On to the 34th America's Cup Defense
CW editor-at-large Gary Jobson offers up some insight into the upcoming races between AC defender Oracle Team USA and Emirates Team New Zealand.
Wake up sailors! We are going to see a unique, and most likely, one-time sailing event that I think will be an unbelievable spectacle. So far, the blow-out races, breakdowns, one-boat contests, and weather delays have marred the America's Cup. But we should all put that in the past. Beginning Saturday, September 7 this battle is going to be emotional, hard fought, fast and exhausting. Can the tiny nation of New Zealand reclaim the America's Cup, or will business titan, Larry Ellison, hold on to the Cup in his home waters?
As always with the America's Cup, the stakes are high. The winner chooses the next venue, boats, format and date. The actual Deed of Gift was envisioned to be a challenge driven event, however the defender ends up making the rules You can be sure both New Zealand and the USA have future challengers in their hip pocket that will be pulled out just after their boat crosses the finish line when, and if, they win. The future look of the 35th Defense is certainly an open question. But, right now, we will see a lot of sailing before anyone can talk about the future.
I have been in a good position to watch both the defenders and challengers this past month aboard the race committee boat, Regardless. On the water I also use the AC LiveLine graphics, and television pictures to help me with my part of the NBC commentary team along with Todd Harris and Ken Read, who are back on shore. There are a lot of interesting things to see on the water. These include subtle differences in boat handling, speed and maneuvers. I also pay attention to pre-race warm up routines. Proper tune up is important in sailing, just like every sport.
Like everyone else here in San Francisco I am wondering who will win the match? The truth is no one has any real clue, and that will make this regatta so much fun to watch. I am sure both boats will get their share of wins. It's easy: just get a better start, sail faster, cover when ahead, and don't make any mistakes. Nothing to it, right? No, of course not. This will be a hard event to win. There is no doubt both teams are hungry for victory.
Emirates Team New Zealand is a well-prepared team. They have more time on the water than the other three teams here. New Zealand is a joy to watch. The crew is a well-choreographed unit on nearly every maneuver except during Race One of the Louis Vuitton Cup final when NZL nose dived while rounding the windward mark. Two crew were washed over the side. It was a scary moment. New Zealand had a hydraulic failure in Race Two, and were unable to finish. Since then the Kiwis have been flawless.
New Zealand skipper, Dean Barker, will have to sail the series of his life to win. Around the waterfront he seems calm and ready. On the race course he faces Jimmy Spithill from ORACLE TEAM USA. Spithill is a ruthless competitor and fearless helmsman. He will push his boat and crew to the limit around the race course. Historically, Spithill has finished ahead of Barker more often than not. The battle during the two minute pre-start sequence will be epic. Both helmsmen will be well coached on each other's tactical moves. Both crews will have to flawlessly execute their boat handling. There will be very little time to gain an advantage. The boats will have to enter the starting box precisely on time, and get their boat in a position for the final sprint to the line. The AC 72s can sail one length in one second. If you are late by three seconds you are in trouble. It will be close, and I expect frequent protests by both boats. The Umpires will have their work cut out to make the right calls. I also expect most of the protests will be waived off with green flags (no foul, keep racing). If we see lots of protests you will know the emotions are running high. I predict in ten starts Spithill will win five, draw two and lose three. We will see.