AC35: Day 7, RR2 Race 12 – NZL v. USA
Emirates Team New Zealand v. ORACLE TEAM USA. Peter Burling (NZL) v. Jimmy Spithill (AUS). Speculation in the pre-start from NBCSN's Ken Read as to whether the teams are moded for the heavier air that was blowing through the course area in the hour or so before the 1400 race time. It's lighter at the start, 10-12 knots and decreasing. At the start USA is to leeward with NZL to windward. NZL tries to gap off, but Jimmy aggressively luffs to try to hold them above the starboard end of the line. Burling bears away across the start, forces Jimmy as right-of-way yacht to bear away to keep clear, OTUSA protests, penalty NZL (properly so). After slowing for the two-length go-slow penalty, ETNZ chase OTUSA down Leg 2. Up Leg 3 ETNZ split and look quicker than OTUSA. The Kiwis pull even then cross ahead of USA two-thirds of the way up. At the gate NZL on port crosses ahead of OTUSA then strangely tacks just to windward of them. OTUSA blows through to leeward, rounds the port end and is back in the lead. NZL protest USA for, I guess, forcing an overlap; it is green-flagged (properly, IMHO) by the umpires. OTUSA lead down the Leg 4 run, and are only 150m or so ahead as they head up Leg 5. The Kiwis have a slightly better Fly Time at this point as they once again begin to close in on OTUSA.
Oh no! A huge unforced error by NZL that the TV commentators missed – the Kiwis sail outside the starboard boundary when USA is over near the port boundary. So they take another two-length "go slow" penalty. OTUSA is now 250m in the lead as they near the Leg 5 gate. The penalty light is on for a long time. Kenny speculates that if you tack before taking a penalty owed, you get another penalty "piled on." He's right, and Chief Umpire ("Chump") Richard Slater comes on the air to confirm that – indeed, the Kiwis had a boundary penalty and then tacked before taking their penalty, resulting in a second two-length penalty. It's race over and OTUSA cruise to an easy :29 win.
Chalk the OTUSA win up to the more experienced Jimmy "Spitfire" Spithill gunning down his opponent at the start, and Kiwi inexperience and nerves. NZL had at least three brain-farts: the penalty at the start; the tack to windward of OTUSA at Gate 4 (they should have extended on port and rounded the other end of the gate, gained a split, and tried to overtake them on the run); and the unforced boundary infraction on Leg 5 and their failure to timely take that penalty resulting in yet another. Keep that up, Pete, and we'll start calling you Dean Barker.
After the race Tom Slingsby comes aft to congratule Jimmy & Co. and says, "We just won our first race in the America's Cup" meaning, of course, OTUSA is now 1-0 in the first-to-win-seven-race AC Match that starts June 17 (two weeks from today), against whichever challenger goes forward from the Playoffs. Sorry to say, but it is a strange if not perverse scoring system that greatly annoys me and many others of you, I know. Can you imagine what the fan reaction would be to the NBA, NHL or MLB starting their final series with one of the teams already up one win?
Again today, NBCSN held off showing any commercials until after this race, and thank goodness not too many of those cloying crowd shots.
Today's other races are irrelevant except as additional race training and for bragging rights. Groupama Team France are already mathematically eliminated and go home after today. The so-called "Playoffs" with the four remaining Challengers begin tomorrow. The top Challenger, ETNZ, choose which of the other three they will race in their Semi. Who would you choose? I'm betting they will choose GBR, but let's see how JPN, GBR and SWE fare in the today's races as that may have some bearing on the Kiwi's choice – in addition, of course, to the weather forecast for next week