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

 

 

America’s Cup 35

Artemis stuffing the windward hull. Photos by Richard Smith

Bermuda

Big day on Great Sound.  Four races were held at the upper limit of the wind range today and the skills of these sailors were tested.  The pre start jostling was rather tame today and in three out of the four starts, one of the teams was late to the line.  It seems that teams had come to the conclusion that they weren’t going to win the race at the start but they could easily loose it.

The first pairing of today was Artemis vs. Softbank Japan. Artemis was late to the line and had significant control problems.  Around the leeward mark Artemis stuffed the bow into the water and ripped off the fairings on the forward beam.  Their control problems continued and the Japanese, who sailed relatively smoothly, went on to win.  Artemis retired on leg 7 to save crew energy and effectuate repairs for their next race.

Several teams were at the limit of control today and I am not sure if it was the sensitivity of the mechanism that is hard to control or a lack of hydraulic oil being supplied.

The second race featured ETNZ vs Land Rover BAR. ETNZ had damaged their wing in the morning tune up session and had to hustle in to put in their backup wing and made the start with 3 minutes to spare. ETNZ was late to the line and BAR was sailing smoothly with decent control while the Kiwi’s looked a bit wobbly. By leg 5, upwind, the Kiwi’s had settled their boat down and the speed started to kick in. As they closed in on the Brits, they set up to leeward on a long starboard tack.  Slowly but surely the Kiwi’s edged forward and when they reached the boundary, they were able to tack and cross BAR.  From there the Kiwi’s looked solid and stretched away for their third win in the series.

In the second race between Artemis and Japan, Japan won the start once again. Japan looked in control as they bore away at the first mark hitting 46 knots!  Artemis lost control, could not bear away and subsequently went out of bounds and was awarded two penalties. The Japanese sailed off to a big lead which they managed the whole way around the track for their second win of the day.  Japan now leads this series 3-1.

In the final race, ETNZ was schooled by Ainslie and locked out at the windward end at the start.  As Ainslie bore away to cross the line, at the last possible moment, Burling tried to follow.  Unfortunately for Burling, he had trouble managing the maneuver and pitch-polled the Kiwi boat.  Race over.  Fortunately, no one was injured but the damage was significant.  As they had a problem with their #1 wing this morning it was a shore and safe, and will be ready for action tomorrow.  But the electronics in the port hull and the fairings  all over, were certainly worse for wear.  It will be a long night in the Kiwi shed but they may get a break in that the forecast for tomorrow is 40 knots of wind.  So they may get and extra 24 hours to get their craft back in once piece.

Paul

 

 

America’s Cup 35-Challenger Playoff

Bermuda

The Challenger Playoff started today on Great Sound in 15 knots from the southeast. The first pairing featured ETNZ against BAR while the second pairing was Artemis vs. Softbank Japan. Each pair was to race two matches today.

In the first race, ETNZ handily won the start over BAR and led around the first mark and down the first run.  After ETNZ rounded the gate and headed off to the right, BAR approached the gate. All of a sudden they heard a loud noise inside their wing and the team immediately stopped racing to inspect.  It was ascertained that the camber arm had broken and BAR retired from the race.

Unfortunately for all, the fix was to change the wing and that could not be done within the hour that they had available.  So the Kiwi’s went up 2-0.

In the Artemis vs. Japan pairing, Artemis started strong in the first race and led round the first mark and down around the leeward gate. Japan split to the right and immediately got in phase with the wind.  At the first cross, Artemis on port, had to duck Japan now on Starboard.  Japan was going well and stretched their lead and went on to win race 1.

Japan looked to be a solid competitor for Artemis.  Should be a good series.

In Race 2, Japan got the better start and led for a lap and a half.  Up the second windward leg, Artemis, sailing faster, closed and passed Japan.  Artemis went on to win and tie the score in their series at 1-1.

It looked to me like Artemis made a change between the two races and was going better in race 2.  Maybe a change to the rudders in some way…just a guess.

Two races for each pair are scheduled for tomorrow.  The forecast has southwest winds at 18 knot building to 22 knots later in the afternoon.  Should be a good day of racing at the upper end of the range.  Wednesday looks too windy to race and Thursday looks like 10-12 knots.

Let’s hope BAR gets their back up wing on and comes out fighting tomorrow!

Paul

 

America’s Cup 35

Match of the Day-Oracle vs. ETNZ

Bermuda

The final four races of the qualifications series for the 35th America’s Cup were held today in Bermuda in 12 knots dropping to as little as 8 knots as the day went on.

New Zealand vs. Oracle Team USA was the first race of the 35th America’s Cup as the American Team won the race, the series and takes a one point advantage into the America’s Cup Final no matter who the challenger is.

However, Oracle will not race again until June 17.  Meanwhile, starting tomorrow, the challengers continue their elimination series with the semi finals.  The Kiwi’s, being the top challenger, have chosen BAR as their opponent in the semi finals so that leaves SoftBank Team Japan and Artemis Team Sweden to race in the other semifinal.  The first team of each of these pairings to get 5 points will move onto the Louis Vuitton Challenger Finals.

Meanwhile, the qualification series eliminated Groupama Team France.  The team was noticeably deficient in lift from their boards in light air.  They made a gallant effort and won many fans over.  Hopefully they will be back in 2019.

Race 27: Oracle Team USA vs. Emirates Team New Zealand.  Jimmy Spithill schooled the young talent, Peter Burling, at the start giving the Kiwis a penalty. I think this is the Kiwi’s weak point.  In all boat on boat situations, the Kiwi’s come out worse than their opponent.  When they are free to sail in the open, there is no one faster or steadier in their boat handling. The Kiwi’s made some gains upwind and Oracle even ducked them once.  But Oracle, coming back on starboard tack, made the Kiwis tack very close to the windward mark and simply rolled through to leeward and sped off to a huge lead.  On the second windward leg, Oracle pushed the Kiwi’s into the lower right corner by tacking on them.  This produced a 200 meter gain at the next cross. Game over.

 We had a bit of a rift on Rosehearty for the first time ever!

 

None of the rest of the races for the day meant anything to the standings of the qualification series.

Race 28: BAR vs. Japan.  BAR got to leeward of Softbank team Japan and luffed them to a halt just after starting.  Picking his moment to accelerate away, Ainslie stretched to a massive lead on the first run. Japan closed up the first windward leg and went for a cross at the top of the leg but fouled BAR.  This may have been a calculated  foul as ducking the Brits would have left the Japanese in no mans land and the extra tack would have cost 10 lengths where the penalty cost just two lengths. Still the Brits were back in front and maintained control up the second windward leg, game over.  This leave the Japanese as clearly the worst performers of the qualification series and likely suspects to be chosen by the Kiwi’s for the semi finals.

Race 29: France vs. Sweden: Outteridge hooks France and shuts them out at right end of the line.  Penalty to France while the Swedes fly away.  During the course of this race, the French were not able to foil consistently in the now 8 knots of wind.  Artemis had a 96% fly time and won the race by over 2 minutes.

Race 30: USA vs BAR. Spithill dominates the Brits on the start by pushing them down to the lay line for the pin and the gaping up to windward and rolling over BAR.  Then a bit early, the American Team sails down over the Brits and gases them i the final 10 seconds to have a handy lead off the line.  The American’s showed excellent control of their machine and good tactical decision making today. Their best day so far. BAR struggled a bit in the light air having a lower fly time that USA and USA went on to win by 35 seconds.

Final points for the Qualifications Series:

Oracle Team USA     9

ETNZ                           8

Land Rover BAR       6

Artemis- Sweden       5

Japan                           3

France                         2

17:30 update:

Tomorrow’s schedule:

1408 SF1: Race 1   NZL GBR
1437 SF2: Race 1   SWE JPN
1506 SF1: Race 2   GBR NZL
1535 SF2: Race 2   JPN  SWE

The shore teams for the four teams will be working hard through the night to be sure everything is perfect for tomorrow morning. Who knows, someone may have a configuration or board change to employ.  All these teams need to keep evolving in these next two weeks.

Paul