversation. Coutts has to be under pressure from Larry Ellison to improve. Losing is not in Ellison's DNA.

    Overnight the design team and shore crew will make some changes to the boat to try to find some upwind speed. I like the fact that OTUSA plans to go sailing during the lay day. The Kiwis will spend their time on maintenance, and reviewing strategy.
Time is running out for the USA. Everyone around the waterfront wonders if we will see a crew change. Coutts is certainly available and so is four-time Olympic Champion Ben Ainslie, who served as the in-house training skipper. I don't think we will see a major crew change for Day Four. But, if the USA loses two on Thursday, we just might see a different roster.

    At the post race press conference, I asked Spithill if there was any chance that they would use their other boat. Their first boat is being prepared for racing. Based on my observations Boat One might be a little faster than Boat Two (the one being raced now) when sailing to windward. This is where New Zealand has a distinct advantage. The trade off is that Boat One is slower downwind and is harder to control. I don't think a boat change is likely, unless there is some damage. Let's hope we don't see a collision between these boats. At 40 knots or more, that horrible thought would be a disaster.

    The speeds between the USA and NZL are close enough that either boat can win races as we have seen. Oracle Team USA still has time to get rolling, but they must win the next two races and get some momentum. New Zealand needs to improve on the starting line, and keep the pressure on OTUSA so Sptihill and company keep making increasingly desperate moves. We might see Spithill try to get a boat-on-boat penalty during the pre-start. New Zealand will likely be cautious around the starting line. The Kiwis have the speed and boat handling skills to pass when behind. Five more victories and the America's Cup will be on its way Down Under for the third time in thirty years. The only thing stopping the cup from leaving the USA is the resolve and clear thinking from Ellison, Coutts, Spithill and the rest of the team. Will they find a way to win? We will know soon.

 

 

 
Note 7: Great Racing at America's Cup PDF Print

By Gary Jobson, President
National Sailing Hall of Fame

September 8, 2013

    When Oracle Team USA's sailors and shore crew arrived at their compound at Pier 80 early this morning, the America's Cup trophy was sitting on a pedestal in front of the AC 72. No one knew how it got there. But, it was an inspirational reminder of their mission. The sailing team looked fired up for Day Two of the America's Cup, even though they lost both races yesterday. Everyone around the waterfront in San Francisco was wondering how the American team could turn things around?

    And, just like that, Day Two of the 34th America's Cup defense became a thriller for the sailors and their fans. Emirates Team New Zealand and Oracle Team USA each won a hard fought battle that included brilliant tactics, breathtaking speed, and some mistakes too. In my AC Report 5, I predicated that the USA would win the match after a close battle. Following yesterday's racing that pronouncement looked mighty suspect, but not anymore. Either team can win this regatta.

    In Race Three, OTUSA was fouled by ETNZ at the first turning mark. The penalty was quickly absolved. The chase was on. These boats can very quickly separate by a few hundred yards. The boats seem far apart but that distance can be made up with a single gust of wind. At times the boats sail at remarkably even speeds, and occasionally New Zealand looks faster. It is rare that the American boat has a speed advantage. At the end of Leg Two the USA held a slim lead. Sailing upwind against the tide NZL started to gain on each tack. Oracle's tactician, National Sailing Hall of Famer John Kostecki, worked to match every move the Kiwis made. The big moment of the pass came as the two boats closed on the boundary along the city front near Pier 39. New Zealand tacked onto port, as did the USA. But the American crew was slow to accelerate and lost control of the race. Kiwi tactician, Ray Davies was masterfully managing his boat's position on the racecourse. This guy is a joy to watch. He is clever and rarely makes a mistake. New Zealand sailed away for their third win.

    Just 32 minutes later the second race of the day started. Oracle Team USA's Australian skipper, Jimmy Spithill, timed the line perfectly and took the lead. He held the Kiwis high on the first part of the short reach leg and then bore away for a beautifully executed rounding. Downwind the boats were about even. At the leeward gate NZL closed. It looked like the Kiwis might be able to pass again early on the beat to windward. This time, Kostecki told Spithill to sail a more strategic race as if there were 20 boats on the course. OTUSA wanted to avoid the close quarters battle that did them in the previous race. It was a good call. The USA held the lead at Mark 3. At the final turning mark NZL closed to within five seconds. At 40 knots, that equates to about four to five boat lengths. Oracle Team USA crossed the line eight seconds ahead of Emirates Team New Zealand and received a thunderous ovation from thousands of people on the shore line.

    Monday is a lay day. Both teams will spend the time analyzing the performance of their boats, look for ways to increase speed and plan their tactics for the next round of races. New Zealand seems to have an edge at times, but not always. In strong winds of 23 knots toward the end of Race 4 the USA really looked strong. Winning a race after losing three certainly gives OTUSA a big boost of confidence going forward. New Zealand needs to stay aggressive. If Dean Barker can win the start, he will be hard to pass. James Spithill knows how important it is to get the jump at the gun. The pair has each won two starts. New Zealand needs to win 6 more races, while the USA needs to win 10 more. Based on the two races we saw today, this America's Cup is going to extend for some time before someone wins.

    Every race will be carried live on the NBC Sports Network starting at 1pm Pacific time (4 pm Eastern) on Sept 10, 12, 14, and 15. My partners Todd Harris and Ken Read and I look forward to explaining the action. Hold on tight; there are some good races ahead.

 

 
Note 6: New Zealand Opens with Two Wins PDF Print

By Gary Jobson, President
National Sailing Hall of Fame

September 7, 2013

    One day doth not an America's Cup make, but it sure was an eye opener.  Emirates Team New Zealand completely dominated Oracle Team USA in the first two races of the 34th America's Cup defense. The most interesting thing for me was watching the body language and attitude onboard the American boat as they began to realize that their AC72 was off the pace compared to the challenger. Oracle's design team will work hard to find ways to increase the speed of their boat, however one has to believe each boat started the series with their best equipment. Simultaneously, the sailors and their coaches need to take a critical look at their sailing performance. The USA was off in just about every aspect of the race.

    Oracle's skipper Australian Jimmy Spithill is known as a very aggressive starter. In Race One he did not engage New Zealand at any time during the two-minute pre-start. From my vantage point on the Race Committee boat, Regardless, it was obvious that it was advantageous to start at the windward end of the line with a one knot flood current. New Zealand's skipper Dean Barker timed it perfectly at the windward end, accelerated and easily sailed into the lead. Downwind, the strength of the wind seemed to lighten as they headed for the turning gate. It was close. The Kiwis made a mistake by misjudging the lay line and made an extra jibe. As Barker turned the mark, he headed too high. Spithill was less than one length behind and by sailing a lower and faster course he gained an overlap. Barker tacked away to stay clear. The New Zealand boat was slow going into the tack, and slower coming out of it. Oracle Team USA took the lead.  

    I think everyone on the San Francisco shoreline and aboard the 300-boat spectator fleet was cheering. Not because the USA had the lead, but for the first time in this America's Cup, we actually had a real race. The wind dropped to about 13 knots.  The speeds between the boats looked even. As they worked their way to windward in the flood tide, the breeze filled in to 17 knots and the Kiwis took off. It was an impressive display of speed. From that point the Kiwis sailed away and easily won the first race.

    Throughout the day there were at least 7 protests by the two boats. The umpires gave each incident a green flag, signaling no foul. Before the second race, Spithill and tactician John Kostecki discussed not sailing the second race. Apparently, there was some de-lamination on the wing sail.  Each boat is allowed to postpone one race in the series. Kostecki thought it was too early in the series for a time out, and Oracle decided to race. During the second start, the boats might have touched at one close encounter.  Spithill looked to be in good shape with 25 seconds to go. But Barker did a better job accelerating, had the windward end again, and took an early lead. This time the USA never challenged. It quickly became a parade.

    We still have a lot of racing ahead of us.

The Kiwis need to win seven more. Oracle Team USA needs to win eleven races.  Normally, you must win nine races in a 17 race series. But OTUSA was docked two points for cheating during the America's Cup World Series last year with two of their AC 45-footers. As part of the penalty, wing trimmer Dirk de Ridder was disqualified for this America's Cup. He was the person who illegally altered the boats to give them more speed. Three other team members were also disqualified for the Cup. The International Jury gave the American team the appropriate penalty for their ill-advised transgressions. Dirk de Ridder's replacement, Kyle Langford, did not look to be in sync with Spithill during the race, particularly during maneuvers.

    Sunday is another day.  Spithill could easily take the starts. He and Langford will certainly get better with more sailing. Their speed, however, is a major problem. If the wind is under 14 the USA can make it close. When the wind builds the Kiwis look fast, and they maneuver with greater efficiency. It would be fun to be a fly on the wall over at the USA camp and listen in to what Syndicate owner Larry Ellison and his CEO Russell Coutts are saying. There is still plenty of time to turn this around, but the USA better come out swinging on Sunday, or this America's Cup will be over soon, and the trophy will be on a plane back to the City of Sails, Auckland, New Zealand.

    Todd Harris, Ken Read and I will call the race action tomorrow on NBC at 4pm ET (1pm PT) live from San Francisco.

 

 
Note 5: On to the America's Cup Defense PDF Print

By Gary Jobson, President
National Sailing Hall of Fame

August 28, 2013

    Wake up sailors! We are going to see a unique, and most likely, one-time sailing event that I think will be an unbelievable spectacle. So far, the blowout races, breakdowns, one-boat contests, and weather delays have marred the America's Cup. But we should all put that in the past. Beginning Saturday, September 7 this battle is going to be emotional, hard-fought, fast and exhausting. Can the tiny nation of New Zealand reclaim the America's Cup, or will business titan Larry Ellison hold on to the Cup in his home waters?

    As always with the America's Cup, the stakes are high. The winner chooses the next venue, boats, format and date. The actual Deed of Gift was envisioned to be a challenge-driven event, however the defender ends up making the rules. You can be sure both New Zealand and the USA have future challengers in their hip pocket that will be pulled out just after their boat crosses the finish line when, and if, they win. The future look of the 35th Defense is certainly an open question. But, right now, we will see a lot of sailing before anyone can talk about the future.

    I have been in a good position to watch both the defenders and challengers this past month, aboard the race committee boat Regardless. On the water, I also used the AC LiveLine graphics and television pictures to help me with my part of the NBC commentary team, along with Todd Harris and Ken Read, who were back on shore. There were a lot of interesting things to see on the water. These included subtle differences in boat handling, speed and maneuvers. I also paid attention to pre-race warm up routines. Proper tune up is important in sailing, just like every sport.
    
     Like everyone else here in San Francisco, I am wondering who will win the match? The truth is, no one has any real clue, and that will make this regatta so much fun to watch. I am sure both boats will get their share of wins. It's easy: just get a better start, sail faster, cover when ahead, and don't make any mistakes. Nothing to it, right? No, of course not. This will be a hard event to win. There is no doubt both teams are hungry for victory.

     Emirates Team New Zealand is a well-prepared team. They have more time on the water than the other three teams here. New Zealand is a joy to watch. The crew is a well-choreographed unit on nearly every maneuver, except during Race One of the Louis Vuitton Cup final, when NZL nose-dived while rounding the windward mark. Two of their crew were washed over the side. It was a scary moment. New Zealand had a hydraulic failure in Race Two, and was unable to finish. Since then the Kiwis have been flawless.

    New Zealand skipper Dean Barker will have to sail the series of his life to win. Around the waterfront he seems calm and ready. On the racecourse he faces Jimmy Spithill from ORACLE TEAM USA. Spithill is a ruthless competitor and fearless helmsman. He will push his boat and crew to the limit around the racecourse. Historically, Spithill has finished ahead of Barker more often than not. The battle during the two-minute pre-start sequence will be epic. Both helmsmen will be well coached on each other's tactical moves. Both crews will have to flawlessly execute their boat handling. There will be very little time to gain an advantage. The boats will have to enter the starting box precisely on time, and get their boat in a position for the final sprint to the line. The AC 72s can sail one length in one second. If you are late by three seconds you are in trouble. It will be close, and I expect frequent protests by both boats. The Umpires will have their work cut out to make the right calls. I also expect most of the protests will be waived off with green flags (no foul, keep racing). If we see lots of protests you will know the emotions are running high. I predict in ten starts Spithill will win five, draw two and lose three. We will see.

    In the one unofficial scrimmage between NZL and USA two weeks ago, the speeds seemed to be about even on a downwind leg. During one simultaneous jibe NZL appeared to gain more than a length. The defending team has had good in-house racing. Spithill has the advantage of sailing with the varsity crew, and is always on the newer boat. He wins many of the races, but their trial horse skipper, Sir Ben Ainslie, has also won his share, and always pushes hard. These races have helped the USA improve. New Zealand looks more polished while maneuvering than the American boats. In this area I give the Kiwis the edge. However, their advantage will diminish as the races progress. The Cup final is a best of 17 series. Both teams will learn with each race.

    Every day on San Francisco Bay the best tactical choices will change depending on the current and wind strength. I give Oracle the edge here. On board is tactical wizard John Kostecki, who grew up racing on San Francisco Bay. He rarely makes a bad call. New Zealand's tactician, Ray Davies, is a cool hand. Davies and Barker grew up together at the same yacht club, and are close friends. That will help when things get tight. And, they will. Like Kostecki, Davies also makes few mistakes, but he did not grow up in these waters. New Zealand does have an excellent "local knowledge" coach in American Dee Smith, who also grew up racing here. Smith will certainly give Davies all the correct trends, but he is not on the boat like Kostecki.

    Only one leg of the 10-mile course will be to windward. I hear over and over from various experts that the USA has a slight edge over New Zealand when sailing to windward. Again, no one really knows, but I have witnessed both boats foiling up wind without losing very much windward distance. At times the boats hit 30 knots! Yep, that is sailing upwind. I haven't seen it often. My guess is that upwind foiling will be something that will be rolled out during the Cup. In fact, the teams will likely have many secret speed elements that we won't see until the racing starts.

    Both teams have very strong designers. Both design groups number over 30 engineers and naval architects, and probably have lengthy lists of things they would like to test, but time is running out. Maximizing time on the water before the cup will be important. The designers will be able to make adjustments during the match. As mentioned, every race will be a learning experience. Making improvements to various design elements will be an important part of this regatta. But we will not know what is happening in the background. The result of this work will only be apparent during the races.

    The wind limit for the America's Cup goes up to 23 knots (from 21 for the LVC), which will be adjusted for the current. In a flood tide of 2 knots the wind limit is 25 and in an ebb tide of 2 knots the wind limit drops to 21. Oracle has spent most of their time training when the wind is under the limit. New Zealand goes out when the wind is well above. Against Luna Rossa the Kiwis seemed to be faster when the wind was light. It is possible that one boat will have an edge in one wind condition and not another. If this happens, the strength of the wind could be the deciding factor.

    On our broadcasts I have called the AC 72s “fast, scary and fragile." After watching 12 challenger races and 14 defender practice races, I am adding a word to my description... graceful. An AC 72 sailing at 47 knots while making wide turns at a turning mark is a thing of beauty.

    Like any sporting event the winner is often the one who wants it more. New Zealand is a country of only 4.5 million people. This is a smaller population than my home state of Maryland. ORACLE TEAM USA's syndicate head, Larry Ellison, wants to win badly. It is in his DNA. Let there be no doubt that the Kiwis are also highly motivated. They know what it is like to have the Cup in their home waters. ETNZ is made up of nine New Zealand sailors and two Australians (who live in New Zealand). Ellison's crew is a multi-national group from the USA, Holland, Italy, France, Australia, New Zealand, and Antigua (depending on the starting line up). The difference in the past was the man who first won it for New Zealand and later successfully defended it. Sir Russell Coutts is the man in charge of ORACLE TEAM USA. You can imagine how the Kiwis would like to defeat their former hero. Likewise, Coutts would like to continue his undefeated winning streak in the America's Cup. Coutts has won four America's Cups, and has yet to lose a single race.

    The races will only last 30 minutes or less. The speeds of these machines may never be seen again in the America's Cup. Both teams expect they can, and will, win. The contest will go back and forth. Unlike the Super Bowl that is over in 3 hours, the America's Cup will likely extend for two weeks. New Zealand seems to have more fans around the waterfront of San Francisco, but in the end I think ORACLE TEAM USA will defend... barely.

 

 
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