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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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