Actions, it is said, speak louder than words, but even Oracle Team USA skipper Jimmy Spithill knows that when it comes to really knowing one’s rivals, all you have to do is listen in. “What’s really fascinating is what’s said on board, and clearly that’s something we’ve been listening to,” he stated in today’s press conference, responding to a question from the New Zealand Herald’s Dana Johanssen, who asked if Mr. Spithill if he listens to the onboard audio feeds from his competitors.
Indeed, he does, as do I. On site in Bermuda and even remote from anywhere in the world, the bug-prone America’s Cup ppp delivers one excellent product: the raw onboard audio from the boat of your choice. It’s the best way for a true racing sailor to appreciate what’s really happening on the racecourse in real time. You can learn a lot by what’s being said, as well as what’s not being said, as in the case of Emirates Team New Zealand, a much quieter boat around the course.
The hot-mic nugget of the day came from Oracle Racing Team’s super-human tactician Tom Slingsby, who spends his 20-minute races madly multitasking between a grinder pedestal, scanning the racecourse for wind, and contributing to the boat’s oil pressure from the bike nestled in behind his skipper.
The guy is a machine, and while Mr. Spithill may be the public persona of the defender, one could argue that its Mr. Slingsby who’s really running the show once the start time clicks on. In Oracle’s marque match up today in Bermuda in the final day of the America’s Cup Louis Vuitton Challenger Qualifiers, Slingsby was on fire. Maybe it’s Red Bull giving him the wings, but man, oh man, was he on his game in their defeat of a strong Emirates Team New Zealand effort.
Let’s pick up 30 seconds or so before the start. What you’re about to read is 20 minutes of tactical freestyle by Mr. Slingsby as he directs his team around the racecourse….
Happy line is middle.
Be careful here.
Jimmy, he’s down here.
Racing on this angle.
He’s going up.
He comes down.
He’s down there.
Hold. Good there.
Racing Jimmy, racing.
Up! Up! Up! [to ENTZ]
Put it in the bank here, he got a penalty.
He’s still up.
Just going to the mark, we can’t affect him really.
It says we can just lay. One and in, lay. Pretty close.
Max jib when you got it.
He rounds. We are higher mode.
Continue all the way here.
Tell me if he sets up.
Touch and go.
He’s setting up in about 12.
Ok. We’re going to go.
Hold, hold, hold. Happy.
Happy VMG. I’ve got us not laying.
Happy sailing VMG.
You’re at the top of your ride height.
We’ll go one and in, right mark.
Let’s standby. Hold.
Coming into a bit of pressure.
Pressure on now.
Ok. Let’s dial him. Aggressive dial.
All the way up guys.
We have to be earlier on those, guys.
Gust here. Going to come quick. Take the height.
Ok…a little light patch here, standby. Foiling tack.
Turn hard, turn hard.
I haven’t got him. Have you got him?
Keep the build on.
I’ve got us ducking. Let’s do it early.
Take it up.
Keep the speed on. Getting a little softer.
Let’s stand by.
Slow build. Good pressure here. Slow build.
Keep him low. Let’s dial him down. We can push him off it. He sets up.
Nice guys. Go boys.
He jibes. Happy. Shift weight back.
Happy VMG. I don’t want to be too fast.
Happy VMG. None of us are laying, so…
Take off half.
Coming into better pressure here soon.
Good puff, let’s do a little build.
Try to roll that down.
Good gust coming here we’re going to have to ride this all the way out.
Boundary coming down really slow. Keep coming. Let’s standby. Going to be soft on the exit.
Really close to boundary. Cross oil it.
Happy. He’s not laying.
You’ve got really bad immersion.
Got to get it upwind.
Light here, he jibes back.
Let’s standby. Standby.
Good pressure here.
Twenty-two, 23. Good pressure here, keep the build on.
He tacked. Tack on him.
Big trim guys. Continuing. Coming into better pressure, half a second.
Better pressure now, 23-22-23.
Breeze is going right. But we have no breeze to tack into.
Keep it in a bit of high groove. Pretty bow down here. I’d like to stay.
Little lighter, a little high in this light. He tacks.
They just got a boundary penalty. Little build here.
Ok. Let’s standby.
Twenty-five. Twenty-six. Please get her going.
Breeze is going right so I want to get faster.
New Zealand still has a penalty.
Happy to go a little higher here. Just a little.
A little soft out of there.
New Zealand still has the penalty from the boundary. Let ‘em fuck it up.
Going soft at the gate, high here. Let it slowly trickle off.
No higher. Pressure is coming in three.
Good pressure there.
We’re going to do two tacks and left, but we’re going to…
Thinking two. Sixty-meter favor to left mark.
Twenty-two, 23 here.
Ok. Going to middle mark. We’re going to be into a really quick set up.
Really fast set up.
Just take it nice and easy here.
From here to the finish.
A little extra here.
Marks are a little down. Remember that.
Light patch in two, one. Light patch.
Nice work boys. Nice work boys.
Louis [grinder Sinclair]
It’s the equivalent to winning the race in the Cup boys, nice work.”
And that, with the spaced filled with huffs and puffs after grinding, was how Oracle Team USA finished the Qualifier series to pick up one point going into the America’s Cup Presented by Louis Vuitton in two weeks. Until then, they sit out, watch, learn from the other challengers as they continue to square off. And you can be sure, as Mr. Spithill noted, that they’ll be listening in as well.