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Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series Chicago: Capsize Friday

Louis Vuitton America's Cup World Series Chicago: Capsize Friday

June 20, 2016
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Emirates Team New Zealand Capsize

ETNZ wing trimmer and tactician Glen Ashby ejects from the team’s AC45 mid-capsize during its match race with Oracle Team USA, which would later capsize itself in the day’s final practice race. Paul Todd/Outside Images

The final and highly anticipated match race for the official practice day of the Louis Vuitton Cup World Series Chicago had the regatta’s big two locked in a tight race as they foiled around the track, with Emirate Team New Zealand leading Oracle Racing Team into the leeward gates on a high-speed starboard tack approach. As is routine in a foiling jibe, the weather foil dropped with a plume of spray, skipper Peter Burling initiated the turn in full control from the starboard hull, and then, a split-second mid turn, the hull planted, bringing the boat to a near stop and pitching Burling into the cool clear waters of Lake Michigan.

Much has been said about this being the first freshwater Cup race, but Burling had no intentions of adding a freshwater swim to the storyline. With no one manning the tiller, the boat spun into the breeze as it slowly capsized. Wing trimmer Glenn Ashby hesitated from the skied hull before himself going for a swim. The safe entry is what they’ve practice many times in their safety training.

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Fleet week at the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series Chicago

With the breeze sweeping in from the southeast, the starting line was positioned to the southern end of the race area, closer to shore and the disturbed air of downtown. As is usually the case, first to puff was key, and after Mark 1, the boundary came up quick. Paul Todd/Outside Images

The crowd piled into the end of Navy Pier roared with amazement and elation. They came for a sailboat race, but they got their crash and burn on day that was so good that local organizers were shouting from the rooftops that the Windy City had delivered as promised. With the blazing heat in the city, clear blue skies, and a building 25-knot breeze funneling through the skyline from the southeast and flat water, it was indeed a perfect practice day.

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Emirates’ capsize was one for the highlight reels, but the races were legitimate contests with SoftBank Team Japan putting on incredibly consistent show to win the first two races, which featured lead changes, close crossings, and fast tactics using all sides of the course, the boundaries and even a triple-decker VIP boat anchored inside the course.

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Softbank Team Japan

SoftBank Team Japan’s Dean Barker and crew were on form today, winning all three races with polished boathandling and starts. Paul Todd/Outside Images

SoftBank’s Race 1 delta was 9 seconds to Artemis. It was 11 seconds to New Zealand in the second, and 8 seconds to Artemis in the third, so it was indeed a day where the smaller squads shined and the juggernauts Oracle and Land Rover Ben Ainslie Racing struggled. Land Rover BAR was worse than average on the day, but it was Oracle that gave the crowd its final taste of what can go wrong very quickly in the confined racecourse set up south of Chicago’s Navy Pier.

“It was a tricky day with the breeze coming off the land and fighting the lake breeze which made it quite shifty,” said Land Rover BAR’s bowman Ed Powys. “Generally, we felt like we sailed well. There was a lot of place changing in the fleet but we probably just missed a few shifts at the top of the beats and we didn’t quite get them right. It cost us a little bit, so we’re going to work on that for tomorrow and try to take the last gain into the mark. Hopefully we can close out the solid positions we held in each race.”

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In the final fleet race, a practice race that “could” officially count if needed later in the weekend, Oracle was bringing up the rear and foiling at pace into the leeward gate traffic. They were setting up for a jibe when Artemis came into sight. Avoiding a last-minute collision, Spithill spun the boat into the wind, but the leeward runner was already loaded, pinning the wing. They carved into a smooth, slow motion capsize, again to the crowd’s delight, but 10 minutes later they were back on the course to finish the race alone in case they need the point come Sunday. That one’s done and dusted and after the deplorable racing of New York a month ago, it was a reboot for the series, which starts for real tomorrow with just as much breeze in the forecast.

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Fun and Games

Artemis Racing was consistent all day with good starts and managing the course to avoid groups when possible. Using a smaller jib in the first race, Oracle Racing Team struggled and never appeared to find its form. Paul Todd/Outside Images
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