In the record books, the first race of the Semifinal Repechage will look like a blowout. Sure, Oracle beat OneWorld across the finish line by 4m:8s, but that dry fact doesn’t do this classic matchracing dogfight any credit.
Oracle, suffering in light air in its 4-0 loss to Alinghi in the Semifinal, had made some changes for the matchup with OneWorld; sail area was increased and draft (righting moment) was reduced. The result: a much more dangerous boat, at least in the light stuff.
With newfound speed, textbook matchracing skills, and an afterguard with an instinct for heading the right way in the fickle breeze, Oracle was able to get ahead of OneWorld about halfway up the first leg, and led around the first mark by 49 seconds.
Although that margin was reduced by OneWorld on each leg, Dickson and Holmberg kept Oracle between OneWorld and the next mark for the remainder of the race. OneWorld almost rolled Oracle on the final weather mark rounding but by luffing up, the Oracle crew was able to hold OneWorld up and prevent the pass. OneWorld rounded 10 seconds behind, did a jibe set, and disappeared into a windless oblivion. Oracle did a bearaway, stayed in the center of the course, got a huge lift, kept the breeze, and extended that 10-second lead by almost 4 minutes.