Published On: Fri, Sep 20th, 2013

Larry Ellison’s Oracle Team USA Versus Emirates Team New Zealand : Oracle Wins Race 13

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America’s Cup 2013 :  Now Behind 8-5 on The Water

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InTheBeginning

In 1851 the schooner rigged yacht “America” beats the British around the Isle of Wight watched by Queen Victoria / America’s Cup web site

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Yesterday – i.e. Thursday – Oracle Team USA (Oracle) kept this series alive by winning the first race of the day. Then the second race was cancelled because of high winds so the day ended with Oracle 8-4 down on the water to Emirates Team New Zealand (TNZ). This left TNZ still just one race away from winning the America’s Cup, as they need a total of just 9 race wins to regain the trophy for New Zealand in this 34th America’s Cup series.

Whatever adjustments Oracle have been making to the fine tuning of its boat certainly seemed to continue to be working though, as for much of the racing that did take place yesterday they looked to be the faster boat, both upwind as well as downwind.

When racing started today TNZ seized a big lead in very light airs, even after losing the tactical battle at the start, then hanging on and extending it bit by bit all the way to the finish. But with a 40 minute official time limit to run each race, it was nip and tuck whether the race would be abandoned and have to be run again. And they didn’t make it, so even though TNZ got to the finish line first it didn’t count.

On re-running the race half an hour later Oracle then ran a superb tactical race and came home the winner by a huge margin, thus keeping their defence of the America’s Cup alive. Sailing will now be continued on Saturday – with an 8-5 race tally on the water still in favour of TNZ. The score is creeping back into the zone of respectability for Oracle, however their goal is crystal clear and remains to win the series not to come a sporting second.

Do read the full story of the racing today below to see how it all unfolded, as it was a fascinating day.

Race Report : Race 13

As we get ready for today’s racing a point made on the America’s Cup official web site is worth repeating: Oracle again have absolutely no margin for error today – they have to win every single race from now on to climb past the precipice they are facing. This can, in a way, even be hugely liberating for them; we will certainly find out later today.

The wind was forecast to be getting ready for a blow and earlier this morning had built to 18 miles an hour. With an ebb tide set to be flowing at race time the official prescribed upper wind limits will be 27 miles an hour for the first race and 25 miles an hour for the second.

Yesterday there high winds caused the second race to be cancelled. Today instead we now have the opposite problem and, just to confound everybody, close to the start the wind has dropped to only around 7 miles an hour. Both boats are adding Code 0 gennakers – light air reaching sails that are easier to hoist, set and subsequently dowse than spinnakers. The term gennaker itself is even a compound of “spinnaker” and “genoa” hinting at its dual purpose.

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 The Oracle Team USA brains trust – skipper Jim Spithill, tactician Ben Ainslie and strategist Toms Slingsby/Gilles Martin Raget

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Some fog has also ghosted onto the race course and the start is delayed by five minutes in order to realign the starting box. And we are racing again in San Francisco Bay! But, everybody is going very slowly in these light airs with Oracle now trailing 500 metres behind already on the downwind leg after gybing, and losing a pocket of wind, after initially being in front. But with the slow racing there is also a 40 minute time limit for each race to factor in as well. Both boats are looking for pockets of breeze to beat the competition, as they glide along at “only” 20 miles an hour. This is going to be hard work and both teams will have to do a lot of grinding on those winches as they keep changing direction to seek out some wind advantage.

The hugely complicated hard wing sail on both yachts are managed by complicated hydraulic systems, which are not allowed to be managed using power systems – after all these are sail boats. So instead the eleven man team on each boat spends a lot of its time manually compressing the pumps that work the hydraulics to move the sail around by grinding winches way manually using human muscle tissue only!

Now we see there are only 28 minutes left on the clock before the race time limit kicks in, with the slow upwind leg still to come; this race could be abandoned if the boats do default on time and then they will have to run the race again!

TNZ go through the second mark ahead of Oracle who then also gybe around coming through the mark, but 1 minute and 40 seconds behind TNZ – a huge gap. Now we have two slow boats to China, inching their way up wind with lots of tacks to come. These racing machines are very hard work in light airs. Can TNZ bring this race home aggressively inside the time limit and win the America’s Cup, sitting comfortably presently 500 metres in front?

On just two tacks so far though Oracle have cut the lead to 350 metres, and they are being very patient – there is still a long way to go, folks, in a race that is certainly very different but also just as fascinating as some of the previous ones. Now TNZ builds the lead back up again to over 500 metres, with more wind to come at the top of the mark which should then help increase their average speed and bring them over the line at the end – maybe – just inside the 40 minute time limit.

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 At the back of the boat for Emirates Team New Zealand – skipper Dean Barker, tactician Ray Davies and wing trimmer Glenn Ashby/Gilles Martin Raget

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So it was still looking favorable for TNZ; but TNZ now come around the third mark at the top of the course with over four miles still to sail home now in abut ten minutes. It is going to be tight even though Oracle have basically dropped out of contention, 2 and a half minutes behind and with what looks like a damaged rope (they call it a “sheet” in sailing in a clear abuse of the English language) part of their Code zero reaching sail, on top of everything else. TNZ are now just racing the clock at this point not their opponent.

Still a fascinating race however and very different from all the others we have had. Now TNZ have 7 minutes to go just 2.5 miles and are not going to make it unless a gale springs up from somewhere which is not likely. TNZ will be gutted.

However, a re-run of the race in half an hour’s time should have at least a bit better wind and TNZ have today looked faster in these light airs, so may still have an advantage. Let’s wait and see; four minutes left and a bad wind shift hurts TNZ, and now makes their job even harder.

Less than 30 seconds to the limit and no way they can get the boat home… and the race is abandoned officially due to expiry of the time limit! This race will be re-run in about thirty minutes time. Oracle have dodged yet another bullet and the Oracle guys must have pretty thick skins by now. They have been having great starts too to get to the first mark ahead in the last three races, so the test on the next one will be, again, to see who gets the best start.

Race Director Iain Murray put it well saying after the race was abandoned… “The tactics after the start, with the boats luffing each other, slowed the race down a lot. The breeze has averaged up and we’re set to run another race in 30 minutes.”

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 The hard wing sail in action, it is as big and as complicated as the wing of a Boeing 747 – but fortunately there is only one of them/ Guilain Grenier

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So we get to the pre-start for the re-run of the same 13th race and the boats are going into the box at the two minute point. The America’s Cup still hangs in the balance, but at least the wind has built a little so we should be able to finish a race today…

56 year old Grant Dalton, TNZ’s General Manager has stayed off the boat for both races today giving way to a younger man, after grinding winches on board for several of these races thus far to inspire his team by leading from the thick of the action.

Now barely a minute to the start with enough wind to keep the Code zeros furled and out of the way. Just 45 seconds to go – who will get across the line first when the all clear is sounded?

Oracle tries a hook to block TNZ but doesn’t make it stick so we cross the line with the Kiwis in front instead and they reach over to the first mark. TNZ make it 3 seconds ahead and keep Oracle in their dirty air behind them for long enough to get clear on the down wind run; now TNZ are ahead by 160 metres with both boats going 30 miles an hour already even in these light airs.

Somehow with a sudden wind shift Oracle has got in front by 20 metres in the blinking of an eye. This changes the picture indeed if they can keep it up and are now 130 metres ahead. Then Oracle wins a penalty for a TNZ foul as the boats cross but are already ahead so the penalty is extinguished.

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Can you please tell me the way to Pier 27 ?

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And Oracle head for the second mark and then block the Kiwis with their gybe getting another tactical advantage – Oracle are already around but the Kiwis decide to take another gybe, slow down and then get stuck inching their way around the seaward side of the mark – effectively giving a big advantage to Oracle. This could be a crucial race winning move by Oracle who are now over 100 metres ahead already and have the advantage on the land side of the course with the split, where the wind seems now to be better, tacking well upwind. The boats are speeding well in this race so their will be no more problems with the time limit. Oracle are now 230 metres ahead of TNZ but in these light airs one mistake by Oracle could close this up again in an instant. Great stuff!

The upwind leg is half over now with the boats 250 metres apart and Oracle in front, but TNZ find some wind to bring them back in contention a bit. Oracle tack again and get back up to speed quickly but the gap has closed considerably to only 150 metres. However Oracle now has the advantage of favourable wind again on the left side of the course so they go back to over 200 metres ahead again… with great tactical positioning by Oracle preventing TNZ from tacking back towards the wind.

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CC130919-080-1024x681Kiwi Kids waiting to cheer their compatriots

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Oracle get some more help from the wind direction and they can now head straight for the mark without needing another tack; they round the third mark 400 metres ahead of TNZ and gybe away to head downhill towards the final mark and the finish. Master tactician and four time Olympic gold medalist Ben Ainslie has earned his keep in this race for Oracle today, or at least got lucky with the wind – take your choice! Some say we make our luck……

Oracle are now cruising home well ahead to win this race at 30 miles an hour unless something breaks, and TNZ follow them 740 metres behind at this point. TNZ put up their Code zero but it won’t help at this point, as the final mark comes into view for Oracle, unless the wind vanishes almost completely and they come off their foils. Oracle complete a beautiful gybe staying up their foils, and will turn one more time for the mark and head for the finish. They make the final gybe, again staying up on their foils very cleanly, now come through the final gate and skate helter skelter for the finish.

And Oracle wins race 13 after their near-death experience in the previous attempt at a race that was abandoned and, just like a cat with nine lives, live to fight again! The score on the water is now 8-5 in favour of TNZ, that is the end of racing for today and will resume tomorrow.

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Eleven a side, just like a soccer team, only here they look pretty cramped as they zoom around the mark/Gilles Martin Raget

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This series refuses to lay down and die just yet, and TNZ leave the field today still needing just one more race victory to take the trophy. Oracle again have the much tougher task and need to win 6 consecutive races to defend the Cup because of the penalty imposed on them for pre-season rules violations, but at least they are still in the hunt.

We resume racing again tomorrow, Saturday September 21st for races 14 & 15 with the first race starting again at 1.15 pm Pacific Time. You can find the schedule, and a lot more, on the official America’s Cup web site www.americascup.com, and we will be back again to report the race so please come back to join us.

 

 

 

 

 

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