AC34: A Starting Stinger

Emirates Team New Zealand went into the opening races confident, and came out even stronger.

Sailing World

AC34: Day 1

In the Race 1 start Emirates Team New Zealand got a running start as the weather boat.Gilles Martin-Raget/ACEA

Emirates Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker looked all the more confident and characteristically relaxed after winning the second race of the 34th America’s Cup by 52 seconds. Having decisively controlled Oracle Team USA from start to finish with a polished performance around the track, he casually congratulated his teammates with a “Quality race there boys.”

The second-race defeat made it an all New Zealand day, putting the challenger up two races to nil (OTUSA would have had to forfeit their points anyway had they won races) and kicking off the best-of-17 series with impressive momentum.

For their part, Jimmy Spithill and co. had a rough go of it. Their speed was off as they were trailing the Kiwis most of the day, their starts were poor, the film on their wing delaminated, crewmember Joey Newton fell off the boat in the prestart, and the umpires didn’t give them a single break on calls they felt should have gone their way. The Cup is Oracle’s to lose, and today they lost it.

At the post-race press conference Barker was cool and composed, and his wing man Glenn Ashby jovial. On the opposite side of the table, Oracle tactician John Kostecki appeared stunned and Spithill was edgy, eager to get back to the team’s base to debrief and address critical issues to reverse their fortunes in Sunday’s races.

The debrief should be short relatively short, however, as both races were essentially lost in the starts. In the first, Emirates Team New Zealand owned the weather spot and outpaced them to Mark 1. In the second, Spithill attempted to “hook” Barker to leeward, and while there appeared to be contact from several camera angles, neither team could confirm, and the umpires let it go.

[For the umpire replay: ]

“I don’t know if there was contact; we were close, overlapped, we y flagged with the red light, but there was no penalty. I was surprised all day. There were a fair amount of Y flags and not one penalty all day.”

“We just didn’t get as tight as we wanted to in the first start,” said Spithill. “In the second one we got a lot tighter and went for the hook and thought we were going to get a penalty, unfortunately didn’t go our way. It was pretty tight, but all in all in the second race there wasn’t really any passing lanes and they didn’t make any mistakes. It was all over pretty quickly.”

In terms of boatspeed, both skippers say the boats are relatively even, which allowed for two passing situations in the first race, but there was no denying that ETNZ looked faster at times and more stable on its foils going into and out of the marks and maneuvers. Spithill said the loss of his wing trimmer Dirk de Ridder had “absolutely nothing to do with the result,” and that 21-year-old replacement Kyle Langford did an “outstanding job.”

RACE DATA

Race 1 Performance Data

Course: 5 Legs/9.71 nautical miles

Elapsed Time: ETNZ – 23:30, OTUSA – 24:06

Delta: ETNZ +:36

Total distance sailed: ETNZ – 11.7 NM, OTUSA – 11.4 NM

Average Speed: ETNZ – 30.07 knots (35 mph), OTUSA – 28.58 knots (33 mph)

Top Speed: ETNZ – 43.54 knots (50 mph), OTUSA – 42.51 knots (49 mph)

Windspeed: Average – 16 knots, Peak – 21 knots

Course: 5 Legs/10.11 nautical miles

Elapsed Time: ETNZ – 22:46, OTUSA – 23:38

Delta: ETNZ +:52

Total distance sailed: ETNZ – 11.3 NM, OTUSA – 11.3 NM

Average Speed: ETNZ – 30.12 knots (35 mph), OTUSA – 28.92 knots (33 mph)

Top Speed: ETNZ – 46 knots (53 mph), OTUSA – 42.87 knots (49 mph)

Windspeed: Average – 16.6 knots, Peak – 19.5 knots