America’s Cup: ORACLE TEAM USA Wins Qualifiers
Published on June 3rd, 2017
Hamilton, Bermuda (June 3, 2017) – The Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers concluded today with the Defenders of the ‘Auld Mug’ ORACLE TEAM USA beating Emirates Team New Zealand and clinching the crucial top spot in the final leaderboard. That gives the US team a point in the America’s Cup Match, presented by Louis Vuitton, the final round of the events taking place now in Bermuda.
In what was the final set of races in the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers Round Robin 2, the first battle of the day (Round Robin 2, race 12) was a highly anticipated and mouth-watering clash between the top two teams in the standings, Emirates Team New Zealand and ORACLE TEAM USA.
Jimmy Spithill’s ORACLE TEAM USA headed into the day one place and one point behind Peter Burling’s Emirates Team New Zealand who sat on top of the pile on eight points.
The pre-race pressure was high with the winner of the monumental clash not only taking the bragging rights, but also importantly topping the final Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers table, which means taking a vital point into the showpiece America’s Cup Match.
However, if they were under any extra pressure, Jimmy Spithill and ORACLE TEAM USA were not showing any nerves in the early stages of the race as won the pre-start duel and made their way off off the start line ahead of Emirates Team New Zealand.
The Kiwis’ task was made harder as they were handed a penalty as a result of the pre-start fight which allowed ORACLE TEAM USA to build a slight lead by the gate 2 turn.
Emirates Team New Zealand recovered superbly to close the deficit completely by gate 3 as the teams headed into the turn together. ORACLE TEAM USA once again won the battle, with their opposition appealing and failing with a penalty protest.
The pressure looked to have told on Emirates Team New Zealand on leg five of seven as they were handed another penalty, this time for sailing out of the racecourse boundary, resulting in another penalty.
That penalty all but ended their challenge as ORACLE TEAM USA rounded the final mark and raced to the finish line 29 seconds ahead of Emirates Team New Zealand.
The second race of the day, (Round Robin 2 race 13) saw Land Rover BAR and Sir Ben Ainslie put on a dominant display in their first of two races, as they overcame Dean Barker’s SoftBank Team Japan.
An aggressive but perfectly executed and legal pre-start from Sir Ben Ainslie allowed Land Rover BAR to race clear of SoftBank Team Japan from the start line.
It was an early advantage that the British team built on steadily over over the first three legs of the race, with smooth sailing keeping them clear of Dean Barker’s team.
Land Rover BAR’s cause was helped further at the third gate as SoftBank Team Japan were handed a penalty, meaning the Japanese team had to fall further back behind the British team.
Despite the setback, SoftBank Team Japan recovered brilliantly to close the gap to their rivals ahead of the next gate as the two teams crossed paths before the turn.
However, Sir Ben Ainslie once again prevailed in the battle with Dean Barker as the Land Rover BAR boat came out ahead into the fifth leg, maintaining a slender lead.
SoftBank Team Japan refused to give up their pursuit and the teams came close together again in the sixth and final gate. It proved the crucial moment of the race with Land Rover BAR coming out on top for a final time as they raced for home, crossing the finish line first with a 13 second advantage.
In their final race of the 35th America’s Cup, Groupama Team France failed to achieve a fairytale send off and give their fans one final victory as they ended their Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers campaign with a disappointing defeat to Artemis Racing.
Having failed to progress to the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Challenger Playoffs, Franck Cammas’ team would have hoped to cause one last shock and beat the Swedish team for a second time.
However, it was not to be as Artemis Racing continued to find their form with what proved a relatively routine victory.
Groupama Team France were ultimately punished by two penalties during the race, one after the pre-start and another on leg 3, ending any chance of a real challenge, as the Swedish team coasted home comfortably ahead of their French rivals.
With top spot in the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers already secured, ORACLE TEAM USA further highlighted their pedigree with an impressive victory over Land Rover BAR in the final race of this stage of the competition (Round Robin 2 race 15).
The initial pre-start duel was won by Jimmy Spithill and ORACLE TEAM USA and from there victory never looked in doubt.
Sir Ben Ainslie and Land Rover BAR sailed smoothly throughout the race but, having fallen behind their opponents at the start, the British team could never quite close the gap as the race progressed.
By gate 5 ORACLE TEAM USA’s lead was 25 seconds and in the final stages of the race they managed to increase that advantage slightly, ultimately crossing the finish line 36 seconds ahead of Land Rover BAR.
The victory capped off a thrilling Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers, which ended with ORACLE TEAM USA topping the standings with nine points. Emirates Team New Zealand, Land Rover BAR, Artemis Racing and SoftBank Team Japan all secured their progression through to the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Challenger Playoffs, while Groupama Team France bow out of the 35th America’s Cup with their heads held high.
That is the end of ORACLE TEAM USA’s competitive action until Saturday 17th June when they will race the first two rounds of the America’s Cup Match. With today’s victory, ORACLE TEAM USA go into the America’s Cup Match with a valuable point already banked.
However, with ORACLE TEAM USA’s place in the America’s Cup Match, already assured as the Defenders of the ‘Auld Mug’, Emirates Team New Zealand were handed the opportunity to select their opposition in the next stage after finishing as the next highest seeded team from the final Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers standings.
Faced with the opportunity of taking on Artemis Racing, SoftBank Team Japan or Land Rover BAR, Emirates Team New Zealand helmsman Peter Burling finally ended the anticipation by revealing his answer at the final press conference of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers.
“We have sat down as a team and decided we would like to pick Land Rover BAR,” said Peter Burling, who also took the opportunity to pass on the condolences of Emirates Team New Zealand to the family of New Zealand native Mary Elizabeth McKee, who passed away in Bermuda on Thursday night.
Turning back to his team’s choice of Land Rover BAR, Burling explained that, “We believe with the forecasts over the coming week that it represents our best chance of progressing through.”
In response, Land Rover BAR helmsman Sir Ben Ainslie, whose team finished third in the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers standings on six points, is prepared for the challenge ahead.
“It is going to be a close race, but to win the America’s Cup you have to beat all the teams,” said Ainslie.
“Emirates Team New Zealand have certainly proved through this qualifying round to be sailing really well. They are very fast and so for us it will be a real battle.
“However, we are up for it and looking forward to it.”
Emirates Team New Zealand’s decision to face Land Rover BAR means the remaining two teams to have progressed from the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers, SoftBank Team Japan and Artemis Racing will face off in the other Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Challenger Playoffs semi-final.
“We’ve done a lot of racing against Artemis Racing over the last 18 months and we’ve had some great battles,” said SoftBank Team Japan helmsman Dean Barker, whose side finished in fifth place with three points in the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers.
“We know they are a very strong team, I’m sure the racing is going to be very close and it will be interesting all the way through,” said Barker.
Their opponents Artemis Racing head into the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Challenger Playoffs in good form, with a final day Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers victory over Groupama Team France leaving them in fourth position on five points in the final standings.
“We are excited to be here,” said Artemis Racing’s helmsman Nathan Outteridge.
“We know that to go and beat ORACLE TEAM USA (in the America’s Cup Match, presented by Louis Vuitton) we now have to beat SoftBank Team Japan and Emirates Team New Zealand.
“We are up for the challenge and excited to go and do that. We’ve beaten them (SoftBank Team Japan) twice in the qualifying races and that gives the team some confidence moving forward.”
Both of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Challenger Playoffs semi-finals will be decided by a first to five points race format, with the winners of each Semi-Final then facing each other in the Finals of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Challenger Playoffs. The eventual winner of that stage of the competition will then become the official Challenger to ORACLE TEAM USA for the 35th America’s Cup.
With a two week break from race action ahead, helmsman Jimmy Spithill and his team will continue to develop their boat and be ready to face the eventual winner of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Challenger Playoffs.
“That point could be critically important,” said Spithill following today’s racing.
“The guys in the shore team work almost 24 hour shifts to make sure our boat is always prepared and to see that as sailors is incredibly motivating.
“That gets us all hungry and makes us want to reward the guys on shore.
“I don’t think we have been consistent enough throughout the qualifying stage and so we will all be working hard to get the best out of what is available to us.
“In these next two weeks we will look at every component of our systems. We can’t afford to sit back.
“We need to be faster to win this America’s Cup. There is a lot left for the taking and we will be making all the steps to make sure we are more efficient in every way.”
Daily Race Results
Race 12: ORACLE TEAM USA beat Emirates Team New Zealand by 29 seconds
Race 13: Land Rover BAR beat SoftBank Team Japan by 13 seconds
Race 14: Artemis Racing beat Groupama Team France by 2:35
Race 15: ORACLE TEAM USA beat Land Rover BAR by 36 seconds
The America’s Cup Challenger Playoff starts tomorrow, June 4. Emirates Team New Zealand have decided to take on Land Rover BAR as their opposition in the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Challenger Playoffs semi-finals. The schedule will be:
Race 1: Emirates Team New Zealand vs Land Rover BAR
Race 2: Artemis Racing vs SoftBank Team Japan
Race 3: Emirates Team New Zealand vs Land Rover BAR
Race 4: Artemis Racing vs SoftBank Team Japan
America’s Cup Challenger Playoff : From June 4 to 12 (may end earlier), the Defender now gets out of the way, with the top four Challengers split into two Semi-Finals (best of 9) with the winner of each match to meet in the Final (best of 9) to determine who will take on Defender in the America’s Cup Match.
ORACLE TEAM USA (USA), 8-2 – 9 pt (1 pt from ACWS)
Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL), 8-2 – 8 pt
Land Rover BAR (GBR), 4-6 – 6 pt (2 pt from ACWS)
Artemis Racing (SWE), 5-5 – 5 pt
SoftBank Team Japan (JPN), 3-7 – 3 pt
Groupama Team France (FRA), 2-8 – 2 pt