34th America’s Cup: Wire to wire win for defender in race 14
Published on September 22nd, 2013
San Francisco, CA (September 22, 2013) – In its best rendition of “it’s not over until it’s over”, race 14 of the 34th America’s Cup kept fans in their seats until the finish. With challenger Emirates Team New Zealand on match point, defender Oracle Team USA proved the spoiler once again by taking the win.
In contrast to a day earlier, when overcast and rain led to the postponement of racing, the sun was out and 13 knots of wind was coming from the right direction. The defender had the port end entry, and managed the leeward approach to the line amid a slight flood.
The Kiwis had a fractional edge across the line, but not enough to roll the defender, which held position to the turn at mark one. From there it looked like the defender was on easy street, extending on each gybe to open a 300 meter lead by the leeward gate.
“We came off the start pretty well and then they luffed us up but we were still okay,” said Kiwi tactician Ray Davies. “But when they gybed away they got into more breeze. It was a dying breeze, a leader’s race down that run.”
The Kiwis got the leeward gate split, but the defender took the offshore gate around and bolted toward the tidal relief under Alcatraz Island. Both teams sought refuge in the “cone”, with the defender exiting first toward the relief along the City Front. The Kiwis, up on their windward hip, began to nibble away on the long starboard tack across.
As the wind got lighter, it got harder for the defender to control the Kiwis. As both teams tacked up the City Front, the lead got down to 40 meters. The margin became elastic as puffs and current lines impacted boat speed.
“At some points you are happy to cough up a bit of lead to stay in phase with the other guy,” explained defense tactician Ben Ainslie. “But then at other times you feel like you are giving up too much and you have to split, and hope you made the right decision.”
In a gutsy move, the defender broke cover to set up for the offshore upwind gate, seeing better breeze they sought to capitalize on.
“It was a tough call as the wind was getting pretty light,” said Ainslie. “But Tommy (Slingsby) did a great job seeing the breeze.”
It proved to be a brilliant move, as their lead quickly grew to nearly 400 meters after the Kiwis rounded the inshore gate. But once again, with what appeared to be an unassailable lead, the Kiwis stormed back, riding a puff within 20 meters of the defender.
“The wind got dicier down the run, getting lighter and lighter down the course,” Ainslie explained. “And when the heat was on they were right on our hammer.”
The Kiwis, feeling the better breeze offshore, gybed away to get a little more. But there was no more to get. It proved to be a painful move, dropping 400 meters back. The defender wins race 14 by 23 seconds.
“Pretty tricky day with the wind dropping away, and there were huge gains and losses,” Davies said. We got right back in there on the run, and we should have held on longer but we had made a nice gain out to the left (offshore), and pressure is king in that stuff, but as we went out it closed right up. It could have gone either way down that run; it’s good to have races like that where the race is never over until the end.
Fourteen Completed Races – First team to 9 Points Wins
Emirates Team New Zealand: 8
Oracle Team USA: 4*
* Began series with -2 points due to International Jury penalty from AC World Series.
America’s Cup Final schedule
Sunday, Sept. 22: Race 14 (1:15 pm PT), Race 15* (2:15 pm PT)
Monday, Sept. 23: Race 16* (1:15 pm PT), Race 17* (2:15 pm PT)