Races 1 and 2: “That was a fantastic day. We’re really happy with how it all panned out,” said Kiwi tactician Ray Davies after Emirates Team New Zealand won the first two races of the America’s Cup on Sept. 7.
Races 3 and 4: Emirates Team NZ won Race 3, while Oracle Team USA finally collected its first win after nailing the start of Race 4.
Unable to match the speed and slick maneuvers of the Kiwis, the tactics of John Kostecki became more desperate. In Race 5, with Oracle holding a narrow lead as they approached the leeward gate, Kostecki called for a foiling tack around the mark. Oracle coughed up another potential point, and by the next day, Ben Ainslie was on board in place of Kostecki. Photo: ACEA/Ricardo Pinto
The racing got closer, especially on the upwind leg, which had been Oracle’s nemesis in the opening races. But the New Zealanders kept the victory train rolling, one stop closer to sending it home. Photo: Luna Rossa/Carlo Borlenghi
In Race 8, Oracle’s luck started to turn. In the most heart-stopping moment of the racing, the boats converged at the top of the windward leg with Oracle on starboard. Dean Barker rushed a leebow tack, but the hydraulics weren’t sufficiently powered to tack the wing. The starboard hull levitated to within “half a degree” of capsizing (said Barker). The grinder on the port hull frantically worked the pumps. When the wing finally tacked, the boat landed upright with a plume of spray and Oracle was long gone. Oracle’s win wiped clean their two-point penalty, and as far as Spithill was concerned, they were starting the regatta anew. Photo: ACEA/Abner Kingman [click here to read more about the wipeout]
Race 9: Oracle takes another point, New Zealand leads 7-1. Photo: Luna Rossa/Carlo Borlenghi
Race 10: New Zealand commands the race. Photo: ACEA/Abner Kingman
Race 11: Spithill gained ground on the fourth leg but was unable to move ahead, and Oracle Team USA crossed the line 15 seconds back. NZ happily sits on the precipice of winning it all, at 8-1. “I think you just need to keep believing,” said tactician Ben Ainslie. “We are obviously in a very difficult position. But, we are a strong team and we can win races. We’ll keep working on what improvements we can make, and we will go out tomorrow, get the guys fired up and race as hard as we can.” Photo: Luna Rossa/Carlo Borlenghi
Race 12: Oracle showed a lethal new gear; they got off the line first and extended all the way around the course. The boat was behaving better, and they were foiling upwind, often 3 to 4 knots faster than ETNZ.
Photo: Luna Rossa/Carlo Borlenghi
Race 13: Oracle got a penalty on Emirates Team New Zealand on Leg 2 of Race 13 that allowed the defender to gain the lead. Skipper Jimmy Spithill and crew then held on for a 1 minute, 24-second win to live another day at the 34th America’s Cup. Photo: Luna Rossa/Carlo Borlenghi
Race 14: Ainslie was in his element, regularly positioning Oracle in better wind to get well ahead of their rivals and control them around the course. “When we won [that race] we were thinking, ‘Let’s stop these guys from winning it,’” says wing trimmer Kyle Langford. “We were fighting for our existence knowing the longer we’d continue the better we’d get.” Photo: Luna Rossa/Carlo Borlenghi
Race 15: When the wind returned for Race 15, Oracle had the faster boat and took it to the New Zealanders. Photo: Luna Rossa/Carlo Borlenghi
Race 17: Race 17 had the only contact of the regatta—three love-taps—in a low-speed pre-start dial-up. Spithill was decisive when he set the hook, and with ETNZ drawing two penalties from the contact, it was race over. Photo: Luna Rossa/Carlo Borlenghi
Race 18: Barker won the start, led to the first mark, and controlled on the run, but once the teams split at the leeward mark, Oracle simply sailed around them and over the horizon. “[That day] was the first time we felt we had a bit on,” said Barker later. “We watched them sail around us and away from us upwind, which was a strength we had.” Photo: Luna Rossa/Carlo Borlenghi
Race 19: A dead-even start for the final race saw the boats side by side going into the hairpin turn at the first mark, with Emirates in the favorable inside position. Barker arced gracefully downwind at nearly 50 mph, while Oracle crashed down off its foils and submerged the entire platform. On Day 1, it would’ve been the end of them, but they jumped right back on the foil (“Nice recovery boys,” said Ainslie casually) and chipped away at New Zealand’s lead. Barker was first to the leeward gate with a marginal lead, but Oracle gained at each crossing upwind, rounding the weather mark with a 500-meter lead. Photo: Luna Rossa/Carlo Borlenghi
“This is it!” yelled Ainslie over the boat’s communications unit. “Work your asses off … go guys, come on!” Photo: Luna Rossa/Carlo Borlenghi
To the victors goes the Cup. Photo: Luna Rossa/Carlo Borlenghi