top of page

AC35: Why the Kiwis won – Oracle had the 'wrong tool for the job'; Ferg says 'the sailor

SAN FRANCISCO – Dave Reed, editor of Sailing World magazine, has written an excellent article recapping Emirates Team New Zealand's crushing defeat of Oracle Team USA in Bermuda that now appears on their website. Executive summary, and as your Ed. has been fond of saying for decades: "Fast boat, well sailed, doesn't break." An excerpt:

Much ado was made before the Match about Burling’s match-racing experience in the pre-start box, but with every start he managed fine by never engaging with Spithill and using his maneuverability to stay out of harm’s way. On the penultimate day, however, he finally showed Spithill who was boss. In the most telling moment of the match, Burling foiled into a leeward hook in the start of the day’s second race, and as he glided to leeward, spitting distance from Oracle’s port hull, he took his right hand off the steering wheel, glanced over at his rival and gave a mocking wave. Maybe he was signaling Spithill to turn up, but that’s not how it appeared. It was more like, “Hello, Jimmy ... and goodbye.” Off sped the New Zealanders to another trouncing, bringing the series to 6-to-1 and match point.

Less than 24 hours later, cyclers Simon Van Velthooven, Andy Maloney and Josh Junior, flight controller Blair Tuke, trimmer Glen Ashby, and Peter Burling would deliver the decisive blow to Oracle Team USA in a move they’d practiced many times but never had the chance to deliver in a race.

The opportunity presented itself early in Leg 2 of Race 9 as Oracle led the New Zealanders toward the first boundary after Mark 1 with a 10-meter lead. The playbook says he who jibes first gets the jump, and racing sailors know the move well as the “no-look jibe.”

“Basically we have the ability to fire the windward board and jibe without sending anyone to leeward, so they didn’t know we were jibing,” said Tuke afterward.

They trained for this exact scenario ­knowing that the team that follows through Mark 1 has to beat the boat ahead to the jibe. As was the case throughout this lopsided series, ­Oracle didn’t see it coming, was late to react, and slow out of its jibe. As soon as both boats were up and foiling again, the writing was on the wall. “It’s something we trained a lot on, and when you pull it off in racing, it is a nice feeling,” added Tuke. “To do it in the last race was pretty cool.” Behind the sailors of Emirates Team New Zealand is team of teams, one that crafted the most technical boat the America’s Cup had ever seen. As with all other challengers left in Emirates Team Zealand’s wake, the 35th defender never stood a chance. They had the wrong tool for the job.

Read Dave's full article on the Sailing World website here. Better yet, sign up for a subscription to their print magazine, still the USA's best yacht racing monthly, and in the world probably second only to the RORC's Seahorse.

OTUSA's design chief Scott "Ferg" Ferguson (USA, Jamestown, RI) told Dave Reed that they considered using cyclors but the sailors rejected the idea. That, of course, comes as no surprise inasmuch as it would have meant those sailors, who had trained for years for the upper body strength to grind, likely losing their jobs on the boat to others with super leg strength, a la the forward three "cyclors" on the Kiwi boat.

Photo: Sander van der Borch / ACEA via Sailing World.

Join our mailing list

Get an email when there is BREAKING NEWS or a MUST READ.

bottom of page