34th America’s Cup: Nothing is stopping the Defender in Race 17
Published on September 24th, 2013
San Francisco, CA (September 24, 2013) – It was on September 18th, the eighth day of the 34th America’s Cup, when challenger Emirates Team New Zealand won their eighth race of the series. All they needed was to win one more race to win the event, but 10 days later, they are still on match point.
The early forecast looked ominous for Race 17, with the wind strength possibly near the 24.6 knot limit (1.6 kit of flood). But when defender Oracle Team USA entered the start box from the port end, the wind was just touching 17 knots. Defense skipper Jimmy Spithill positioned to leeward, but challenger skipper Dean Barker hit the accelerator and reached across in front to stake out the coveted position.
Barker’s problem was that he had too much time to burn from the line, allowing Spithill to bear off behind, get a hook, luff hard, get a foul, and exit the line with a 4 second lead. By the time the Kiwis shed their penalties, they trailed at the first mark by 16 seconds.
“We saw an opportunity (at the start),” said Spithill. “We had been working hard each night thinking about the starts, and it was great to put it together.”
For the Kiwis, they had made a complete mess of it. “We tried to make a bit of a play, but put ourselves in a really bad spot with bad options,” admitted Barker. “We were just way too early.”
There was a time when the Kiwis could reel in the defender, but that was 10 days ago. With the defender improving every day, the Kiwi speed is at best even, with passing dependant on human or equipment error. But there was none in this race.
With the narrow upwind course due to the flood, with the wind strength steady, with the defender making no tactical mistakes and no boat handling missteps, and with no breakdowns, the result is a win for the American team by 27 seconds. It was the sixth straight loss for the challenger.
“We are not going to stop,” Spithill stated. “We are going to keep going all the way to the end. We really want this; you can sense it onboard, and with the team around us. We are going to fight all the way to the end.”
Seventeen Completed Races – First team to 9 Points Wins
Emirates Team New Zealand: 8
Oracle Team USA: 7*
* Began series with -2 points due to International Jury penalty from AC World Series.
America’s Cup Final schedule
Tuesday, Sept. 24: Race 17 (1:15 pm PT), Race 18* (2:15 pm PT)
Wednesday, September 25: Race 19* (1:15 pm PT)