Short and sharp is how SoftBank Team Japan skipper Dean Barker described his team’s run to the America’s Cup, an effort cut short by a sharper Artemis Racing, which yesterday and today went on a tear to win four straight races, turn the table from a 3-1 deficit, and win the series by one.
Showing its resiliency across the full range of conditions here in Bermuda, Artemis has now entered into and exited the qualifying rounds as a fan favorite. Today they were sharp, although not perfect with maneuvers, but their racecourse management and understanding of the game were spot on. Slow off the start, they were plenty fast on the reach and their angle gave them a better turn around Mark 1. From there, they stayed in phase with the shifts when they needed to be, and stuffed SoftBank in the excact moment they needed to. When Outteridge bounced off the left-hand boundary in Leg 3, he knew he had a play on Barker and his tactician Chris Draper. SoftBank muffed its tack, allowing Artemis to slide to leeward, get the luff, and leave them standing still. Textbook stuff.
And in that moment, SoftBank’s chances came to a halt. And that was that.
As Barker was in San Francisco in 2013 after losing to Oracle Team USA, he was gracious and humble in his exit. He noted the mistake of letting Outteridge pounce, admitted they weren’t ready to race, on account of a foil hitting something en route to the racecourse (divers could find no damage, he said). At this level, one must show up to the entry box fully prepared.
Where the SoftBank challenge goes from here is too early to say, but in the meantime, Barker says they’ll continue to develop their AC50 alongside the defender over the coming days. The assets are on the ground so it’s best to keep them active until someone writes the check.
Artemis, on the other hand, were rearing to go. From their longer sail from their team base, they were warmed up, they’d sailed the course and knew the favored end of the starting line. Modifications to the boat (“modifications” being the AC’s most often used phrase) gave them “greater confidence” in their boat in the 20-knot conditions, said Outteridge. Winds on Great Sound were only a knot or two more benign than three days ago when Artemis could barely control their boat through the corners.
So whatever the modifications were, they’ve clearly worked, as did a pep talk from tactician and grinder Ian Percy. Simple sailing, he reminded them. Starts, turns, and finishes will win the race.
As Artemis faces Emirates Team New Zealand straightaway tomorrow (Saturday), the sailors and grinders will most definitely be pumped full of electrolytes, including Outteridge’s right-hand man on the wing, Ian Jensen, who Outteridge said may have been dehydrated—perhaps the result of a pre-race weigh-in (a malaise that racing sailors know full well). Jensen will be back to 100 percent, however, says the straight-talking Australian skipper, and the same is true for Percy, Andreas Axelsson, Luke Parkinson, and Kalle Torlén, who all delivered oil and determination on demand today.
So what’s on deck for the first line up of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Playoff? The forecast on the eve is for southwest at 15 knots. It’ll be a race full-flight times and gauging the weaponry of foils that will be brought to the fight. In the early races of the Round Robins, Artemis admitted to wrong foil selections for similar conditions, which are on the edge of either board being very right or wrong. One thing is for sure, however, is that when they’ve got the right boards in, they’re quick and confident, just as they were today.
If the boats are truly equal, as both teams claim them to be, I suspect their first match will be as good as of the round robins, which Artemis firmly controlled before being dinged with a miscalled penalty.
If Outteridge can engage and outfox Burling, he can come out ahead and stay ahead, but if Burling gets ahead, it’s his race to lose.
Pull up seat. Here we go.