America’s Cup 2013 : Larry Ellison’s Oracle Team USA Win Races 17 & 18 : One Final Showdown With Emirates Team New Zealand Now Takes Place Wednesday
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On Monday, racing was delayed half an hour to wait for fresher winds moving onto the race course which left time for just one race. Oracle Team USA (Oracle) then defied the odds and were befriended by the gods, to win it by 33 seconds and level the series with 8 race wins each out on the water.
Today Emirates Team New Zealand (TNZ) start out still only needing one more victory to win the America’s Cup so they are hanging tough. With a 2 race pre-season penalty still hanging over their heads however, Oracle have to win altogether 3 more races to defend their right to retain the Cup, which is a much bigger ask. Having won the last 5 races in a row though, their odds seem to be improving from zero to something closer to, say, just 40:60 against. Jimmy Spithill the Oracle skipper would have taken those odds last week for sure, but going in to today’s racing he might well now even argue his team are the favourites! Such is the power of positive thinking.
Well, with good weather and fair winds today we had excellent racing and in the first race Oracle again outwitted TNZ at the start gaining a penalty as well and building a large lead at the first mark. The rest of the race was very even but Oracle held their own, executed their tacks and gybes flawlessly to bring home their boat to the finish first winning the race.
So the second race became another emotional roller-coaster. TNZ won the start, got to the second mark first, but lost the lead during the upwind tacking duel and… lost the race by a good distance! This leaves Oracle ahead 10-8 out on the water and the match is now even when you adjust for Oracle’s 2 race pre-season penalty adjudicated against them.
So there will be a sudden death shoot out tomorrow; one race; one winner. Who will take the America’s Cup?
If you want to know how it went down in detail today please read the full story in the race report below, enjoy and come back tomorrow for the show down.
Emirates Team New Zealand with the world’s most beautiful bridge is behind them
Race Report : Race 17
After losing yesterday TNZ are not fazed one bit…“We’re very upbeat here, we know we can win, ” said skipper Dean Barker. “The Oracle guys sailed a pretty flawless race. There were no opportunities to get back in it. We did a better job on the downwind legs staying close, but not enough today.”
For his part Oracle leader Jimmy Spithill was stoked after getting the win…“We’ve got a huge wave of momentum. The boat’s just going fantastic, ” said Spithill. “That was a tough start, we had starboard entry and it was a tough time.”
Ben Ainslie the Oracle tactician summed it up well…“The AC72 is completely unique, ” … “On the downwind legs the boat ahead a lot of times has the advantage in terms of controlling the opposition and the bad air, and tacking with these boats is a lot harder to keep a cover if they do a good job splitting tacks. It’s very exciting.”
And the boats are now out on the water getting ready for today’s racing on another beautiful day again in San Francisco. Remember Oracle has now won the last five races, and 7 of the last 9 to stay alive in this series and TNZ still only need that one more win to take the series.
Twenty minutes to the start and the wind is up around 21 miles an hour from the south west. With the 3 mile an hour flood tide the prescribed wind limit for today is up at 27 miles an hour for the first race, and a bit less for the second. So we should be in for some good racing.
Oracle Team USA grinding away; despite all the technology the AC 72 sailboats are hugely demanding physically with no power assists anywhere… meanwhile tactician Ben Ainslie is looking out over the race course
Two minutes to go and the two yachts enter the pre-start box, and warily move around each other like boxers waiting for the opening to strike when the count down reaches zero and the all clear is sounded. Then they will rush to the line blocking the other if they can…. and hope to win the start.
Oracle got to enter the box 10 seconds ahead on the port side, supposedly offering an advantage in the tight manoeuvring before the start. And they are both literally flying around trying to hold back so as not to get too close to the line too soon. One minute to go and the boats back off again but Oracle switches back to try and hook around underneath them 15 seconds to go…10 seconds and Oracle are getting an edge and blow past TNZ over the line Brilliant! And off they go with Oracle protesting the start as they both touched… 2 penalties against TNZ granted as Oracle was the leeward boat with an overlap and TNZ have to sit fuming which lets Oracle zoom away to the first mark… This race looks over already; fantastic aggression from Oracle at the start pays off again with an 18 second metre lead at the first mark.
Half way down the downwind leg Oracle now 400 metres ahead, traveling over 50 miles an hour – important now they don’t break the boat in the rough weather at these speeds. Oracle already at the second mark and turning back upwind with a lead of 29 second lead over TNZ.
Oracle goes around a mark just in front of Emirates Team New Zealand on Monday/ Guilain Grenier
White caps on the course and these boats are really going for it. Oracle has headed over to Alcatraz and TNZ are following them; this time they did not seek out a split as they were so far behind. Oracle are foiling consistently upwind now but TNZ is fluctuating up and down on their foils. Its all about the positioning and angle of attack of the foil and the fore and aft weight distribution – get it all right all the time and you get the benefits.
The lead has now dropped to just under 300 metres as Oracle are now on the slow tack; but they have to make it back on the next one or we could have a race yet. Oracle and TNZ are sailing at 33 miles an hour both upwind and against the current; amazing. Now the lead is down to 200 metres as TNZ have the better wind position out on the course. TNZ tacks but Oracle stay on the port tack and the lead builds back again to 270 metres.
Oracle now heading for the gate only 215 metres in front and on the lay line to the mark – lets see if they make it without another tack, but they do add an extra tack and then gybe around down wind on the shore side today, after two days of going out to the seaward side.
For the downwind run the boats are sailing in 21 mile an hour winds with a 3 knot flood tide with them and are now going over 40 miles an hour but TNZ are going even faster as they picked up some wind. The lead is back to 320 metres and Oracle are content to cover their line to the mark which is the advantage a leading boat has.
This is still a horse race as at these speeds one mistake by Oracle which brings them you off their foils will wipe out the whole lead in just a few seconds. And Oracle is closing in on the mark and around they go and reach to the finish – 15 seconds ahead at the mark! Oracle wins the race.
Oracle now leads the series 9-8 on the water, and then give up 2 points for their pre-season penalty. This series is not yet over as Oracle wins six races in a row. Stick around as there will be a second race today and we will be biting our nails all over again.
Taking the Emirates Team New Zealand boat out of the water for adjustments…
Race Report : Race 18
So now race number 18 is five minutes to the start, with 9 wins to Oracle and 8 wins to TNZ out on the water. The wind is just 23 miles an hour well within the prescribed limit and still with a moderate flood tide.
TNZ and Oracle enter the pre-start box at the two minute point; TNZ won’t want a repeat of their last start where they ceded two penalties; Oracle are getting into their heads a little bit too at this stage, perhaps. TNZ has the port entry advantage which in theory brings them closer to the lower lay line that takes you to the first mark.Their boat is fast enough too, so if TNZ get a good start they can win this race today and with it the America’s Cup. If Oracle win then there will a winner take all shoot out tomorrow!
The two boats are gybing for advantage in the box at the 1.20 point as Oracle tries to go in front but not too close to the line. Oracle stays in front, but there is an overlap which the Kiwis protest – no penalty though and TNZ lose the overlap so at ten seconds they race for the line two lengths apart. What a great start by both boats as we get the all clear . Will Oracle get to the mark first without an overlap, if not they must give way as TNZ are to leeward and TNZ take the advantage and head off down wind. This could win them the America’s Cup. Now both boats gybe and head off toward the sea giving TNZ a 200 metre advantage. Both boats could make mistake as we enter this new scenario now.
And Oracle go through the third mark at full speed to turn back to run with the wind to the final mark and to the finish at pier 27 in the city. TNZ come through 57 seconds later…wow! And off they go; it is still not over if for some reason Oracle make a couple of bad mistake but otherwise Oracle are going to win this race and they are certainly driving very smoothly at the moment.
Jimmy Spithill skipper of Oracle team USA, relaxes for just a moment after winning on Monday… then its back to work to prepare for the next race/ Gilles Martin Raget
Both boats flying now in these fresh winds with Oracle just 100 metres behind now. Can they catch up and overtake? Or Will TNZ pull away and consolidate their advantage?
Oracle gybes first to obtain a split at the next mark to get out from under the leader. And at gate number two TNZ are 140 metres in front and we do get a split with the boats just 60 metres apart.
So now its a tacking battle and if Oracle do it well they can still dodge another bullet today. They are sailing very fast, both boats tack and Oracle comes in punching on foils and its a dead heat at this point but TNZ can force a tack at the boundary. The tacks come simultaneously and now Oracle are in front by 35 metres. TNZ have to tack away to get out of some dead air; will Oracle have to do the same? No, instead Oracle are splitting across towards the city waterfront 150 metres ahead and building. It all happened in just moments… and can turn around again just as quickly. As the boats cross again in the middle it is still 120 metres between them.
Oracle looks the faster boat upwind in this race again so they are working hard not to make a mistake and give it back. And Oracle make a great tack 200 metres in front… soon the 3rd mark will come into view which helps put a calibration on the tacking duel for both skippers. Oracle currently 280 metres in front and positively steaming uphill.. for a sailboat anyway. Sailors are not used to any of this; non-sailors are pretty excited and assume it has always been this way! The helicopter cameras are what have made this accessible to the world, and there can be no going back.
Two Kiwi kids just want to have their Daddy back – Glenn Ashby Emirates Team New Zealand trimmer/Balazs Gardi
So Oracle go through the third mark at full speed to turn back and run with the wind to the final mark, and to the finish at Pier 27 in the city. TNZ come through 57 seconds later…wow where did they go wrong? And off they go; it is still not over though if for some reason Oracle make a couple of bad mistakes, but otherwise Oracle are going to win this race and they are certainly driving very smoothly at the moment.
They cruise to the mark, turn and win the second race!
So there will be a sudden death shoot out tomorrow; one race; one winner. Who will take the America’s Cup? An impossible come back by Oracle, but now their focus will immediately shift to taking care of their boat and preparing for the race. And so will TNZ, as these are both tough, professional, teams up for the challenge.
So another day another race, and tomorrow Wednesday September 25th weather permitting there will be on race, race number 19, and again scheduled for 1.15 pm Pacific Time. The forecast is for good weather but also for higher winds so lets hope the wind cooperates and we have no cancellation tomorrow.
The race schedule and lots more besides is on the official America’s Cup web site www.americascup.com so go visit it and take a look. We will again be covering Wednesday’s final race which will decide the America’s Cup so please come back and share with us. Remember – both teams now need just one more victory to take home the America’s Cup.
Oracle Team USA dodged yet another bullet on Monday; they dodged two more today and live again for the final shoot out tomorrow/ Abner Kingman