America’s Cup: Kiwis Win Again, Debate Continues Over Oracle Penalty
Update, 2:30 p.m. (Tuesday, Sept. 10): After losing the first of today’s races, Team Oracle USA decided to exercise its right to postpone the second race. What went wrong in the first contest? Here’s a quick take from SFGate’s Tom FitzGerald:
Team New Zealand took the lead on the third leg after Oracle tried a rare 180-degree turn around the leeward mark so it could head out toward Alcatraz. But trying to tack while foiling was asking too much of the crew. The boat slowed considerably as the crew went through the maneuver.
So, after beating the Kiwis to the first mark and taking charge of the race, Oracle gave it up with its big tacking decision. The Kiwis led by as much as 1,500 meters on the downwind fourth leg. …
Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill said Oracle also had another problem: The jib it chose for today’s racing was too large and hampered its upwind speed.
Here are his post-race comments as reported on the America’s Cup website:
“We need to go back and regroup. We feel they have an edge on us at the moment, especially upwind. We need to do a bit of work here and we’re going to play the card, strategically, and hopefully improve in time for the next race.
“It wasn’t just upwind performance. There were a couple of mistakes there, tacking as well, which is something we need to address. We need to up our game. We’re not going to hide from that. We’re going to go away and do what we can to be ready for the next one.
“It’s a team decision, collectively within the team. We’re all in agreement. We need to make a few steps and we’re not going to hide from that. We’re going to work hard now and tomorrow.”
For good measure, here’s the race recap from the New Zealand Herald, which described today’s result as “a good old-fashioned hiding” for Oracle:
Maybe knowing that Team NZ are faster upwind, Oracle Team USA tried to pull off a foiling tack as they rounded the mark at the end of an impressive downwind run. On that run — and at the start — OTUSA had shown excellent acceleration.
They won the sprint race to the first mark, leading by four seconds, and sailed quickly off to the bottom mark, leading by eight seconds.
But they tried to do a foiling tack, which they had practised out in the Bay yesterday, but failed spectacularly. They didn’t foil and the manouevre almost literally took the wind from their wingsail. They slowed, their 180m lead was quickly closed down by the Kiwis – and then the Kiwi speed upwind took over.
The foiling tack attempt was a mystery. There seemed to be no need to do it and it ended up surrendering the important starboard side of the course.
Update: Emirates Team New Zealand scored a decisive victory in the first of today’s two races, finishing one minute and five seconds ahead of Oracle Team USA — which won the start and led at the first two marks, then watched New Zealand sail away on the course’s long upwind leg. Today’s second race begins at 2:15 p.m. PDT. The standings: Emirates Team New Zealand 4, Oracle Team USA -1.
Earlier post: Oracle Team USA and Emirates Team New Zealand are back in action today on the San Francisco waterfront. The standings in the best-of-17 event: New Zealand 3, USA -1. Yes, you read that -1 for Larry Ellison’s Oracle team correctly. An international sailing jury hit the team with a two-race penalty after finding Oracle guilty of illegally altering its boats during an earlier regatta. The jury also banned Dirk de Ridder, the crew member responsible for trimming the 72-foot catamaran’s giant wing, from the America’s Cup finals.
Oracle will try to get back to zero and edge ahead of New Zealand in today’s two-race event. Last Saturday the Kiwis swept the first two races. The teams split Sunday’s pair of races.
The penalty against Oracle has been called the harshest in the history of the America’s Cup. Was the punishment fair? That question came up on KQED’s “This Week in Northern California” last Friday. The panel featured Kara Swisher, longtime tech industry journalist who’s working on a Vanity Fair profile of Ellison, and Julian Guthrie, a San Francisco Chronicle reporter who wrote “The Billionaire and the Mechanic,” the story of Ellison’s quest for the cup.
It wasn’t exactly a knock-down, drag-out fight (we don’t do that at KQED). But Guthrie responds very much as an Oracle partisan while Swisher focuses on Ellison’s possible role in the jury’s thinking. (See 14:30 of the video if you’re not automatically placed there).