The first America’s Cup World Series event of the 2012-1013 schedule concluded yesterday along the San Francisco Cityfront, with the home team, Oracle Team USA, taking top honors in both match racing and fleet racing.
If you weren’t lucky enough to be among the spirited crowds who witnessed the final match race between top contenders Jimmy Spithill and Russell Coutts (both of Oracle Team USA), you owe it to yourself to watch it via the America’s Cup You Tube channel. The hard-fought duel was a classic illustration of match racing artistry, with the lead changing three times, and the older but apparently more clever Coutts — who’s won the America’s Cup itself four times — squeaking out the win by a mere one second. The final sprint to the finish line was a heart-pounder, with both AC45 cats blasting toward the line at over 20 knots. Great stuff! (During Saturday’s semi finals, Coutts had eliminated Artemis Racing White, and Spithill had taken out Emirates Team New Zealand.)
Less than an hour later, the final fleet race was staged, with several teams contending for the overall win, as points earned in the final race were dramatically higher than in the previous six races (i.e. 40 for first, rather than 12 previously).
With 61 points going into the final, Spithill’s team found themselves in an intense battle of speed and wits with Team Korea, skippered by 26-year-old 49er and Moth champion Nathan Outteridge. As the two cats rounded the final mark, Spithill’s boat had a slight overlap on Outteridge’s stern. When Team Korea drew a ‘slow-down’ penalty, Spithill slipped from third to second place — behind Luna Rossa Piranha — which was just enough to capture the fleet racing and event championship. Spithill’s Oracle Team USA finished with 86 points over Piranha’s 85.
By all accounts, the week’s events were a great success, with huge crowds of spectators turning out both along the shore and on the water. It’s estimated that more than 150,000 enthusiasts visited the AC Village at Marina Green. “The response from the public has exceeded our expectations,” said Stephen Barclay, the CEO of the 34th America’s Cup. “It’s simply been wonderful for everyone involved.”
The ACWS traveling road show will take a break until October (2-7), when a second San Francisco series will be staged along the Cityfront, coinciding with Fleet Week celebrations. While you’re marking your calendars, be sure to pencil in the main events of the 34th America’s Cup next summer — raced in 72-ft cats with 131-ft wing masts. Dates: the Louis Vuitton challenger series, July 4 to September 1, and the America’s Cup finals, September 7 to 22.
Building on the just-completed AC World Series, San Francisco Bay will be the focal point of world-class yacht racing for the foreseeable future. And as organizers frequently remind us, there has never before been an AC venue that’s more accessible to spectators. For complete info on past and future AC events, visit the organization’s excellent website.