America’s Cup: Halfway to Elimination
Published on May 29th, 2017
Hamilton, Bermuda (May 29, 2017) – The third day of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers marked the mid-point of the double round robin schedule, with each of the three final matches of the first round adding tension to a series that will eliminate one of the five challengers by June 3.
After claiming a maiden victory by beating Artemis Racing yesterday, Groupama Team France took another win in the opening race of the day by beating Land Rover BAR comfortably in race 13.
Despite a poor pre-start, which saw them fall 10 seconds behind the British team at mark 1, Franck Cammas’ team recovered brilliantly to stay in hot pursuit, closing the gap ahead of gate 3.
When Land Rover BAR suffered a poor turn at the gate, Groupama Team France were perfectly placed to pounce, seizing on the mistake and taking the lead.
It was a moment that would prove pivotal and costly for Sir Ben Ainslie’s team as they had no response in the remainder of the race, eventually losing by 53 seconds.
“It was another very good result for us and to beat the British is always good for the French,” joked Groupama Team France helmsman Franck Cammas, whose team suffered a defeat in their second race of the day against SoftBank Team Japan.
Meanwhile, for Land Rover BAR, the defeat sees them continue to struggle for form having lost to ORACLE TEAM USA and Emirates Team New Zealand on day two, with now only one win out of five races, the least of all six teams.
“We will have to go away in the coming days and make some big improvements,” said British helmsman Sir Ben Ainslie. “Everyone knows the America’s Cup is all about development and we will be pushing to improve our performance in specific areas.”
There was high drama in race 14 as the duel between Artemis Racing and Emirates Team New Zealand proved the most exciting, and most contentious contest of the 35th America’s Cup so far.
Having put themselves ahead at the start, the Swedish team were forced to drop two-boat lengths behind their rivals after being handed a penalty for crossing the start fractionally early.
They managed to catch up with the Kiwis and then swapped the lead with them multiple times throughout the race, but at the final mark there was a dramatic penalty called against the Swedes for not leaving the Kiwis enough room. Artemis Racing continued towards the finish line, but had to take their penalty, allowing Emirates Team New Zealand to take the win at the line.
“We are still shocked by what happened,” said Nathan Outteridge. “We all thought we gave them enough room and I still stand by that opinion. However the umpires obviously didn’t agree. That’s racing, sometimes you get the decisions and sometimes you don’t.”
Meanwhile, for Emirates Team New Zealand, the decision gifted them a fourth win out of five in the qualifying stages, equalling the record of ORACLE TEAM USA. In a follow-up interview with the Chief Umpire Richard Slater, it proved to be a gift the Kiwis didn’t earn.
“Like in all sport you have to play to the whistle and respect the umpires,” said Kiwi helmsman Peter Burling on the late drama. We thought it was definitely a penalty and, at the end of the day, it comes down to the umpires to make the decision. We were just happy to stay upright and even more happy to take the point.”
With the pressure on Dean Barker and SoftBank Team Japan, having only won one race before the final day of Round Robin 1, the Japanese team clinched a welcome win in the final race of the day (race 15) comfortably beating the in-form Groupama Team France.
Getting out of the start box 10 knots faster than the French team, SoftBank Team Japan controlled the race from start to finish, gradually building their lead throughout.
With the French team struggling to make a real challenge, SoftBank team Japan eased to the finish line a whole 2 two minutes and 34 seconds ahead of their rivals, capping off a magnificent performance.
“After a frustrating day yesterday, losing two races, today was a great turnaround by everyone in the team and we are really pleased with that,” said helmsman Dean Barker. “For me it is amazing to see some of the results out on the water. It has been really unpredictable and there will be more of that as we go forward.”
The second round robin begins tomorrow at 2:08 pm (local time) with three matches scheduled: NZL vs SWE, FRA vs USA, and SWE vs GBR. Winds are forecasted to veer more westerly with the best breeze expected in the morning, and easing to eight – 12 knots by midday.
America’s Cup Qualifiers: From May 27 to June 3, all six America’s Cup teams – yes, that includes the Defender – will compete in a double round robin match race series where each competitor races every other team twice. Each win earns one point, and the four Challengers with the most points advance to the next round. As the top two teams from the 2015-16 America’s Cup World Series, Land Rover BAR and Oracle Team USA gained an advantage of 2 points and 1 point respectively going into the AC Qualifiers.
Race results – Day three
Race 13: Groupama Team France beat Land Rover BAR by 53 seconds
Race 14: Emirates Team New Zealand beat Artemis Racing by 13 seconds
Race 15: SoftBank Team Japan beat Groupama Team France by 2 minutes and 34 seconds
ORACLE TEAM USA (USA), 4-1 – 5 pt (1 pt from ACWS)
Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL), 4-1 – 4 pt
Land Rover BAR (GBR), 1-4 – 3 pt (2 pt from ACWS)
Artemis Racing (SWE), 2-3 – 2 pt
SoftBank Team Japan (JPN), 2-3 – 2 pt
Groupama Team France (FRA), 2-3 – 2 pt