America’s Cup 35

Oracle Team USA and Softbank Nippon duel at start of race 12.


Six fantastic races were held today on Great Sound, Bermuda, in 12 dropping to 8 knots from the southwest. What is of interest in a condition like this is to see who has the light air boards on and who has the all purpose boards on.

I have been here two days, and may be wrong, but by my eye Artemis had the light air boards on and Oracle had their smaller heavy air boards today.  What this means is that if the wind drops and you get caught with the smaller boards on you have trouble keeping the boat up on foils.  The speed difference between foiling and non foiling is about 6 knots.  So it doesn’t take much time out of a tack, with the hulls in the water, to lose a lead.  The reason to have the smaller boards is that they create less drag when the boat is at high speed in stronger winds.  Not only are the surface areas different between the boards but the sectional shape is different as well…thinner for the high speed foils.

One more subtlety; some teams use a smaller board on the port side of the boat than on the starboard side.  This is because the first leg of the course is a high speed reach and you want a smaller, thinner board for that.  So when the wind gets light, the first place boats struggle is tacking onto starboard tack up wind.

Again, I may be wrong.

In the first race of the day, race 7 of the round, everyone was expecting a non event but the French raised up and claimed their first scalp off Artemis. The French won the start but got rolled in the first gybe; still not steady or consistent in the maneuvers. However, the wind was shifty and up the first windward leg, Artemis got out of phase and the French climbed back and took the lead.  They we just able to hang on and win by one boat length.  Huge for the French!

Groupama France lead Artemis Sweden

Race 8 pitted Oracle vs. BAR. Br won the start handily and was ahead at the bottom gate.  oracle split and got some good shifts.  Passed BAR and stretched from there.  Game over.

Race 9-ETNZ vs. Nippon. Dean Barker on Nippon chased Peter Berling down to the pauline and left him there to have a slow start.  Nippon leads at first mark and up the first windward leg.  Down the first run ETNZ showed more wind on the east side of the course and made a big gain.  Nippon able to hold on but ETNZ goes to the east side out of the bottom and makes big gain on Nippon.  When Nippon switches sides to go the the east, the wind shifted to the west and put ETNZ ahead. Game over.

For races 10-12, my friend Joey and I got on the “Race Chase” boat and followed the competitors on the race course.  This is a very cool program offered by the event to give fans a very close look at the action on the water.

Race 10-Oracle USA vs. Artemis SWE. Wind down to 8 knots. Artemis on big boards, Oracle Team USA on small boards. Bad start by Spithill; locked out to windward. On second windward leg, Oracle had trouble foiling.  Artemis sails well and fast. Race over, Artemis wins.

Race 11-BAR (GBR) vs. ETNZ. Kiwis get a penalty in the prestart for a port starboard on the entry.  They have to get one boat length clear astern of BAR after start.  They do. After leading at the first mark, BAR wait too long to gybe for leeward gate. Kiwis gybe simultaneously and make the left gate mark. Kiwis stretch take lead and stretch.  Game over.

Race 12- Oracle vs. Nippon. Wind builds back up to 9.  Saves Oracle on the small boards. Good start by Oracle and they sail very well.  All tacks very smooth.  Stretch all the time-large margin of victory.

Tomorrow the last 3 matches of round robin one are scheduled; Artemis vs. Kiwis to be one of them. Oracle is done for this round finishing with a 4 – 1 record to win the round.  The forecast is for more of the same conditions so it will be interesting to see who changes to larger boards.

Lessons from the day; it seems better to error on big boards, and it is very shifty out there so the races are never over.

After two days, I think this will be a great America’s Cup.  Why:  Fast boats are cool if the racing is competitive and it is, lots of lead changes, short races, excellent venue to race these boats, the best AC Village ever (will describe another day), great television production, Bermudians are great hosts. I am really lucky to be here and looking forward to the entire month.


Look familiar? 4 years later, different venue.