More gears, more speed and more America's Cup wins from Oracle as the dream team nails another race
The breeze today was light, conditions that Oracle has struggled in previously, but winning today’s race not only pushed them a point closer to winning the Cup, but demonstrated their best performance so far, winning the race 16 by 33 seconds.
Emirates Team New Zealand put on a competent display and certainly stayed in closer contention than they had done on the previous day, but there was no point at which Barler’s team looked like it could haul the game back to take the Cup.
“They sailed a pretty flawless race, but we couldn’t get back into it,” confirmed Kiwi skipper Dean Barker of his opponents after the race.
He was right. Oracle’s start was particularly impressive. The Kiwis had fought to take the leeward end of the line, a position from which Oracle had dominated in the last couple of races, but Barker couldn’t make it stick. Although both boats hit the line at around the same time Oracle managed to rise up on her foils a second or two earlier as she shifted into top gear and surged ahead. By the first mark Spithill and Co were 5 seconds ahead.
As the boats rounded the mark to head downwind there was little that Barker could do as his team scrambled to try to get back onto Oracle’s tail. Their only option was to go for the code zero, which had been up from the start before Spithill, who had yet to hoist his.
The Kiwis deployed first but with both boats up on foils the boats were already in top gear at the crossover wind speed for these sails. Extra sail area now wasn’t enough to reduce the gap between the two boats. Oracle continued to the boundary, gybed, deployed and made their way to the bottom gate. There were a few more moves from both but nothing that brought the Kiwis back into the game significantly as they rounded the bottom marks 13 seconds behind.
Although the race was far from over, Oracle had both nailed the start and proved how slippery they had learned to make the boat downhill and in doing so demonstrated two further improvements in a long list of performance tweaks. But with the breeze down in the sub foiling range for upwind work, could they hold onto to their slim lead upwind?
The answer was a clear yes. Ainslie talked Spithill up the beat, spotting where the best breeze was and linking together a strategy that allowed them to cover the Kiwis while also making the best of the better breeze. The covering aspect of Oracle’s game play today was another new strategy, sure they had been double the distance ahead in both of yesterday’s races, but they had seen their lead worn down to a few metres when they let Barker and Co slip away. Letting the Kiwis go their own way was not going to be an option today. Tack for tack, gybe for gybe, Spithill was playing a smart, safe tactical game as directed by his key players Ainslie and Slingsby.
“Conditions were more stable today and we tried to put the race into a bit of a holding pattern,” said Ainslie after the race. “It was a slightly less stressful day at the back of the boat.”
By the finish Oracle Racing was 33 seconds ahead and just three wins away from the Cup.
OMG! As they say down here.
Score so far – First to 9
America’s Cup Race 16 NZL USA
Distance Sailed (km) 21.673 22.006
Average Speed (kts) 22.46 23.21
Max Speed (kts) 36.61 38.05
Winning margin 33sec