America’s Cup: Great Britain Wins in Oman
Published on February 28th, 2016
by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt
(February 28, 2016) – While British fans enjoyed morning tea and New Zealand fans considered bedtime, I was scratching the sleep from my eyes at 2am PST for day two of the America’s Cup World Series (ACWS) in Muscat, Oman.
After Ben Ainslie and his British team posted a 3-1-1 yesterday to top the rank, they maintained the standard today to narrowly win the fourth event of the ACWS circuit. But with three double-point races, nothing was certain until GBR made an epic comeback in the final race.
Conditions proved similar as yesterday, with non-foiling winds of 7 to 8 knots keeping boat speed at 10 to 12 knots upwind and 13 to 14 knots downwind. Same four leg course – a short reach after the start, then a L-W-L to a downwind finish – provided races between 15 and 18 minutes long.
Biggest difference from previous ACWS events was what appeared to be a lack of spectators. Unlike the previous event in Bermuda where a mob of private boats infringed on the course, there looked to be no spectating boats in Oman. On land, the cameras rarely looked that way. At previous events, when the crowds are big, they show them. You do the math.
An assessment of the final results will show that GBR was quick when they needed to be. “We kept fighting through today,” skipper Ben Ainslie said. “Compared to the teams with established track records, we need to prove we can compete at the top of the fleet and I think we are getting back to doing that. We have a big team of designers, boat builders and support staff back at home working very hard for us and they want to know that we can win this thing.”
While NZL has been on the podium for all four ACWS events, they’d prefer to have closed out stronger today. “The last race was a little bit disappointing for us,” said skipper Glenn Ashby, referring to a fifth place finish. “But to come away from any event still holding the overall lead is a good thing. At the end of the day that’s what counts.”
FRA back-up helm Adam Minoprio represented well in his first event, closing the event with a 2-1. “We were pretty stoked on board. You could see the excitement on the guys faces,” Minoprio said. “We didn’t have the strongest start to the regatta but we’re happy to have been improving through the weekend and finishing with a win.”
JPN, one of the teams eager to make a strong showing, fell short. Showing glimpses of promise, they were not consistently fast of speed and mind. “Its frustrating just sort of losing points around the race course,” said JPN team Skipper and CEO Dean Barker. “Feels like we’re sailing well and we’ve improved a lot but putting it together is the main thing.”
But the biggest shocker of ACWS Oman was SWE. Talented and well-funded, Nathan Outteridge’s squad fell far from their winning performance in Bermuda. In four events, they have now finished 6-5-1-6 among the six teams. As Ricky Bobby said in Talladega Nights, “If you ain’t first you’re last.” Ouch!
A quick race-by-race summary….
JPN looked good early at the windward end of start line but it was NZL that accelerated best from mid-fleet and never looked back. JPN stayed close down the first run but NZL slowly extended on the beat. NZL tried to give JPN some space in hopes of them holding off the GBR charge which had been closing the gap. GBR rounds the upwind mark just behind JPN and makes the pass after JPN was slowed when their Code Zero couldn’t be quickly set due to winch override. USA, which was last at the upwind mark, narrowly passes FRA at finish.
Big impact when GBR, JPN, and SWE are OCS at start. Similar to previous race, FRA had good position at windward end but USA accelerated best from mid-fleet and never looked back. FRA built good lead on third place as pack behind tightened. Winds lightened enough for SWE to test Code Zero upwind to good affect to pass NZL and move into third, but NZL passed back on the final run. GBR, which had been in last at upwind mark, passes JPN and SWE at finish.
GBR and SWE were OCS, opening the door again for USA to accelerate best from mid-fleet to lead FRA around Mark 1. No consensus between jib and Code Zero among teams on upwind leg, but FRA did make gains with jib as USA used Zero. Broadcast goes dark just before upwind mark, with FRA ahead on final run when it returns. GBR makes another big comeback to move into third place….enough to give them the overall win.