Race 5 was - to put it mildly - an utter disaster for Oracle.
Jimmy Spithill, Oracles’s skipper, was a little behind at the start, yet rolled over Team New Zealand around the first mark, and then just bolted downwind to Mark 2. Well ahead (in relative terms with these AC72s), Oracle then tacked. Right at the Mark. And did it poorly. Very poorly. The boat nearly stalled out completely.
New Zealand was on them like white on rice. And that’s when it all got really bad for Oracle. A couple of short tacks later, New Zealand was in the lead. And once the Kiwi’s are there, they tend to stay there. New Zealand marched all over Oracle upwind, and the lead just got longer and longer as the race went on. It became a day that got longer and longer for Oracle. Nothing went right. Nothing.
The loss was over a minute. In AC72 terms, Oracle shoulda just stayed at home.
It was, embarrassing.
Coming after the win on Sunday’s Race 4, this loss knocked the wind out of Oracle’s sails (so to speak). So much so, that Oracle played it’s “postponement card.” It’s one and only “Mulligan.”
That was a card we thought would only get used if a boat broke. (Does that mean that Oracle will always have boat 1 rigged and ready - floating about the racecourse - in case boat 2 breaks down? There is only 30 minutes between races. Hey, ya gotta do what ya gotta do, right?)
So now what?
John Kostecki was missing from the post-race press conference. He’s the tactician. Did he make the bad call? Spithill says that Oracle will be looking at “everything” to get it’s game on. The make up of the boat is being looked at, and the make up of the crew.
When asked if Spithill would still be skipper on Thursday, he said – One day you’re the rooster, the next you’re a feather duster. Is Sir Ben the next skipper? Larry Ellison does NOT like to lose. Ellison has changed crews before. It’s about results for Ellison. And this Team, is not performing.
Oracles was out practicing yesterday. It will be out practicing tomorrow. And then racing - for it’s mental life - Thursday. If New Zealand wins even one race Thursday, we might all just as well go to Oakland’s Lake Merritt and sail on Optis next weekend.
The crunch time for Oracle is here. And now.