America’s Cup World Series Lands in Plymouth September 10-18
Physically demanding new boats and new race format raise the intensity level of Cup racing
America's Cup sailing is coming to England, bringing many of the world's best sailors, competing on some of the most physically demanding boats in the world - the next generation, wing-sailed AC45 catamarans.
Landing in one of England's most historic and celebrated maritime ports, Plymouth, the America's Cup World Series will run September 10-18 in front of crowds on the world-famous Plymouth Hoe.
The team bases have been built, the shore side facilities are nearing completion and some teams have already started training on site. With just one week to go until the first race of the America's Cup World Series - Plymouth, all of the pieces are falling into place.
For some of the British sailors sprinkled throughout the crew lists, the opportunity to sail at home in the UK is very welcome: "It will certainly be great to be sailing on ‘home’ waters and to have the support of family and friends, and the venue looks to be a natural amphitheater which should be great for spectators to watch the racing," said Chris Draper, the British skipper of Team Korea.
"I'm looking forward to the regatta as I’ve not sailed in Plymouth that much. We’ve been doing a lot of analysis after the first event and have some valuable input we can apply going into this one. While we had a good regatta and were generally pleased with our performance in Cascais, we think we can improve in some key areas."
They won't be alone. The nine crews representing seven countries will arrive in Plymouth ready to renew rivalries in the new AC45 wing-sailed catamarans, which have proved to be the perfect tool in delivering close, exciting, adrenalin-filled racing.
This is the second stage in the America's Cup World Series. In the inaugural event in Cascais, Portugal, last month, ORACLE Racing Spithill won the match racing title, while Emirates Team New Zealand came out on top in the first 'Super Sunday' fleet race to grab the overall win.
Here’s the current leaderboard for the 2011-2012 AC World Series:
• Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL), skipper Dean Barker
• Artemis Racing (SWE), skipper Terry Hutchinson
• ORACLE Racing Spithill (USA), skipper James Spithill
• ORACLE Racing Coutts (USA), skipper Russell Coutts
• Green Comm Racing (ESP), skipper Vasilij Zbogar
• Aleph (FRA), skipper Bertrand Pacé
• Team Korea (KOR), skipper Chris Draper
• Energy Team (FRA), skipper Loïck Peyron
• China Team (CHN), skipper Charlie Ogletree
China Team has a new skipper in Charlie Ogletree, who has been promoted from the role of tactician in Cascais. Andreas Hagara, an experienced and decorated multihull sailor from Austria, joins the team as helmsman.
Thierry Barot, CEO of China Team, said: "What we are aiming to do is to build a real sports team where each member plays a key part, and at the same time, has the flexibility to be capable to move around as we race in different waters and under different weather conditions; this will truly maximize the potential of each member and enable them to add the most value to the team."
In Plymouth, the opening weekend will see the Plymouth AC Preliminaries, consisting of four fleet races spread across both Saturday (1410 start) and Sunday (1500 start), as well as the AC 500 Speed Trial, also scheduled for Saturday afternoon.
Monday and Tuesday are off days before the Plymouth AC Match Race Championship begins on Wednesday. The teams sail a combination of fleet and match races over three days to qualify for Saturday's match racing finals. The event culminates with the AC World Series Plymouth Championship, one winner-takes-all fleet race for the title on September 18.
Spectators are expected in the thousands, both on the water and along the shoreline. The race course will be very close to shore, inside the breakwater, meaning Plymouth Hoe offers spectacular viewing opportunities. The Race Village will be centered around the waterfront and the Millbay Docks, offering a host of on-shore entertainment, including live coverage of the racing, as well as concerts each evening.
The America's Cup World Series Plymouth is the second stop in the series. Following Plymouth, the teams will next race in San Diego, California from November 12-20, 2011.
To follow the live action, viewers can tune in to the America’s Cup YouTube channel. Featuring a multi-screen player, viewers can choose from live onboard footage, a graphical overview or an eagle’s eye view, as well as from expert sailing or standard sports commentary as part of the daily livestreaming. The racing is also available on demand at www.youtube.com/americascup
September 9, 2011
Strong winds, exciting sailing in the forecast for opening weekend in Plymouth
(Plymouth, UK) Conditions for the opening days of the America’s Cup World Series – Plymouth are forecast to be at the upper limit for racing, promising thrills and spills when the action starts on Saturday afternoon. Winds are forecast between 20-30 knots, which may push the race crews out of their comfort zone on the wing-sailed, AC45 catamarans.
On Friday morning, the nine skippers faced the media in the opening press conference, where the intensity of the racing was a frequent topic of conversation. The America’s Cup World Series in Plymouth will put many of the world’s best sailors together on short, challenging race courses designed to provoke close-action, near the shore. Spectators will be able to see all of the competition from the elevated vantage point of the Plymouth Hoe.
“I think if we get some good breeze it will make for some pretty exciting racing,” said Emirates Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker. “It's demanding on the guys and the excitement factor goes up quickly towards the top end (of the wind range)... On these boats, you go pretty quickly from racing to survival and I'm sure if we get the strong winds there will be plenty of good action.”
Racing is scheduled to start on Saturday, September 10, in the Plymouth AC Preliminaries at 1410 local time (GMT+1) with three fleet races in the program as well as the Plymouth AC500 Speed Trial. Sunday has one longer fleet race. Following two off days, racing resumes on Wednesday through Sunday September 18.
All racing will be broadcast live at www.youtube.com/americascup.
The America’s Cup World Series brings the focus of the sailing world to Plymouth for nine days. The Leader of the Plymouth Council, Councillor Vivien Pengelly, said: “We are delighted to be hosting such a fabulous event and the whole city is buzzing with excitement. For the city, the economic benefits of hosting the World Series could run into millions at a time when our businesses will welcome the boost.”
Quotes from the skippers:
James Spithill, ORACLE Racing Spithill: “The exciting thing about these boats downwind is that there are a lot of passing lanes and you have to sail very well when you're in the lead. It's very difficult… It's tough out there. But the great thing is that we're seeing passing and in the past we haven't seen anything like the amount of passing we're seeing already.”
Terry Hutchinson, Artemis Racing, trying not to be too critical of his overworked crew in short-course racing: "It's a whipping. I'm a bit of a spectator in the manoeuvres, and it's easy to criticize, but you bite your tongue a few times, because you know everyone's working at their limits. All four of our guys hit the red line on their heart rates in training yesterday. To sustain that for 15 minutes will be hard. It should make it more action packed though. One mistake is going to cost you."
Bertrand Pacé, Aleph, on the ‘new’ America’s Cup: “It's a new way to sail. It's a new America's Cup, a new event. It's very good for the sport and I'm happy to be a part of this game. I'm 50 and I'm discovering a new boat and a new to sail. It's very exciting.”
Charlie Ogletree, China Team, talking about his promotion to skipper with Andreas Hagara brought in as helmsman: "Like any professional sports team, the management is always looking for the right combination of athletes to achieve their goals. Taking away the pressure of being skipper leaves Andreas clear to steer the boat and I take over some of the skipper roles as the tactician."
Dean Barker, Emirates Team New Zealand, predicting some 'snakes and ladders' racing: "We're sailing close to the shore, in puffy conditions, which will be challenging, so there are going to be big changes. There are big gains and losses around the race course. It makes it pretty tough. You try and do what you can, and you try and make the most of every situation but I'm sure there will be a few that go against us as well."
Loick Peyron, Energy Team, on the secret to success: “If you sail fast, you feel a lot more intelligent. But everything happens very quickly; the boats are fast, the courses are short so it happens very quickly, both the mistakes and the good things. Sometimes it is a surprise to be well placed. Sometimes you are just happy to be there, but you didn't choose to be there… You need to be fast, right, intelligent and lucky!”
Vasilij Zbogar, Green Comm Racing, on his capsize earlier in the week: "When we capsized suddenly I just saw all the sandwiches floating in the water. We were surrounded by sandwiches! Now we've capsized we can check that off the list. Yesterday we went sailing and we were much more confident, but still we need to be very careful with these boats in more than 20 knots. We go to the limit all the time…"
Chris Draper, Team Korea, daunted by how short the course will be inside Plymouth Sound: "I know that our new crew member who joined us was not that impressed! It's pretty short, full-on, the lads are going to be breathing hard. With three or four races, it will be a lot on. Good fun, but hard work."
Russell Coutts, skipper, ORACLE Racing Coutts, looking to avoid a repeat of being beaten by underdogs like Team Korea who knocked them out of the match racing in Cascais: "To say we were disappointed to lose to these guys is an understatement, but the fact is we didn't sail well enough to win. You can be beaten by any of these teams especially if you don't sail up to your best abilities. A very experienced America's Cup sailor once told me it's better to have a good finish than a good start, and they had the better finish on the day."
September 10, 2011
Crowds out in force for opening day of America’s Cup World Series in Plymouth
Emirates Team New Zealand won two of three fleet races to open the event. Not to be outdone, Russell Coutts and his ORACLE Racing crew set the pace in the AC500 Speed Trials, posting the fastest time over the 500 meter runway.
The race course was set up in the Sound, just meters offshore from the Plymouth Hoe, making day one of the event pure ‘stadium sailing’.
"It was pretty awesome to see a crowd like that supporting the sport,” said Artemis Racing skipper Terry Hutchinson. “There were a lot of public on the Plymouth Hoe and around the course. I don’t think anyone expected something like that. Imagine what could happen with a sunny day.”
With the wind blowing in excess of 20 knots at times, boat handling was the key skill today, combined with brave starting. Dean Barker and the Kiwis took the first race with their big rivals from Cascais, Portugal. ORACLE Racing Spithill, in hot pursuit. James Spithill’s colleagues on ORACLE Racing Coutts were disqualified for being over too early on the start line.
Even in these big breezes, getting a great start was proving critical, and this time Spithill managed to control the Kiwis, keeping his rivals slow while he shot away to an early lead that grew as the race continued. In a big pile-up at the downwind gate, just meters away from the spectators on the sea wall, French team Aleph was forced to bail out to avoid a collision. With the breeze at its highest, some teams were really struggling with controlling the high-speed cats, and Artemis Racing narrowly avoided a capsize at one mark rounding. Team Korea meanwhile was forced to retire from this race with equipment problems.
Dean Barker learned his lesson from the previous start and this time had a great launch from the downwind end of the line to lead around the first mark, narrowly in front of Artemis Racing and Spithill. The American defender kept up the pressure until he got caught up in an altercation with a local sailor watching the proceedings from his small cruising yacht. Spithill was forced to bring his catamaran to a grinding halt while he waited for the yacht to motor clear of the course.
By the time ORACLE Racing Spithill was up and running again, the Kiwis were long gone. Now the race was with the other ORACLE boat, and they were shown no mercy by Russell Coutts who closed them out and sailed in front. Meanwhile Artemis had pounced on the ORACLE mishap to move into second place.
Emirates Team New Zealand’s two race wins on the day gave them the lead in the fleet racing, and Dean Barker did a fly-by for the crowds as he waved his appreciation to the people of Plymouth who had come to watch. Artemis finished the day on equal points with Spithill.
Immediately afterwards the nine teams lined up for the AC500 Speed Trial, and Russell Coutts and his experienced crew showed the younger teams how to get maximum speed out of an AC45 in a straight line. Coutts scored a time of 39.69 seconds, with a top speed of 28.18 mph, 1.48 seconds faster than second-placed Emirates Team New Zealand.
Start time for Sunday’s fleet race has been moved up to 1300 local time (GMT+1).
September 11, 2011
The blustery conditions pushed the crews and the boats to their limits, and in some cases beyond. Three teams capsized; the French Aleph, Team Korea and just meters from the finish, Spain’s Green Comm Racing. In each case, the crews escaped unscathed, the boats, with minor damage to their wings.
During the race, the ORACLE Racing Spithill crew had many near misses and was lucky not to capsize as they passed the first mark with the lead. Other boats challenged them for their early advantage, with first Artemis Racing, then Emirates Team New Zealand taking their turn at the head of the fleet. But it was a game of least mistakes, a war of attrition that eventually went back in favor of James Spithill and his slick ORACLE team.
France’s Energy Team sailed a strong race to finish fourth, after battling around the course with Russell Coutts for a podium spot. China Team too, sailed well in the conditions to finish in fifth place. Artemis Racing, meanwhile, was forced to retire, moments after relinquishing the lead on the second lap of the course, with equipment problems.
Aleph was the first to capsize, nose-diving right in front of the crowds gathered along Plymouth seafront, early in the race. Then, at the top of the course Team Korea speared their bows into the waves and flipped over. And tantalizingly close to the finish, Green Comm Racing was toppled by a gust on the final leg of the race. Luca Devoti, sports director from Green Comm commented later: "Nobody has been hurt and the wing has been damaged; we'll need two days to fix it."
All day, the sailors and the boats were racing at their very limits, unless a nonchalant James Spithill was to be believed after the race. "It was great racing for sure, not even at the limit of the boats; still a way to go." Brave words after a race that had spectators gasping with disbelief.
While Spithill won the race, his rival Dean Barker's second place was sufficient to give victory to the Kiwis in the Plymouth AC Preliminaries.
In Sunday’s AC500 Speed Trials, it looked like the Kiwis had it in the bag with two great runs while others were spinning off the race track. James Spithill's words nearly came back to haunt him as the ORACLE AC45 flipped right on to its edge - there were a few moments of doubt as to whether it would capsize - before it slapped back down on its floats.
With Spithill out of contention in the speed trials, it was up to the remaining teams - and ORACLE Racing Coutts in particular - to take the fight to the Kiwis. Once again Russell Coutts had the bit between his teeth and turned in a scorching final run to post a winning time of 37:48 seconds.
Monday and Tuesday are off days at the America’s Cup World Series – Plymouth allowing the teams a chance to rest and repair both man and machine. Racing resumes on Wednesday with qualifying races for the Plymouth AC Match Race Championship.
September 13, 2011
Get Up! Get on Up!
Last Sunday three boats capsized but only one finished. Team Korea recovered from a spectacular nosedive capsize to get the boat upright and finish the race. Aleph and Green Comm Racing were not so fortunate, being forced to retire after their capsizes.
It was particularly frustrating for Vasilij Zbogar’s team on Green Comm, falling in just metres from the finish line on the final leg of the race. They had done the hard work but failed to respect the ‘Death Zone’ as they became overpowered by the gusting wind.
Using their support boat, and reversing the wing to help get some air under the rig, the Green Comm blew upright with great speed - only to roll over and capsize the other way. “If we had managed to get the boat upright after the first capsize, we might have finished before the 10 minute time limit,” said Zbogar. “But when we had the second capsize that was the end of our race. It was a shame because we had sailed well. It was the strongest wind we had ever sailed in, we were ahead of Russell Coutts for most of the race, so I am still proud of the way the team sailed.”
It was also the strongest wind that Team Korea had ever sailed in. Chris Draper put his bear-away and subsequent capsize to a “moment of madness”. “The boat wasn’t properly set up for the bear-away, and we were going slow, but I’d reached this point where I thought we could get away with pretty much any bear-away in this boat,” said Draper. “Obviously that proved not to be the case!”
Aussie crewman Peter ‘Billy’ Merrington from Australia fell from the hull and bounced off the wing, sliding safely into the water, while Team Korea’s guest racer at the back was left hanging in mid-air for a minute before climbing down the trampoline into the water.
Meanwhile Team Korea’s support boat moved into position to help get the AC45 upright as soon as possible. “Our shore crew did a great job in moving so quickly,” said Draper. “The thing is the wing is in danger of filling up with water and the longer the boat’s on its side the more likely the damage is going to increase. So there’s a double incentive to get the boat upright as quickly as you can - to preserve the boat and finish the race.”
The other addition to the AC45 are righting lines, special ropes tucked away under the trampoline that can be used to help get the boat upright in the event of a capsize. Team Korea was the only boat to have fitted righting lines, but after Sunday we’re likely to see many more teams put them on. “There’s no downside to having them there,” said Merrington. “They don’t get in your way and if they help you get the boat upright, then why not have them?”
As we saw on Sunday, small things can make the difference between getting finishing a race after a capsize, or not.