AC35: Day 6, RR2 Race 11 – JPN v. SWE
SoftBank Team Japan v. Artemis Racing. Dean Barker (JPN) v. Nathan Outteridge (AUS). With FRA now statistically eliminated, both of these teams will go forward to the Playoffs along with GBR and NZL. Hence this race is of little consequence except for bragging rights, more training time in race conditions, and sizing up the competition. Assuming, as your Ed. does, that NZL will choose GBR as their opponent in the Challenger Playoff Semifinals, this is likely a preview of the other Semis.
Dean pooches his second start in a row and trails off the line by two boat lengths. The course is not aligned to the wind, as the breeze has shifted 15 degrees or so to the right of the course axis, making it more difficult for the team astern to gain a split and pass on the beats or runs. Artemis leads by plus or minus 100m most of the way around in what is turning into a reasonably close but not very exciting parade (despite the NBCSN commentators best efforts to make it so). It tightens up a bit at the top of Leg 5, and there's actually some upwind covering tacks by Artemis to stay ahead of JPN, who appear to be a touch quicker upwind. But SWE is much quicker downwind and they extend again on Leg 6, and score a moral-boosting 18-second win over JPN.
I'll go out on a limb now, and suggest that, unless it is very light during the Semis and/or Finals and some weird, ahem, stuff happens, NZL will choose and beat GBR in the one Semi, SWE will beat JPN in the other, and NZL will beat SWE in the Challenger Playoff Finals to advance to the AC Match against USA. NZL has been impressive (no surprise) and they may be even better than SI thought in our pre-regatta predictions. Perhaps the AC Match will be more interesting than we thought. Here's hoping.
The Swedish Team were anything but brittle today. Congrats to Nathan Outteridge & Co., as well as to Peter Burling and ETNZ, for today's two impressive wins each.