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America's Cup 35-Day 3: the Paul Cayard's commentary

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Emirates Team New Zealand vs Oracle Team USA

Bermuda

Races 5 and 6 of the 35th America’s Cup were held today on Great Sound in Bermuda in 10 knots of wind.  The question on everyone’s mind was: Did Oracle Team USA find some speed to make this Cup competitive?  The answer is yes!

The Kiwis won the first race today and moved to 4-0 in the series. The American’s won the second race of the day and moved the core to 4-1.  But the important fact is that Oracle was competitive in both races which was not the case last weekend. It appears that the American’s made new set of rudder foils called “elevators”.  The new pair are at rule minimum where as the elevators from last weekend were at maximum size. The reduction in drag using the smaller surface area elevators was dramatic.  The Kiwis had beaten the American’s to the punch in the elevator department, sporting the smaller ones last weekend.

So the light wind phobia seems to be behind the American’s and they can win a race in 10 knots of wind. Also, with today’s win, the series will definitely go into Monday which currently has a 15 knots forecast and could be to the American’s liking.

Still, the Americans are leaving a lot on the table with poor sailing.  Another botched start and a penalty on the first upwind leg in race 5 and a badly overlaid leeward gate in race 6, were a few of the costly errors by Oracle.  They really need to tighten this up if they want to win.  I am sure they know this and are frustrated.

In race 6, Oracle won the start and led and marks 1, 2 and 3.  Approaching the leeward gate for the second time, Oracle simply sailed past the lay line and the Kiwis laid the mark and cut in front of the Americans.  Superior upwind speed and getting in phase with the wind got the American’s back in front and a favorable split at the windward gate saw them sail in more pressure and double their lead heading to the last mark.

This swing of events has to be good for morale in the Oracle base and a bit concerning to the Kiwis.  Their advantage in light wind has been eliminated by the resilient American team.  Oracle still has  mountain to climb to get back to even but it has to start somewhere and in 2013 it didn’t start until the Kiwis hd 8 match points on the American’s.  Here, in Bermuda this year, the Kiwis still have to win 3 so there is just a bit more room for the Americans.

At the skippers press conference, Peter Burling, responding to a question said, “Well we were waiting for a bit of a fight from these guys.”  To which Jimmy Spithill replied, “Aw mate, we have only just begun.”  If he intended to intimidate Spithill, the young Kiwis skipper may have overstepped just a bit. It is a bit too early for that.  I am sure many Kiwi fans back home in New Zealand will be remembering the 8-0 march that Oracle went on in 2013 to keep the Cup out of Kiwi hands when they all but had it strapped to an Air New Zealand seat, with a score of 8-1 in a first to 9 series!

The forecast for today is for 8-12 knots and races 7 and 8 are scheduled.

I am spending the weekend in the BT Sports boat with, double Olympic Gold medalist, Shirley Roberston, commenting on the races for the British audience.

Paul