The America's Cup Finals on Sunday, races three and four, resulted in a win for each finalist Oracle Team USA and the favored Emirates New Zealand who want to take the cup back to Auckland. It's a win-win day in more ways than one as the host country enjoys its first success at a time when morale needs boosting, the team with the new wing trimmer replacing Dirk De Ridder tries to gel instantly and Oracle Team USA needs some positive public relations after the recent jury decision with a severe punishment meted out to the hosting Americans.
The first team to get to nine points wins. That means NZ needs six more while Oracle needs ten more since Oracle started two down because of a penalty.
Skipper of Oracle Team USA, Australia's Jimmy Spithill and skipper of Emirates New Zealand Dean Barker have a long and healthy history of competing against each other. It was a beautiful sight on chilly San Francisco Bay as the fog blanketed the Golden Gate Bridge and the thousands of fans lining the shoreline wrapped themselves not only in New Zealand flags but towels and blankets, having thought the day would be mild with 14 knot wind. It turned out to be chilly and breezier on the water with a few small whitecaps, the stronger wind a benefit to New Zealand who sails faster in stronger wind and is generally faster upwind than Oracle.
Veteran Bay Area racer Enere Levi, a retired lawyer, says this afternoon:
The only major wild card I see is if Barker makes an aggressive and catastrophic mistake and capsizes the NZ Cat, destroying their sole boat along with their America's Cup challenge in total.
The fear of that dreaded nightmare, could allow Spithall and Oracle, with their backup boat, to push the racing to an extreme edge.....all or nothing......forcing the Kiwis to back off and play conservative......and allowing Oracle to climb back into this fight, which will be a long uphill slog!
By now Oracle probably knows it is unlikely to outrun New Zealand and that changes tactics. The two however have come close enough to "share paint" and New Zealand worked off its penalty in race three quickly. Race three was a race of tacks and coverage, a tacking duel. NZ veered off to Alcatraz Island and then north. The current separates before it gets to Alcatraz, according to racing sailor John Navas who is experienced racing on SF Bay.
Navas also praises John Kostecki highly as one of the world's best tacticians. Kostecki is a Bay Area native and tactician on board with Jimmy Spithill.
Race four was a thriller as the two drag raced to the finish downwind. NZ had gone north and Oracle had gone toward the shoreline where the current is milder. The racers crossed dramatically. Oracle although the winner had NZ gaining just seconds behind at the finish line.
Oracle has now worked off one of the two points down it started with as a penalty from the international jury. The first team to nine points wins, with seventeen races possible.
The jury decision contested
Meanwhile. The wing trimmer from Oracle, Dirk De Ridder, has an attorney who is mounting a protest against the jury that banned De Ridder and fined Oracle as a team $150,000. De Ridder counters that the jury overstepped authority and failed to follow rules and that de Ridder should be reinstated. De Ridder happens to be the brother in law of Kostecki, Oracles tactician and a Bay Area local.
If Emirates New Zealand wins
If the Kiwis take the trophy home to Auckland, will racing resume to offshore so that the public loses this astounding access to the historic race is one question to be answered in the week or so to come. Another big question is where will the crowd pleasing fleet from the World Series go, will it stay part of the America's Cup and stay together as a fleet is to be determined.
The super yacht regattas start Monday. Racing resumes Tuesday and continues Thursday then over the weekend.
For more information: www.AmericasCup.com
Check out youth sailing around the Bay at www.SailSFBay.org, particularly the 75 year old program on Oakland’s Lake Merritt.
The America’s Cup pavillion is along the Embarcadero before Fisherman's Wharf and is an easy walk, pedicab ride, bike ride or Muni ride from the ferry building and Embarcadero BART. The village and grandstands are at Marina Green.
For more stories by this writer check out CBS San Francisco's website under Eye on the Bay, San Francisco arts & culture "Best Of"; and San Francisco Arts & Culture on Examiner.com. Subscribe by hittng the SUBSCRIBE button at the top of this article.
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