In the realm of international yacht racing all eyes are on Newport, RI today as the America’s Cup World Series moves into the semifinal round of its match racing championship. Oracle Team USA’s Jimmy Spithill faces Artemis Racing today and OTUSA’s Russell Coutts will race Luna Rossa Piranha. Winners of the best-of-three match will move on to Sunday’s match racing championship — the conclusion of this year’s multi-city series.
Saturday will be dedicated to fleet racing (see TV shed in our Weekend Update below).
The Bay Area’s Ellen Hoke, having been deputized as a Latitude 38 roving reporter, gave us a behind-the-scenes update this morning after a briefing with AC’s Iain Murray. "Emirates Team New Zealand (which flipped yesterday) was the first boat to capsize with the wing extension. Yes, rumors are true that the kevlar tip did fill with water." It was a very expensive day, she reports, as the overturned hulls suffered water damage, a pod camera was lost, and there was extensive electrical damage. Nevertheless, the boat will be back on the water today.
"All of the teams were working together with bits and pieces to help get ETNZ back on the water," Ellen reports. "There is a great attitude between the team bases as they help each other out." Thus far, no boat has missed a race due to repairs.
Both Oracle Team USA crews put in excellent efforts yesterday, despite spotty wind conditions on much of the course. Spithill (who turned 33 yesterday) and his crew won the opening fleet race, followed moments later by Coutts and crew in second place. Later, both crews won their (best-of-three) quarterfinal matches 2-1.
"The fleet race began as scheduled at noon but the winds were light and patchy," reports OT USA. "On some portions of the racecourse the southwesterly seabreeze was filling, but other portions were in windless zones as the new breeze worked its way up the East Passage of Narragansett Bay. Spithill and crew nailed the start perfectly at the windward end and led the fleet at the first turning mark to great applause from the estimated 5,000 or so spectators lining the shoreline of Fort Adams State Park. Spithill led all the way around the race track to secure the win even though the crew’s one-time comfortable advantage was whittled to mere lengths approaching the finish.
“We got a good jump at the start, but the breeze didn’t quite settle,” said Spithill. “There were a lot of passing lanes and a little bit of stop and go. But I thought JK (John Kostecki, tactician) did a really good job to get us through the mine fields. We were constantly turning our heads, but it was a good one to get under the belt.” Meanwhile, Coutts was admittedly feeling a bit rusty at the helm, as it was his first live ACWS action since last September. ". . .but he staged a furious rally to come from last place at the first leeward gate to second at the finish," the team reported. "Coutts worked the right side of the racecourse up the beat and found a fresh puff of wind that allowed him to overtake many of the competitors to the left of him." In the match racing, Spithill and crew beat Team Korea and Coutts’ boat defeated Luna Rossa Swordfish. See the website for more.