America’s Cup 35

A proud nation!

Bermuda

It’s done and dusted.  The Kiwis were a force too strong to be reckoned with.  They innovated and backed themselves! The Cup now returns to New Zealand where a nation that is passionate about sailing and will embrace it with gusto.

Today’s race was just a rerun of the other 8.  Groundhog Day.  Nine knots of wind, sunny, warm, and a faster Kiwi boat being pedaled by four cyclists, carrying a very talented young sailor around in an armchair. He hardly looked like he was in a competition..more like a Sunday drive.  Peter Burling, 26 years old, becomes the youngest helmsman to win the America’s Cup surpassing Jimmy Spithill who won at the age of 30 in 2010. How would it be to win a gold medal and then the America’s Cup all in 10 months at the age of 26?  What do you do for the next 30 years?

The Island nation of Bermuda was a spectacular host in every way.  The crystal clear water, the warm gentle breeze and the friendly people.  It was a gem of a regatta.

Now it’s over to the Kiwis to make the rules?  What kind of boat will it be?  Mono hull or multihull?  When will it be?  Where will it be?  I think there will be a large number of challengers least initially.  Bertelli, Bertarelli,  DeVos, New York Yacht Club, BAR, Artemis, Japan, France, Australia.  I expect at least 12 challengers at the outset with about 9 showing up. Maybe the Kiwis and their Italian friends, Mateo de Nora and Patricia Bertelli will go for a large (80-90′) monohull, fixed keel, masthead roller furling headsails downwind, 15 crew.  The boats could be quite fast, not as fast at the cats, but there would be plenty of action onboard.  They will probably go for a 100% nationality requirement as this is the tradition of the America’s Cup and it suits the Kiwis.  They will wait 4 years to host the Cup. But what do I know, it’s all just speculation.  There will be plenty of that in the next few months.

I do think this America’s Cup was amongst the best ever. The television was the best ever, the village was the best ever,  the races were short and sharp and the boats were shockingly fast!  The whole event was shrunk down to 5 weeks.  There is a lot that was good there.  Hopefully the Kiwis can build on that.

I am off to Denmark to race with my son in his first Star World Championship.  I should mention that I will be the crew!  Danny’s grandfather, Pelle Petterson, also a past Star World Champion, will be coming down to watch us race so we will have three generations of Star sailors in attendance.

Paul

America’s Cup 35

Bermuda

This cake is pretty well baked.   There are people remembering the comeback of all time in 2013.  Same teams, same situation with ETNZ on match point and Oracle with a very steep hill to climb.  But the situation is much different.  There is no “low hanging fruit” this time.  The boats are very developed and there is no 10% increase in boat speed to be found over night. If there is to be a comeback, it is going to be through exceptional sailing on the part of the USA team, something that frankly has been glaringly missing in the America’s Cup.

It isn’t that the Kiwis are doing exceptional things.  They are fast, but so is Oracle now.  They are sailing consistently and they make high percentage decisions.  On top of that, Oracle is making it easy for the Kiwis. This entire series, starting with the start of race 1 when the American team was penalized for being over the start line early, has been a demonstration of sub par sailing by USA. The start of the second race of today was an example of that.  Spithill tried to get tricky and Burling simply hooked him, parked him and left him for dead.

Emirates Team New Zealand 14 seconds ahead at the start of race 8.

The world was expecting a different American team following on from the win in race 6 and solving their speed deficit of the first 4 races.  Yet, right from the start of both races today, the Americans were on the back foot…14 seconds worth in race 2.  You can’t beat this Kiwi team sailing like that.  Then the Americans even sailed out of bounds in race 2.  How?  Why?  Hard to understand.

The forecast for tomorrow is more of the same; 5-10 knots of balmy, humid wind.  Just like the Kiwis like it. It could all be over by 14:35 tomorrow.

But Jimmy Spithill is vowing to take it one race at a time.  He says they have the speed to win but admits they needs to sail better.  The lineup of the crew came into question at the post race press conference and Jimmy said; “Everything is on the table”.  He said that he and Tom Slingsby will make the crew decisions for tomorrow just a they have always done. I think substituting someone for Spithill as this stage would be suicidal. The Kiwis tried that in 1992 with Russell Coutts coming in for Rod Davis and as good as we all know Russell is, it didn’t work. The only way to victory for this team is to hang together and sail perfectly, 6 times.  But they only need to, and only can, win one race at time.

It is a very, very tall order.

Paul

America’s Cup 35

Oracle and New Zealand crossing tacks. Photo by Richard Smith

Bermuda

Races 5 and 6 of the 35th America’s Cup were held today on Great Sound in Bermuda in 10 knots of wind.  The question on everyone’s mind was: Did Oracle Team USA find some speed to make this Cup competitive?  The answer is yes!

The Kiwis won the first race today and moved to 4-0 in the series. The American’s won the second race of the day and moved the core to 4-1.  But the important fact is that Oracle was competitive in both races which was not the case last weekend. It appears that the American’s made new set of rudder foils called “elevators”.  The new pair are at rule minimum where as the elevators from last weekend were at maximum size. The reduction in drag using the smaller surface area elevators was dramatic.  The Kiwis had beaten the American’s to the punch in the elevator department, sporting the smaller ones last weekend.

So the light wind phobia seems to be behind the American’s and they can win a race in 10 knots of wind. Also, with today’s win, the series will definitely go into Monday which currently has a 15 knots forecast and could be to the American’s liking.

Still, the Americans are leaving a lot on the table with poor sailing.  Another botched start and a penalty on the first upwind leg in race 5 and a badly overlaid leeward gate in race 6, were a few of the costly errors by Oracle.  They really need to tighten this up if they want to win.  I am sure they know this and are frustrated.

In race 6, Oracle won the start and led and marks 1, 2 and 3.  Approaching the leeward gate for the second time, Oracle simply sailed past the lay line and the Kiwis laid the mark and cut in front of the Americans.  Superior upwind speed and getting in phase with the wind got the American’s back in front and a favorable split at the windward gate saw them sail in more pressure and double their lead heading to the last mark.

This swing of events has to be good for morale in the Oracle base and a bit concerning to the Kiwis.  Their advantage in light wind has been eliminated by the resilient American team.  Oracle still has  mountain to climb to get back to even but it has to start somewhere and in 2013 it didn’t start until the Kiwis hd 8 match points on the American’s.  Here, in Bermuda this year, the Kiwis still have to win 3 so there is just a bit more room for the Americans.

At the skippers press conference, Peter Burling, responding to a question said, “Well we were waiting for a bit of a fight from these guys.”  To which Jimmy Spithill replied, “Aw mate, we have only just begun.”  If he intended to intimidate Spithill, the young Kiwis skipper may have overstepped just a bit. It is a bit too early for that.  I am sure many Kiwi fans back home in New Zealand will be remembering the 8-0 march that Oracle went on in 2013 to keep the Cup out of Kiwi hands when they all but had it strapped to an Air New Zealand seat, with a score of 8-1 in a first to 9 series!

The forecast for tomorrow is for 8-12 knots and races 7 and 8 are scheduled.

I am spending the weekend in the BT Sports boat with, double Olympic Gold medalist, Shirley Roberston, commenting on the races for the British audience.

Paul

 

 

America’s Cup 35

Bermuda

Races three and four were run today on Great Sound and the result was the same. He KIWI dominance in this wind range is impressive.

The Kiwi foils and wing combine to generate 7-10% more speed around the race course over the American boat.

The questions are; do the Americans know what to do exactly to improve, and can they get it done in 5 days?  No doubt they have the financial and human resources to put to the task.

As Jimmy Spithill said tonight; the next 5 days will be the most critical of their campaign.

Tune in next Saturday to see if the comeback specialists can do it once again.

Paul

America’s Cup 35

Oracle vs ETNZ start of race 2.      Photos by Richard Smith

Bermuda

The first two races of America’s Cup 35 were held today on Great Sound in Bermuda.  The conditions were on the lighter side of the spectrum with east winds at 8 knots.  This meant that the wind was blowing over the island before landing on the race course, which made for a few big wind shifts.

As with all America’s Cups, predicting the outcome is difficult.  The competitors hadn’t raced each other in over two weeks and both had made several changes and improvements since that time.  So while some felt they could predict the outcome, we really had no good read on how the teams would stack up and that is part of the beauty and intrigue of the Cup.

In the first race, Jimmy Spithill made an uncharacteristic error in getting too close to the starting line well before the starting gun.  He was subsequently “over the line early” which resulted in a penalty, but his whole set up was too early from 1 minute prior to the start.  From there, the Kiwis were simply faster, mainly downwind but also making substantial gains out of every maneuver.

Race 2 was more of the same except the start was a bit more even with Oracle in the favored leeward position but slower. The Kiwis showed they had wheels once again and smoked over the top of Oracle Team USA and out to a comfortable lead at Mark 2.  The Kiwis stretched out to a 600 meter gap before Oracle began to whittle away at their lead on leg 5 by getting nicely in phase with the wind shifts.  Tom Slingsby did a great job here and the boats rounded the windward gate, for the last time, bow to stern.  At the first gybe, the American boat fell off its foils, sunk into the water and the Kiwis sped away and to a 1 minute victory.

Speed merchants!

The score after day 1 is Kiwis 1-USA 0.  Remember the USA had one bonus point coming into the match for winning the qualification series two weeks ago.

The American’s have to be a bit shell shocked.  At times, the Kiwi boat was  5 knots faster on the down wind legs and averaged over 2 knots faster for the entire race.  Both teams had their light air board configurations on.  The Kiwis, very angular at about 2.9 meters on the horizontal part of the foil, while the Americans sported their very smooth, almost 90 degree horizontal foil, also at about 2.9 meters in span.

I am sure the brains at Oracle Team USA are hard a work tonight trying to figure out what they can do overnight to put a faster boat on the track to tomorrow. The forecast for tomorrow is 8 to 12 knots from the southeast.  Most of us here believe that a bit more wind would be better for the American’s.  Let’s see if tomorrow’s conditions, plus a tune up, can change the look of this regatta.  Remember, these same Oracle guys are the ones that were down 1-8 and came back to win 9-8 in San Francisco in 2013.

Paul

Beautiful J-Boats raced prior to the Cup Match.  This reminded us of the speed difference.

 

 

 

 

America’s Cup 35

Photos by Richard Smith

Bermuda

The final race of the Challenger Playoff Final was held today on a cloud covered and squally day on Great Sound.  There was an abandoned race that featured the Kiwis leading at mark 1, 2 and 3 and then the wind completely shut down and the time limit ran out.  After a 1.5 hour wait, a southwesterly wind filled in at 8 knots and the race was started at 16:15 local time.

Again, Peter Burling should good control of the pre-start and led at Mark 1.  The Kiwis showed superior speed right away and that was the story of this race.  The Kiwis, finally in the lead from the get go, could never be touched.  They won the final race by 55 seconds and got themselves a spot in the 35th America’s Cup Match against Defender Oracle Team USA next Saturday.

The Kiwis looked very fast today.  It makes me wonder how Oracle would stack up in those conditions.  I think Oracle is faster than Artemis but it is near impossible to speculate on how their speed compares to the Kiwis. Apart from all the board talk, I think the Kiwis are generating more power from their wing.  They have a completely different method of trimming their wing and it is not something that would be easy to copy.  This is a big factor in winds under 12 knots.

So the stage is set.  We haven’t seen the Kiwis vs. Oracle in 10 days.  Surely both teams have moved on since that time anyway.  This is the beauty of the America’s Cup…that first line up, that first time both boats will come off the line screaming toward mark 1. Who will be faster?  If they are faster in 8 knots, will they be faster in 16 knots.  All these unknowns!

Tune in Saturday June 17 to find out.  I am predicting two very even teams and a long, competitive series.

Paul

The spectators are starting to show up in Bermuda.

America’s Cup 35

Bermuda

Races 4, 5 and 6 of the Challenger Playoff Final were held today in winds from 16 knots to as little as 11 knots.  The big factor for the day was that the teams both changed their daggerboards in opposite directions.  The Swedes went for the small, high speed boards which are best suited to stronger winds while the Kiwis opted for the bigger low speed, light wind boards.  This was probably mostly driven by different weather forecasts.

As it turned out, race 4, was sailed in 16 knots and Artemis had it right and led wire to wire. Score goes to 2-2.

In race 5, the wind was the lightest of the day at 11 knots.  The Kiwis were fast upwind and won this race even though they were behind at mark 1 and 2. Artemis misplaced a tack on the first upwind leg and the Kiwis sail around them rather easily.  Ultimately Artemis had some daggerboard issues on the final run of this race and retired to address them and be ready for race 6.

In race 6, once again Artemis had the lead at marks 1 and 2. On the first upwind leg, the Kiwis tacked to port and Artemis did a big dial down, aiming at the Kiwis and forcing them to make a big alteration of course, and fall off their foils.  Still the Kiwis are going faster and come to the top gate even with Artemis.  Down the run the Kiwis pass in more wind on the left side of the course and build a decent lead during legs 4, 5 and 6.  At the final gate, the Kiwis mismanage the lay line and fall off their foils in a gybe. Artemis was bearing down on them at 40 knots while the Kiwis were doing 15 knots.  The Kiwis got up and foiling just in time to win by 1 second.  Heart stopping stuff for Kiwi fans.

The Kiwis now lead the series 4-2.  Artemis has to win 3 in a row tomorrow to win the series while the Kiwis need just one more win.

The Kiwis have been behind at Mark 1 and 2 in all 6 races of these finals.  Today, Artemis’ smaller boards helped them on leg 1 but they paid for that on the upwind legs in races 5 and 6.  Still, Peter Burling is going to have to do better in the starts and boat on boat situations to beat Jimmy Spithill and the Oracle team in the Cup.

As a side note, I got to follow the race in the television boat which is right behind the race boats.  I was used by the America’s Cup TV crew to give a few comment from the race track.  I had fun doing that and hope to be “used” again someday.

Paul

America’s Cup 35

Bermuda

Today was the first day of the Challenger Playoff Final featuring Artemis of Sweden against ETNZ of New Zealand.  This event used to be known as the Louis Vuitton Cup.  Three races were held in a building breeze that started out at 7 knots and finished up around 12 knots from the southwest.

Artemis had their light air foils on and ETNZ had moderate foils with and extra long tip to gain a bit of surface.  The difference there for the Kiwi’s would be sectional shape probably…a bit thinner section for higher potential maximum speed but harder to produce lift at slow speed like out of a tack.  While the board itself must be chosen very early each morning, the teams can change 10% of the weight or volume of the foil up to about 2 hours prior to the start.  So total area can be adjusted late but the section shape of the main part of the board would be determined much earlier by the actual boat choice.  In this way there can be subtle differences to arrive at the same lift producing foil.

The highlights: ETNZ won 2 races while Artemis won 1. Artemis won every start.  Once ETNZ was ahead, they stretched gradually.  When Artemis was ahead, they match raced well to keep the faster boat behind as long as possible. In race 2, this worked.  In races 1 and 3, the Kiwi’s were just too fast.  If ENTZ wins 2 out of 3 races when losing every start, it wont be pretty if they start to win the starts.

Race 1: 7-9 knots of wind. The largest headsails were used on both boats. Artemis wins the start and holds lead to first bottom gate. Up first windward leg, Kiwi’s tack better despite more high speed boards. Is this a function of more oil being available due to the bikes being more efficient than arm grinding? On a long starboard, Artemis tries to tack on Kiwi’s but they gap off to windward and hold Artemis to boundary. Near the boundary, the Kiwi’s to windward, tack away first.  Artemis sails on and out of bounds!  Self inflicted!  Penalty to the Swedes, and with the Kiwi’s now ahead they gradually stretch over next three legs.  Kiwi’s win race 1.

Race 2: 10-12 knots.  Both teams change to medium jibs. Artemis starts to leeward and in control.  The Kiwi’s are going slightly faster to windward but a bit too close to Artemis who luff the Kiwi’s to slow their progress. Perfectly executed, Artemis stretches out to 3 boat length lead at Mark 1. Artemis does great job of controlling race and the Kiwi’s never create a split.  Artemis tacks on the Kiwi’s on port tack near the top of leg 5 and stretch.  The Swedes take this one to even the score.  It looks like the two boats are even enough that Artemis can win if they win the start and sail perfectly.

Race 3: Artemis wins start again and controls race for lap 1. At bottom of leg 4, Artemis stuffs bows in hard and slows quite a bit.  The Kiwi’s close to 60 meters and split, rounding the opposite mark at gate. First couple of crosses are close but Swedes still maintain lead. Near top of leg 5, Kiwi’s tack to port to lay right hand gate mark and Swedes follow. Nathan Outteridge, helmsman of Artemis slips when crossing the boat and falls off.  There is a bit of confusion onboard Artemis as they figure out who should steer.  Finally Luke Patience steers and it is obvious that controlling the boat is going to be tough.  This could be because as they had one less man onboard they were therefore short of oil pressure to control the boards.  Artemis retire.  Kiwi’s go up 2-1.

This looks like it will be a great series. I think the Kiwi’s need to use this series to work on their starts and boat on boat tactics.  They may make it through this round without winning a start but I don’t think they will beat Oracle without winning starts.

Paul

America’s Cup 35

Bermuda

One race was held today between Artemis and Softbank Japan in 20 knots from the south.  Japan hit something underwater about an hour before the start.  There didn’t appear to be significant damage to their boat but the investigation by the shore team definitely through the Japanese off their pre game program.

In the race, the Japanese got the better start but seemed to have trouble with the bear away around Mark 1. Up the first windward leg and down the second downwind, the Japanese were just ahead of the Swedish team. Up the second windward leg, the Swedes were sailing faster on a long starboard tack. At the boundary the Swedes were able to ask for room to tack and the Japanese tried to get too fancy and delayed their tack just a bit.  This allowed Artemis to get up and foiling on port and the hooked Softbank and luffed them.  That was pretty much game, set and match.

So Artemis move on to face the Kiwi’s in the Challenger Playoff Final starting tomorrow.  Three races a day on Saturday and Sunday with the breeze slowly moderating each day.

 

Paul

America’s Cup 35

Artemis goes 3-0 when it counts.   Photos by Richard Smith

Bermuda

Six races were held in the Challenger Playoff Semifinal today on Great Sound in 12-14 knots from the south.  With yesterday’s races lost to winds in the 30 knot range, Race organizers were keen to try to catch up on the schedule today.

In the first match, ETNZ had a problem with their port dagger board in the final approach to start and BAR had a 20 second lead off the line.  The Kiwi’s looked a bit unstable through the first three legs but gradually got things under control and their speed started to show. Maybe they were having some lingering effects from the capsize and subsequent soaking of their instruments on Tuesday. On leg 5 however, the Kiwi’s closed and eventually passed BAR and went on to win.  When able to control their boat, their speed was noticeably superior. This put ETNZ in a 4-1 advantage in this semi final.

In match 2, Japan had  Artemis in a bad spot but pulled the trigger a bit too soon and was over the starting line early and had to drop back behind Artemis. Artemis used old school match race tactics to keep tight control over the evenly match Japanese team and went on to win, brining that series to 3-2 in favor of the Japanese.

In match 3, a must win for BAR, they got the leeward side at the start and just hung on to the lead around Mark 1 and down the first run. Both boats rounded the same gate at the bottom and BAR kept a tight grip on the kiwis initially.  About a third of the way up leg 3, the Kiwi’s tacked off and BAR continued toward more pressure and extended their lead 50 meters.  They knew they would need every meter to hold off the faster boat from New Zealand. Sailing the perfect race, BAR held off the Kiwi’s to take the win and bring the score to 4-2 in favor of New Zealand.

In match 4, Japan, pushing Artemis, got too low on the lay line into the left hand mark and started 10 seconds late.  Good recognition, by Outteridge, of the time and lay line situation so he knew when to give up fighting for the left and gauge up off Softbank. The Japanese looked less than smooth on the first upwind, making some bad tacks while Artemis, once again employing classic match race tactics, gradually stretched away to take the win.  The score in that series now   3-3.

In Match 5, BAR was late for the start, game over as the Kiwi’s had the faster boat.  That brought the BAR challenge to a close.  It is easy to see that these teams are still evolving their technique and equipment.  The Brits definitely sailed their bast race today.

In match 6, Japan had the coveted left position off the line and barely held the inside at mark one and down to the leeward gate. Artemis systematically gybe early heading to the gate to set up the split at the bottom, something Softbank never did when trailing.  At first cross on leg 3, Softbank were 100 meters ahead.   The Japanese maintained this lead around the next lap but upwind on leg 5, Artemis were closing.  As the boats were getting critically close, with Artemis coming back on starboard tack, the Japanese tacked in a spot where they had to bear away to miss the pink Vineyard Vines, Mark 1 which is a 3 meter diameter mark.  This ultimately cost the Japanese the lead and the race.  At the final top mark, Artemis was coming on port tack and Japan on Starboard tack. Artemis had buoy room, which is the room needed to round a mark while sailing her proper course.  The Japanese were three boat lengths wide of the mark leaving Artemis plenty of room in my opinion.  Artemis approached the mark very tight and did not tack within the three boat lengths of room that Japan had left them.  In my opinion, a proper course rounding would have been set up and executed differently.  But clearly Artemis were trying to initiate a rules confrontation and not necessarily interested in rounding the mark while sailing a proper course.  The Swedes protested and the jury sided with them. I am not sure how the umpire debrief went but I think there may have been some memory there for the bad call, made at Artemis’ expense, a week ago.  But that too is part of sport.  That is why the coaches are constantly complaining to the refs in basketball.

So ETNZ are through to the Challenger Playoff final which start Saturday.  Softbank and Artemis have to race tomorrow the decide the winner of their semi final.  Two races are scheduled; one win is needed for the Swedes to move on and two wins are needed for the Japanese.

Paul