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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 15: Speed, Smarts, and a Little Luck PDF Print

By Gary Jobson, President
National Sailing Hall of Fame

September 22, 2013

15-Oracle-takes-both-races-Sept-22-2013   Can Emirates Team New Zealand dig into their collective inner soul and find a way to win the 34th America's Cup? The way it is going, the Kiwis are in deep trouble.

   Oracle Team USA is on a roll. They are winning starts, sailing really smart, and at times they are blazingly fast. The USA still needs to win four races to successfully defend, while NZL only needs one victory to take the Cup down under. Race 16 on Monday will mark the longest period in Cup racing days since the first defense in 1870. Several thousand fans from NZ, who are here in San Francisco, can't believe what is happening. Neither can the team. Three races have been abandoned when NZL was ahead for either too much wind, or too little, hence the bad luck. I still believe the Kiwis can pull this off.

    It starts with a renewed attitude. NZL skipper, Dean Barker, has got to ignore all the noise, expectations, thoughts of destiny, or even winning the regatta. He needs to declare to his team that they are going to win, and do it with such determination that everyone believes him. I watched Ted Turner do this many times. True conviction is infectious. The sailors and the design team need to work through every possible improvement that is available. Any changes must be in sync with the wind, current and wave conditions. The USA has been masterful at making innovations after going 1-3 in the first two days of the regatta. Today, in 16 knots of wind, I watched USA 17 race by my position on the race committee boat on Leg Three at 29 knots. The boat was up on its foils while sailing to windward. In contrast, at that moment, NZL was sailing at 22 knots. Does NZL have an answer?

    Since Race One, OTUSA seems to have a small edge sailing downwind. If the USA has a weak spot it is sailing upwind in lighter winds. Tomorrow the weather is forecast for light wind in the morning. This might be the best opportunity for NZL. If they lose the first race, and the wind starts to build, NZL might pull out a postponement card for the second race of the day, and hope the wind is light for the next day. Certainly the Kiwis want to avoid a winner-take-all race with the score tied up.

    To win, Dean Barker has to take the start. On my unofficial score card, in 15 races Barker has won six starts, and OTUSA's Australian skipper, James Spithill, has won nine. Before today's first race I watched Spithill and crew methodically practice several starts. 15-The-two-skippers-Sept-22-2013They did short timed runs, long timed runs, acceleration practice, and worked the middle, leeward and windward ends of the line. They maximized their practice time like it was their last opportunity to hold on to the America's Cup. Oh, wait a minute — every race is their last opportunity to hold on to the America's Cup. In contrast, ETNZ went through their normal routine, which is to cross the line, sail to Mark # 1 and do some jibes. But, they did not use the pre-race practice period for intense starting practice. Maybe they should set up a starting line early in the morning and schedule some practice starts.

    If the Kiwis can win the start, the next item is to stay ahead on the downwind leg, knowing they might be a little slower. This is where the tactician, Ray Davies, needs to make good calls. Most of the time the leading boat must cover, but sometimes it is better to stay in stronger wind than make extra maneuvers. Over on USA 17, British tactician, Ben Ainslie, has found the correct balance between covering and going for better wind. This is where championships (or America's Cups) are won.

    ETNZ has plenty of strengths. Dean Barker is doing a really good job steering. The crew continues to handle their boat with precision on every maneuver. But for Mr. Davies? This is his hour. My advice is to simply go out and have some fun. Treat the next race just like you would in any weekend regatta. If you get caught up thinking about the high stakes of this event, you are cooked. Going with your gut instinct always seems to work.

 15-Ray-Davies-Sept-23-2013   A few days before the first race of the 1977 America's Cup I will never forget Ted Turner telling me, "I am going to have fun in this regatta, because I think it will improve our chances of winning."

    Oracle Team USA's owner, Larry Ellison, has a lot on his plate at the moment. About 60,000 people are here in San Francisco for Oracle Open World, a huge technology conference. This is an important event for his company. Yet, he is on the water for every race. Mr. Ellison stopped by our race committee boat yesterday for a brief hello and seemed very energized by his sailing team's turnaround. My only regret for him in this Cup is that Ellison should have been able to sail on his boat. Whatever format evolves for the next America's Cup, I hope the owners can be aboard. Surely, this would be a good incentive for captains of industry to organize sailing teams.

    The number of spectator boats on the water is getting smaller by the day. I have never seen so few boats watching an America's Cup. I spoke at a local yacht club here on Friday night. I asked why more boats were not out on the bay? Several people at my table said, "Its better watching on television." Lucky me; I get to do both. Being aboard the race committee boat with our television crew, cameraman Greg Peterson and engineer Bruce Jackson, has been great fun. We have the television images, AC LiveLine graphic information, and get to see the boats up close. At times they sail past within one boat length.

    Racing on San Francisco Bay certainly provides good theater for spectators all along the shoreline. But I would like to add an editorial comment. The restrictions of where the course can be set makes it a difficult challenge for the race committee. Yesterday we were unable to get a race off because the wind was left of 230 degrees. If a race had been sailed the boats would have reached to each mark. A parade would be unfair to the competitors. The race committee will not start a race if the wind is to the right of 280 degrees. To make the short 40 minute time limit the wind needs to average at least 8 knots. But, they cannot race in winds over 23 knots for safety reasons. These are severely limiting parameters. If the races are to be held on San Francisco Bay in the future, a little more flexibility is order.

 15-Confident-Ben-Ainslie-Sept-22-2013   As I mentioned in an earlier AC Report, I like cheering for one team at sporting events. Right now I want both teams to win. It would be heartwarming to watch Dean Barker and his Kiwi crew break out of their slump and win it. It means a lot to that tiny nation. At the same time, I am really enjoying watching James Spithill and his team come charging back after near-certain defeat. While commentating on the races for television I always have my tactician's mind engaged. Ben Ainslie is great fun to watch. He is like a chess master. Ainslie gets a helpful mental boost from the observations of OTUSA's strategist, Tom Slingsby. Every sailor should listen carefully to the communication between these two Olympic champions.
     
    I guess a tie is out of the question. One team must win nine races. It could happen tomorrow, or it could come down to one race with the score tied at 8-8. Either way the conclusion is going to be fascinating. Tell your friends to tune in and watch sailing history being made. We may never see anything like this again.

    At 4 pm Eastern Time (1 pm Pacific) Todd Harris, Ken Read and I, along with our very energized production team, look forward to bringing you the finale of the 34th America's Cup defense on the NBC Sports Network.

 

Photos courtesy of photographer Steven Tsuchiya.

 

 
Note 14: America's Cup Destiny? PDF Print

By Gary Jobson, President
National Sailing Hall of Fame

September 20, 2013

14-OTUSA-Sept-20    How would you like to have four-time British Olympic champion, Sir Ben Ainslie, calling tactics for you in the biggest race of your life? Adding to the collective wisdom of the Team Oracle USA afterguard is another Olympic champion, Australian Tom Slingsby. The USA team (with only one American on board) took another step closer to defending the America's Cup. They were very lucky when light winds prevented Emirates Team New Zealand from crossing the finish line, as NZL was well ahead but just missed finishing within the required 40 minutes. In the re-sail of Race 13, Ainslie's tactics were the difference. At 8-3, the score still favors New Zealand, but you get the feeling here in San Francisco that OTUSA's Australian skipper, James Spithill, along with Ainslie and their crew, are on a roll and just might pull off the biggest upset in the history of sailing. Is it destiny, or determination?

    When Spithill came strutting down the promenade at Pier 27 for the post race press conference, he looked like Popeye just after eating his spinach. He knows he has the boat and team to go all the way now. New Zealand's skipper, Dean Barker, seems to be feeling the pressure. Outwardly, he remains calm and assured, but inside this event has got to be eating away at his psyche. Barker only needs one more win on a ten-mile course to take the America's Cup back to New Zealand. Just-one-more-win! Getting it will not be easy, but is certainly possible.

    Oracle Team USA started this regatta in disarray. Their starts, tactics, boat handling and speed were way off the pace set by the Kiwis. Something changed. Larry Ellison got engaged. He visited the Team base at least two times, and got his giant machine in gear. The America's Cup trophy mysteriously appeared in front of the boat when the crew arrived after losing two races on Day One. The message was clear.

14-Press-Conference-Sept-20

     The 32 (or so) designers went to work for Ellison's sailing team. Spithill kept saying they could win races. The speeds of the boats became even. Ainslie was substituted in as tactician replacing American, John Kostecki. The move has proven to be a good one. Ainslie is getting better with every race. Ainslie knows how to win. I witnessed his relentless pursuit for victory at the Olympic Games in Weymouth last summer. Ainslie had to beat Denmark's Jonas Hogh-Christensen in the final medal race to earn his record setting 4th Gold medal (Ainslie also won a silver medal in the Olympics at the age of 19 in 1996). Ainslie had been trailing throughout the Games last summer. It took a herculean effort for him to dig out of a deep hole, and then win it all by coming from behind to beat Hogh-Christensen in the final race.

     On board USA 17, and around the waterfront, Ainslie looks like he is having a good time. Being focused yet relaxed in the heat of battle is a good combination. Racing will continue with no lay days until one boat wins nine races. OTUSA still has to win six more in a row. New Zealand only needs one. Can they do it?

    The Kiwis realize their boat is just about the same speed as USA 17. Both crews are handling the boats efficiently during maneuvers. In a long series like this one the pressure builds. The press, fans, supporters and even teammates get impatient. While the races are short, the nature of the Cup can take awhile to conclude. In 2003 it took Alinghi 16 days to defeat New Zealand. In 1983 Australia II finally defeated Liberty 4-3 after 13 days. Tomorrow's race will be Day 14. A review of Race 13 is in order.

14-So-close-yet-so-far-Sept-20    In the re-sailed race that counted, Dean Barker brilliantly won the start. He had lost three starts in a row to Spithill. The Kiwis had a five-length lead half way down Leg Two. Somehow, New Zealand's tactician, Ray Davies, allowed his boat to get in a position where the disturbed wind off the USA 17 wing slowed NZL down. Ainslie saw an opening and pounced. When the boats converged, USA 17 was on starboard; NZL was at risk on port. Just before a potential collision, Spithill sharply altered course and protested. The umpires ruled in favor of USA 17. The penalty went away because NZL was already well behind. At the time I thought NZL was clear, but a review of the AC LiveLine graphics, in slow motion, showed that the umpires made the correct call. Approaching the leeward gate, Ainslie called to jibe and switch from rounding the left gate to the right gate. Davies decided to make two costly jibes at slow speed to take the left gate. NZL was well back after that unfortunate move.

    The Kiwis had one possible opening halfway up Leg Three. In the middle of the course USA tacked on NZL. Davies could have called for a tack to get back over to the south side of the course. The wind was shifting to the left, which favored the city side. There was also a stronger ebb current along the shore line. Davies elected to use boat speed to get clear. The wind did shift to the left, and USA 17 gained. Davies’ one opportunity slipped away. While Ainslie constantly consults with Tom Slingsby about tactics, Davies is the lone tactician on his boat. Today he could have used a little help. To his credit, Dean Barker concentrates on steering and never second-guesses Davies. With the speeds of both AC 72s so even, after the start Davies is the man that has to make the correct calls.

    Missing on ETNZ today was their team leader, Grant Dalton. He might not agree with me, but his presence sure seems to help. Just saying, Grant!

    As an aside, the wind limits are a big issue here. The 23-knot wind limit (adjusted for current) was set in the interest of safety. OTUSA would like to raise the limit. New Zealand doesn't think the rules should be changed in the middle of the game. I agree with New Zealand on this point. The sailing instructions say races can be started in five knots of wind, but the boats can't sail around the five-leg, ten-mile course in under 40 minutes. Either the minimum wind speed should go up, or the time limit should be extended to 50 minutes. (New Zealand missed finishing by about 2 minutes today). During the 12-Meter era the time limit was 4.5 hours on a 23.4-mile course.

    This America's Cup is becoming one of the biggest battles in the Cup's history. The USA is getting stronger every day. Larry Ellison is on the case. Spithill is energized. Ainslie is smooth. The American boat seems to be lucky when they need it. The Kiwis are getting nervous. All 4.4 million people in New Zealand are cheering on their team. I think many of them are here in San Francisco. They need one more race. Just one. Maybe Barker, Davies and DALTON should take a line from Spithill, and declare, "We can win races." As I asked earlier, "Is it destiny or determination?" For me it is determination. If NZL wins, the Spithill strut we saw today will look more like Y.A. Tittle on his knees in the end zone after losing a championship football game. The late, great sports announcer Jim McKay described moments like this with his famous prose: "The thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat." The 34th America's Cup is sports theater at its best.

    Our coverage continues on the NBC Sports Network at 4pm Eastern (1pm Pacific). Todd Harris, Ken Read and I look forward to calling these epic races, and we hope you will be watching right along with us.

 

Photos courtesy of photographer Steven Tsuchiya.

 

 
Note 13: Wind Limits, Ebb Current and Drama PDF Print

By Gary Jobson, President
National Sailing Hall of Fame

September 19, 2013

Sept 19 2013:  OTUSA defeats ETNZ.

The champagne was on ice. Blue blazers were at the ready. But Oracle Team USA's Australian skipper James Spithill ignored everything around him except winning the start of Race 12 of the America's Cup. He steered USA 17 into the starting box at 35 knots from the favored port side. Emirates Team New Zealand was late entering from the starboard side. Kiwi skipper Dean Barker maneuvered toward the starting line early. The ebb current was beginning to flow out of San Francisco Bay. The leeward end of the line looked to be favored. Barker wanted that position but he had to kill a lot of time. Spithill stalked his prey from behind as the two boats approached the line. Barker was at risk of jumping the gun. As the clock ticked down, Spithill made his move and swept down to leeward of ETNZ to gain an overlap, or what we call a hook. Barker was to windward and had to stay clear. New Zealand tacked away while Spithill accelerated toward the first mark to win the start by four lengths. The chase was on.

    Downwind on Leg Two the boats sprinted at over 40 knots for the turning gate. The speeds seemed identical. They turned back on the wind on opposite gates for the start of Leg Three. At times the Kiwis drew even, but just could not pass. OTUSA's British tactician, Ben Ainslie, made all the correct tactical calls to keep his boat ahead. In 19 knots of wind, OTUSA attained speeds of 30 knots. The catamaran was on its foils going to windward! The USA sailed extra distance by sailing a low course to get the foils working, but the net gain was impressive. On Leg Four, the USA stretched out and easily won the race.

    The victory had to rattle Dean Barker and his crew. The score stands 8-2 at this point. If the Kiwis win one more race, they will claim the Cup. It is hard to imagine that they could lose seven in a row, at least it did a few days ago. But OTUSA is getting faster, sailing better and showing that they could achieve the unthinkable. The 34th Defense could be over after a 25-minute race, or could continue for another week. On my scorecard, both Spithill and Barker have each won six starts. At start of Race 13, Spithill gets to enter from the Port Side again.

Aug 3 2013:  Harold Bennett and Alistair McRae on the bridge of Regardless. Photo Credit Steven Tsuchiya.    During the intermission between races, the wind started to build. The ebb current was increasing, which reduced the wind limit. The Race Committee has a 23-knot wind limit that was set earlier this summer in the interest of safety. In an ebb current, the apparent wind the boats sail in increases. For example, in a two-knot ebb, the wind limit drops to 21 knots. In a flood current the wind limit would increase by two knots because the water rushing into the bay theoretically pushes the boat backward at two knots reducing the apparent wind. Regrettably, the ebb current will increase over the next few days.

   When the race committee signaled that the wind was over the limit, Ken Read and I bantered on the NBC Sports Network that we had spent many hours over the years waiting for a suitable wind to fill in so a race could get started. Now we wait for the wind to drop. There are no more scheduled lay days for the rest of the regatta. The boats will be out every day until one of them wins nine races. At the post race press conference this afternoon, Spithill said his team had written a letter to the race committee saying that raising the wind limit to 25 knots would be acceptable. Dean Barker countered that the rules had been set before the match, and his boat was set up for winds of 23 knots or less. Therefore, Barker did not think changing the rules in the middle of the regatta was fair. Hmmm…the middle of the regatta? One could argue that we are potentially at the end of the regatta. Spithill would like to think we are in the middle.

   The pressure on both teams will build. New Zealand certainly has a comfortable cushion now, but watch out if the USA wins two more races. The Kiwi design team and shore crew will feel compelled to make changes. Sometimes changes work, and sometimes they fail. OTUSA has made many small but important changes. They too have to be careful not to take a step back. Any changes always have to be coordinated with the sailing team. I bet there are some long nights going on for both teams.

    Dean Barker seems calm on the boat, and around the waterfront. Jimmy Spithill looks to be on fire every time I see him. Both will be well prepared for Race 13. If Oracle Team USA wins the first race, it sure would be nice to see a second race on the same day. Our television audience is growing daily. The drama is building too. We have never seen boats this fast in such a high stakes regatta.

    Tune in to the NBC Sports Network at 4 pm Eastern time, (1 pm Pacific time) and we will take you aboard for the on going battle for the oldest trophy in international sports.

Photos courtesy of photographer Steven Tsuchiya.

 

 
Note 12: Inner Strength at the America's Cup PDF Print

11-R-S-Tsuchiya-1

By Gary Jobson, President
National Sailing Hall of Fame

September 18, 2013


    Imagine what is going on in the mind of Oracle Team USA's Australian skipper, Jimmy Spithill. His team is down 8-1. One more loss and the America's Cup moves on to New Zealand for the second time in 18 years. You might think the pressure is enormous, but I hope his focus is simply on winning the next race. He cannot think about the final result, the consequences, the disappointment, or his next gig. Spithill needs to win the next start, then get ahead, and find a way to stay ahead. If he does that, he can move on to the next race. Skipper Spithill has many tools at his disposal including a boat that is even in speed with his rival, the world's most successful Olympic sailing champion as a tactician, a crew that is working their guts out, a design team and shore crew that keeps improving the speed of the boat, and the support of a very motivated owner. Spithill can end up on the long list of losing America's Cup skippers, or make the biggest comeback in the history of sailing. It is all on his shoulders. And, guess what? We get to watch him go into battle in the biggest race(s) of his life.

11-R-S-Tsuchiya-2

    In 1983 Spithill's countrymen were down 1-3 against Dennis Conner in the America's Cup. The tenacious Aussies won three straight to take the Cup down under. In 1920, the American defender was down 0-2 behind Shamrock IV in a best of 5 series. The Americans won the last three races. In 1934,Harold Vanderbilt's Rainbow was down 0-2 in a best of seven series. The USA was behind in Race Three. But clever tactics by Rainbow's tactician, Sherman Hoyt, helped Rainbow take the lead on the final leg of the race. The British never won another race. Rainbow prevailed 4-2. The stories of sports heroics are the stuff of legend. If Spithill wins a race, and then another, and another the pressure will shift and put Emirates Team New Zealand in an increasingly defensive position. Again, it will be great fun to watch.

    11-R-S-Tsuchiya-4-EllisonHistorically, September 18 has been a big day in the America' Cup. In 1930, Vanderbilt's Enterprise defeated Shamrock V 4-0 to successfully defend. In 1967, Intrepid swept Australia's Dame Pattie 4-0. Three of Intrepid's crew would later become Commodores of the New York Yacht Club: Skipper, Bus Mosbacher; bowman, George Hinman; and grinder, David Elwell. And in 1977, Ted Turner and our crew aboard Courageous defeated Australia 4-0. Our team stays in close contact. We have a reunion every five years with full attendance. How many teams can say that?

    There is considerable talk around the San Francisco waterfront about the format and nature of the next America's Cup. Of course, no one from New Zealand will utter a word about anything on the horizon. I will have a full discussion about the future of the America's Cup in the November issue of Sailing World magazine.

11-R-S-Tsuchiya-3    I am not sure I should admit this, but I have been present at some part of the America's Cup dating back to 1962 when I was 12 years old. This event is in my bones. I have been a member of five Cup crews over the years. To this day I am grateful that Ted Turner gave me a chance to be his tactician. Winning in 1977 was one of the greatest moments in the lives of our crew. The 34th Defense is the ninth time I have served as a commentator on television. The story lines never cease to amaze me. The behind the scenes production of our 92-person team has been special. Every day we work hard to improve. Covering sailing is not an exact science. Most every one on the team is an active sailor. The aerial photography, on board cameras and microphones, amazing graphics, steady water view shots have been breathtaking. How cool it is for Todd Harris, Ken Read and I to interpret what is going on out on the water. Thanks are in order to Oracle Corporation's Larry Ellison for making this production a reality.

    A few comments on Race Eleven: New Zealand skipper, Dean Barker, decisively won the start. The Kiwis held a slim three-length lead through most of the race. On Leg Three, OTUSA drew even two times, but just could not pass. The one moment of hope for the USA squad came on Leg Four. In 20 knots of wind, New Zealand sailed straight down the center of the course. In contrast, the USA sailed on the very North edge of the course. The wind headed OTUSA about 20 degrees, allowing Spithill to steer a far lower course toward the final turning gate. Barker did not get the wind shift and had to jibe to protect his lead. It was even. The USA had a chance. But, just eight lengths before the cross the wind shifted back, forcing the USA to steer high of the mark. New Zealand's tactician, Ray Davies, jibed on the lay line. When the wind shift arrived, both boats had to sail low to get to the mark. NZL was closer and rounded only two lengths ahead. From there it was a parade over to the finish. Larry Ellison's team is now one race from losing.

11-R-S-Tsuchiya-5    Occasionally I am reminded that words count. After racing was postponed on Tuesday, I casually remarked while on the air to my partner Ken Read that I had lined up three Lasers to go sailing that afternoon, and that we should get our on air host, Todd Harris, on the water. Within hours, the Laser Class President, Tracy Usher, and several Laser greats, including Chris Boome, Russ Silvestri, Nick Burke and Ron Witzel, were lining up boats. One of them even suggested that they should invite OTUSA's Tom Slingsby to join us. Tom has won the Laser Worlds and an Olympic Gold medal last summer. Ken and I talked about showing up with a foiling Laser.

    The 34th Defense of the America's Cup might conclude on Thursday with a New Zealand victory in one of two scheduled races. If Jimmy Spithill can dig down deep, find his inner strength and win on Thursday, he might be able to start running the table. It would be the comeback of all time. What fun it will be to watch.

 Our coverage continues LIVE on the NBC Sports Network at 4 pm ET, (1 pm PT).

Left to right. Stan Honey,  L-R: Stan Honey, Leon Sefton, Wayne Leonard, Gary Jobson, Todd Harris, Ken ReadAll photos except this last group shot are courtesy of photographer Steven Tsuchiya.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Note 11: A New Sport Emerges PDF Print

Gary Jobson, covering the 34th America's Cup from onboard the committee boat (photo credit: Steven Tsuchiya)

By Gary Jobson, President
National Sailing Hall of Fame

September 15, 2013

    When I arrived off the water this afternoon following two thrilling America's Cup races, my co-commentator, Ken Read, said, "Sailing will never be the same." The vision Larry Ellison and Russell Coutts had about high-speed catamarans racing up and down San Francisco Bay is now a reality. Sure, it got off to a slow start in July, but today was some of the most exciting racing I have witnessed as a competitor or spectator. We may never see a spectacle like this again, but right now the 34th America's Cup defense is proving to be sports theater at its best.

    The day started with the westerly breeze blowing in at 20 knots, with a swift current ebbing at 2.2 knots. There was a steep chop. At the start of Race Nine, Oracle Team USA, led by Australian skipper, James Spithill, clobbered Emirates Team New Zealand's skipper, Dean Barker. The Kiwis were three lengths behind at the first turning mark. Downwind the boats appeared to be even in speed. At the leeward gate, the boats split to opposite sides of the course. OTUSA's superstar tactician, Ben Ainslie, found the best current and wind to stretch their lead. At one point ETNZ was foiling upwind at 32 knots. They were able to do this by sailing a slightly lower course. But they gave away too much windward distance to gain any ground on the American team. The wind behaved and stayed just below the 20.8-knot wind limit. When Spithill and crew crossed the finish line, team owner Larry Ellison raised both arms in triumph. I think he was just as happy for this team as he was that his vision of the America's Cup was working.

    Once again, there were huge crowds on the San Francisco waterfront, along with about 500 vessels of all sizes out on the bay. I call the race from the race committee boat, Regardless, while my colleagues, Todd Harris and Ken Read, work from shore. Today, I had the better seat. We were close to the action and you could see the subtle course changes and sailing techniques on these short 21-25 minute races. The courses are ten miles long. As an aside, I think they should include two more legs and be 40 minutes in length.

    In Race Two, Spithill was slightly ahead and to windward at the start. Approaching the first turn OTUSA went off their foils for just one second, allowing ETNZ to hold on to a slim overlap. Barker took a very wide turn, forcing Spithill to wait to bear away on Leg Two. The move gave the Kiwis a four-length lead. Downwind nothing changed. At the leeward gate the two boats split tacks again. Back on the wind, the USA started gaining. They appeared to be a little faster. On the third cross, Barker had to dip behind Spithill, who was on starboard with the right of way. The very next cross saw the boats change leads again, when Spithill dipped below Barker. The race was riveting.

    Approaching the windward gate, OTUSA was on starboard approaching the left gate. Barker slowed his boat down to cross behind Spithill, but rounded the right side gate. They were only one second apart. Ainslie called for OTUSA to sail down the city front, and New Zealand's tactician, Ray Davies, elected to sail out in the bay. When the boats converged it looked even. The Kiwis were on starboard. Spithill slowed down to give way. New Zealand took the lead and held on to the finish. The boats split wins for the day, and the score now stands 7-1. ETNZ needs two more wins to claim the America's Cup. OTUSA needs 8 more wins. It sounds daunting, but Spithill sounds very determined to turn the tide. The American design and shore crew have found ways to lighten the boat, move some weight around and make several small modifications. The changes have helped the USA level the playing field. We have seen ten starts now. By my scorecard Spithill and Barker have each won five.

    With the boats so even, the premium on the start, good boat handling and clever tactics will likely be make the difference in the Cup. On television the boats look great, but in person they are even more impressive. The speed, size and power of these machines is inspiring. To paraphrase a Yogi Berra comment, “They are even better looking than they look."

    On the leaderboard the American team is deep. But I think they can still win. Monday is a scheduled lay day. OTUSA gets better every time they go into the shed for modifications. New Zealand needs to be careful not to stay in one place. They have the luxury of making some experimental changes and if they loose two races they can easily go back to an earlier measurement configuration. One thing we have learned is that Spithill, Ainslie and their team are getting better, and will continue to improve.

    Tuesday the wind is forecasted to be strong again. If we are able to race, OTUSA will be fast. However, I wonder if they have given away some of their light air speed to gain in a strong breeze? The measurers allow new certificates every day. OTUSA cannot afford to make any mistakes with their modifications or sailing. They can only afford to lose one more race. The Kiwis certainly like the score, but they are up against a very determined crew that looks like they are getting better every day. Just last week the American team lost ground on every tack. Now both boats are even when maneuvering.

    Emirates Team New Zealand's syndicate head, Grant Dalton, sailed both races today. He was off the boat during the team's only two loses versus six wins when he was on-board. He did get his first loss today, but I think his presence was helpful in getting ready for the second heat, which they won.

    A picture of the legendary Sir Peter Blake is on the wall of the entryway at the New Zealand team base. Sir Peter won around the world races, and led the New Zealand America's Cup team to victory in 1995 as a challenger, and in 2000 as a defender. Blake was killed by thieves in Brazil in 2001. Blake was known for wearing red socks as his good luck charm. In 1995 everyone in New Zealand was wearing red socks. Grant Dalton is one tough 56-year old who has won round the world races, and came close to winning the America's Cup in 2007. The Kiwis certainly gain inspiration from the memory of Peter Blake. Grant Dalton is working hard to honor his one time rival and friend. I doubt Dalton knows the story, but let's just say the team wants to win one for the Gipper. As for the America's Cup, it's hard to imagine what scenario could possibly top what we are watching? An American comeback maybe?

 
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Sail for Education
Mid-Year Update

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Up to 15% discounts for NSHOF founding member clubs - click here for more info


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