|Oracle Team USA|
(photo: Jonathan Weber, thestar.com.my)
Emirates Team New Zealand appeared to be unbeatable in the opening week of the event. They were faster both upwind and downwind then Oracle. They were also better at manoeuvring their boat. After only 5 races Oracle judged the situation to be so grave that they made a personal change, bringing in 4 time Olympic gold medallist Sir Ben Ainslie as tactician in place of local John Kostecki. But still Oracle slumped.
Yet at the same time Oracle made other key developments. They optimised the boat for the prevailing heavy wind conditions. They gained experience, learnt from what the challenger was doing better than them. Whereas Emirates Tem New Zealand was at one point several knots faster, their advantage gradually became slimmer.
Nevertheless few took Oracle helmsman Jimmy Spithill seriously when he suggested they could still win, with Emirates needing just one point having taken an 8-1 lead. Suddenly Oracle started sailing faster, and Spithill grew dominant on the start line. Most notably oracle gained a huge amount of speed upwind. They were able to foil against the wind at 30 knots, meaning they could not only match Emirates Team New Zealand but go faster than them. They managed to improve their manoeuvres so that they no longer lost ground every time they tried to change direction.
|The challenger: Emirates Team New Zealand|
(photo: Noel Randewich, thestar.com.my)
Both teams deserve credit for making this event so extraordinary. Emirates Team New Zealand Sailed so brilliantly, particularly at the beginning of the series. They came so close to winning. In fact given that a race they were clearly on course to winning was abandoned as it exceeded the time limit, there is a strong case they should have won the event. You have to feel gutted for the whole set up, and the whole nation of New Zealand.
On the American side, victory ensures that the cup remains in the Hands of their team and billionaire backer Larry Ellison. Ben Ainslie deserves some of the credit; as soon has he joined the crew the boat did get faster. But also the people in charge with setting up the Boat played a key role. They made modifications and optimised her to the feedback the team gave. To some extent much of oracle’s improvement was probably also gained from simply from learning from, and in some cases improving the techniques Emirates Team New Zealand used so successfully early on in the event.
This was a landmark America’s cup. The First to feature foiling vessels, the longest and yet also by far the fastest; all in all the greatest in the 34 runnings of the event. It was a spectacular the like of which sailing has never seen before. It marks the future direction of sailing. I am happy to admit that before this regatta I, a sailor, thought sailing was not interesting to watch. Yet the 34 America’s cup proved me wrong. It was a sporting miracle to go alongside the Ryder cup at Medina, the Rumble in the Jungle and Super Bowl XLII.