Saturday, August 28, 2010

Aussies miss out on championship

BMW ORACLE Racing skipper Jimmy Spithill and sailing team coach Glenn Ashby put up a good fight at the International C Class Catamaran Championship, but couldn’t overcome a newer, faster cat.

The C Class cat Alpha, I4C winner in 2007 and runner-up in 2010

Fred Eaton and Magnus Clarke of Toronto, Canada, successfully defended the title they won in 2007 with a 3-1 victory over the Australian duo.

The Final was intended as a first-to-five series, but was cut short with the Canadians leading and the northerly wind losing its battle against the southerly.

Jimmy takes a jab from Justin "Juggy" Clougher
“Full credit to them, they deserve it,” said Spithill. “To win we would’ve needed stronger winds, but we pushed them hard, won a race and I’m happy with how we sailed.”

Spithill and Ashby were racing Alpha, the 25-foot, wing-sailed cat that Eaton and Clarke sailed to victory in the previous I4C in 2007. Alpha was the starting point and trial horse for Eaton and Clarke’s new Canaan.

The defenders’ new cat has a taller rig that enables them to sail low and fast on the runs, which was devastating for the Aussies.

“We put the ‘am’ in ‘pro-am,’” said Clarke, who was a wing sitter for BMW ORACLE Racing in the 33rd America’s Cup, camping out overnight on the trimaran USA in Valencia to prevent it from sailing away.

After splitting yesterday’s first two races it was clear that the Aussies needed more breeze to negate the Canadians’ advantage downwind. But when the crews awoke this morning to a light 
northerly on Narragansett Bay, the outcome was hardly in doubt.

Glenn sets up the rig at the rainy beginning of the week
“We gave them a hard time in the starts, but couldn’t do more than we did,” Ashby said. “Jimmy and I were happy in the heavy stuff. We just needed more time to work on our light wind technique.”

When joking after the racing, it was suggested to Spithill and Ashby that they were given a knife for a gun fight. Ashby laughed and Spithill likened it to fighting with one hand tied behind their back.

Clarke, still fond of his old craft, had a different take.

“That’s no knife,” he said of Alpha. “We may have a .357 Magnum, but that’s at least a.38 Special.”

In looking back on the week that was, Canaan and Alpha, along with Invictus of Great Britain, were the only cats of the six entered that didn’t lose their wing or suffer catastrophic damage.

“Fred’s team should be happy to get both boats in the final,” Spithill said. “Full credit to the shore crew for keeping the boats going; our boat was reliable.”

The Aussies (left) made life difficult for the Canadians in the pre-starts

Alpha was every bit the equal of Canaan on upwind legs

Canaan couldn't be touched downwind in light windspeeds

(All photos courtesy Christophe Launay)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Spithill, Ashby all tied up

BMW ORACLE Racing skipper Jimmy Spithill and sailing team coach Glenn Ashby were shaking their heads when they hit the shore.

“They’re just too fast downwind,” said Spithill.

“We keep looking around downwind going, ‘Look out, here they come!’” quipped Ashby.

Glenn and Jimmy

Despite the disbelief, the match-race final of the International C Class Catamaran Championship stands tied, 1-1. The winner is the first to 5 points.

Challengers Spithill and Ashby, aboard Alpha, won an exciting first race.

Defenders Fred Eaton and Magnus Clarke, aboard Canaan, won the second, pulling away on the second and third laps for a sizable margin at the finish.

The difference? The wind strength.

A beautiful 12- to 15-knot southerly blew for the first race and Alpha was able to pace Canaan downwind.

But Canaan, which sports a wing that is two and a half feet taller, is particularly devastating downwind in winds less than 10 knots. So when the windstrength fell to 8 knots at the start of Race 2 and 6 knots through its duration, Canaan couldn’t be touched.

“I’d say the crossover is more like 12 knots,” Ashby said.

Canaan is happy to have that speed advantage because Spithill and Ashby were dominant in both pre-starts. Spithill is a past match racing world champion. Ashby was the sailing team coach for the 33rd America’s Cup. Together they’ve reviewed enough film of match racing maneuvers to fill a vault in Hollywood.

So it was no surprise that Ashby, the helmsman, and Spithill chased Eaton and Clarke around the start box in both races.

The Aussies size up the Canadians during the pre-start of Race 2

In the first race, Ashby and Spithill gained a huge jump off the line when Eaton stalled out twice within a 70-second period. The Aussies led the Canadians by approximately 45 seconds at the windward mark, but at the leeward mark the advantage was approximately 20 seconds. Such is the downwind speed of Canaan.

With the windstrength dropping to about 10 knots, the two crews were on a yo-yo for the rest of the race. Ashby and Spithill made nice gains upwind, but Eaton and Clarke mauled those gains downwind.

Eaton and Clarke had a better performance in the pre-start of Race 2, although at times it looked like they were in serious trouble. But with about 45 seconds to the start Eaton and Clarke were on the line with a nice hole to leeward.

The Aussies (right) chase the Canadians, who are about to jibe, in Race 1

Ashby and Spithill were slow outside the boat end, and it seemed they’d be content to start to windward. But then the crew sheeted on and dug to leeward of Eaton and Clarke. The Canadians got slow again with the Aussies right to leeward, and moments after starting were forced to tack away.

Ashby and Spithill sailed a workmanlike windward leg and led by about 15 seconds at the first mark, but with the wind down around 8 knots it was only a matter of time before Canaan used its incredible ability to sail lower and faster while flying the windward hull. That’s the result of a taller rig with higher center of effort that enables the boat to heel more. (Read yesterday's post for more design discussion.)

Fred Eaton (helm) and Magnus Clarke show their devastating downwind mode

Late on the first run Eaton and Clarke were trailing Ashby and Spithill, but then found a fanning puff to leeward of the Aussies and sailed 20 degrees lower towards the leeward mark. The Canadians jibed in front of the Aussies and led around the leeward mark. There was little the Aussies could do at that point, and the Canadians gained a measure of revenge for the pre-start shenanigans.

Racing is set to resume tomorrow morning at 10:00 am local, an hour earlier than scheduled. The race committee hopes to find an early morning breeze to run races because at least another four are needed to determine the winner.

“Bring on 20 knots,” declared Spithill.

“It’s just nice when you can hook in and sail without having to go in and out all the time,” Ashby reasoned.

Canaan (left) has a rig that is two and a half feet taller than Alpha

Canaan leads around the second windward mark of Race 2

Glenn and Jimmy doin' the wild thing

(All pictures courtesy Christophe Launay)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Spithill, Ashby to square off against Canadians

BMW ORACLE Racing skipper Jimmy Spithill and sailing team coach Glenn Ashby finished second in the fleet racing portion of the International C Class Catamaran Championship.

Jimmy and Glenn approach a windward mark

After scoring two bullets in three races yesterday aboard Alpha, the crew had to settle for three seconds today to their main rivals, Fred Eaton and Magnus Clarke aboard Canaan. The Canadians won with the low score of 8 points, with the Aussies 2 points in arrears.

“We achieved our two goals for the day: bring the boat back in one piece and move into first place,” said Clarke, who was the “wing sitter” for BMW ORACLE Racing during the 33rd America’s Cup last February.

The two crews now square off for the International C Class Catamaran Championship Trophy in a match racing format beginning tomorrow. The first crew to score 5 points wins the 25th championship of the C Class catamaran.

Alpha, to windward, and Canaan race downwind

The showdown is an interesting pairing. Spithill and Ashby’s borrowed Alpha won the 2007 I4C trophy under the guidance of Eaton and Clarke. The Canadians’ new Canaan is a second generation development of Alpha.

On the racecourse the past two days Alpha has been every bit the equal of Canaan, if not slightly better, when sailing upwind. But downwind in a light to moderate breeze the newer cat simply out performs its elderly brethren.

Never was that more evident than today. Alpha was less than one boatlength behind Canaan at the first windward mark in the day’s first race and led in the third race, but couldn’t match Canaan’s speed downwind.

“I felt like we were in touch upwind, but the biggest difference was downwind,” said Ashby, the seven-time A Class cat world champion who’s manning the helm this week.

Glenn and Jimmy work upwind, note the curvature of the hull

“I felt like we were sailing well downwind. We mostly went the right way, but it seems like they have a little depth and speed downwind,” Ashby said.

Clarke, the Canaan crewman, concurred.

“We had good pace downwind, we were feeling good,” Clarke said. “We have a bit taller rig and Fred and I have been sailing together for five years, so we know how to maneuver the boat without having to talk about it.”

Design comparison
When it comes to limitations, C Class cats have few. The class rule has three primary dimensions, length overall (25 feet), beam (15 feet) and sail area (300 square feet). Class t-shirts bear the saying, (25’ x 14’) x (300 sq’) – rules – dogma = C.

That t-shirt was proudly worn today by Steve Killing, the Canadian yacht designer who created Alpha, Canaan and Orion (the first generation after Alpha), all owned by Eaton.

Killing didn’t hold back the information when asked to point out the differences between the two finalists.

Alpha has a moderate rocker and fairly rounded hull. Orion was an attempt to extend the top-end speed. It has less rocker, and narrow and vertically short bows. It was an attempt to make it pitch less, but when it sails into waves it slows down. It’s better in flatter water.

Canaan sails on a tight reach, note the curvature of the hull

Canaan has a half-inch more rocker than Alpha. There is more volume pushed forward in the bows, and the run aft is more gradual.

“Comparing the wings, Alpha’s is 41 feet tall and Canaan’s is 43.5 feet tall,” Killing continued. “Canaan’s wing is a higher aspect ratio with less chord length. That moves the volume up the wing more. The higher center of effort allows Canaan to fly a hull earlier than Alpha, so downwind they can dig deeper before the hull falls back in the water.

“The main tube in Canaan’s wing is built with high-modulus carbon-fiber, as is an I-beam at the front of the second element. That makes the wing 50-percent stiffer.

Canaan has come out better than we expected,” Killing summarized. “The crew on Alpha is phenomenal. I’d love to see the two crews switch boats for a test sail before this is all over.”

Alpha chases Canaan downwind

(Pictures 1 and 4 courtesy Christophe Launay; Pictures 2, 3 and 5 courtesy Trixie Wadson) 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Spithill, Ashby grab early lead in C Class cats

After two days of shoreside postponements while stormy weather moved through New England, the fleet contesting the International C Class Catamaran Championship took to Narragansett Bay today for three races in a gusty northwesterly.

Jimmy and Glenn show fine form on the wires of the C Class cat Alpha

BMW ORACLE Racing skipper Jimmy Spithill and the team’s sailing coach Glenn Ashby are the overnight leaders after finishing 1-1-2 aboard the borrowed Alpha.

The Aussie pair had never raced C Class cats before, but today lit up the racecourse – even scoring a come-from-behind win in Race 1 – to take the early lead.

Second is held by defending champions Fred Eaton and Magnus Clarke aboard their slick new Canaan, a second generation development of Alpha. Eaton and Clarke served notice that they won’t go down easily with a scoreline of 2-2-1.

Beyond the top two, the fleet is jumbled. Team Invictus of Britain holds third and the French aboard Patient Lady VI fourth, but neither boat seems to have the pace to compete with the top two.

Two other cats – Aethon and Orion – were forced out of today’s racing when their wings broke.

The Americans Steve Clark and Oliver Moore aboard the newly launched Aethon were considered contenders for the championship, but their wing was damaged beyond repair when they capsized moments after the start of Race 1.

Orion, crewed by Canadians Dan Cunningham and Rob Paterson, was forced out shortly after rounding the first windward mark in Race 1. Doing the “wild thing” downwind, the starboard chainplate ripped out of the hull and the wing went overboard to leeward.

For the BMW ORACLE Racing crew, Day 1 couldn’t have gone better. Spithill and Ashby had only practiced for 30 minutes prior to this event, but looked like old hands in winning the first two races.

Jimmy does the "wild thing," sitting inboard on the downwind legs to induce heel

“We’re still not sure of our settings,” said Spithill, the team skipper now cat crew who does the wild thing to leeward. “We pushed hard in the first two races.”

“It was absolutely satisfying,” said Ashby, the seven-time A Class cat world champion. “The boats are enjoyable. I liken them to an A Class or Tornado. They all have similarities and little idiosyncrasies.”

Ashby and Spithill took the action to Eaton and Clarke right from the start of Race 1. With the start line slightly biased to the pin end, the Aussies nailed the start on port tack and were gone. They wanted the right side of the beat and got it.

“By starting on port you don’t have to do an extra tack to get to the right side,” said Ashby.

It looked like Ashby and Spithill would lead at the first windward mark, but then confusion set in. The racecourse marks are yellow tetrahedrons, but in the area of the racecourse on Narragansett Bay north of Gould Island there also are round yellow marks that are maintained by the U.S. Navy for torpedo practice.

Today, there was also a cylindrical yellow mark that was in place for two J/80s practicing for the upcoming world championship in October. Ashby and Spithill rounded the cylindrical mark, to their disadvantage.

“We were laughing about how average we looked,” Ashby said.

That allowed Eaton and Clarke to take the lead, but not for long. Ashby and Spithill were hot on their transom at the third windward mark, setting up a thrilling run to the finish. Within the final quarter-mile of the run it still looked like Eaton and Clarke would take the bullet, but Ashby and Spithill nipped them by 2 seconds at the pin end.

Ashby and Spithill started Race 2 on port tack again about mid-line. They sped off to the right side and this time opened a lead that would not be relinquished.

“The right side of the course had more breeze. It was paying upwind and downwind,” said Ashby.

Off the start line of Race 3, Canaan leads Alpha

In Race 3 it was Eaton and Clarke’s turn to get the jump off the start line. The Canadians started on the Aussies’ lee bow on port tack and led off to the right side. Ashby and Spithill were living on their hip, but then made a sudden move to leeward.

“That was my fault. I let go of the mainsheet,” said Spithill.

After the 1-1-2 day and the loss of two other boats, the Aussies are well placed to advance to the championship. A maximum of four fleet races are planned tomorrow before the top two crews in the standings advance to the match racing final. 

At this point it looks like it’ll be the Aussies versus the Canadians but, as demonstrated today, plans can go awry in a hurry.

“They’re fast,” Spithill said of the defenders. “Their boat and wing are a little lighter. We’ve got to work on our twist settings, how we control the third element.”

(All photos courtesy Christophe Launay)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Spithill, Ashby take aim at IC^4

Update: 1800 CET (1200 Newport, RI)

Racing for Day 1 of the International C Class Catamaran Championship has been postponed for the day. At decision time moments ago the race committee reported gusts up to 27 knots from the northeast on Narragansett Bay north of the Newport Bridge. The wind is forecast to subside tomorrow.

There are two parts to the event format, fleet racing and match racing. The Notice of Race calls for a minimum of three and maximum of 12 fleet races before the match racing. The top two teams in the fleet racing advance to the match racing final for the International C Class Catamaran Championship Trophy.

Original post: 1443 CET (0843 Newport, RI)

The occasion of the 25th International C-Class Catamaran Championship has attracted six international crews to Newport, R.I., to contest the event known unofficially and informally as the “Little America’s Cup.”

One of those crews is BMW ORACLE Racing team skipper Jimmy Spithill, who’ll be crewing for fellow Aussie Glenn Ashby aboard the 25-foot, wing-sailed cat Alpha, the Canadian boat that won the previous IC^4 (the event’s new abbreviated title) in Toronto in 2007.

Spithill and Ashby’s trails in multihull racing are becoming multi-versed. Spithill, 31, skippered the BMW ORACLE Racing trimaran USA to victory in the 33rd America’s Cup last February. He made the jump from displacement monohulls to a 90-foot trimaran with 223-foot tall wing mast with aplomb and a lot of hard work. That transition was enabled by Ashby.

Ashby, 32, is the reigning A Class Catamaran world champion, having won his seventh title last month. It was also his 14th world championship overall. In fact, in the past 12 months, Ashby has won the Tornado Worlds, two A Class Worlds and the 33rd America’s Cup, as coach for the team.

Ashby’s extensive background in multihulls was the perfect knowledge base for Spithill, who had limited multihull experience, training on X40s and Franck Cammas’ ORMA 60 Groupama 2, until USA was launched in August 2008. Last December Ashby conducted an intense training session during the holiday season for team members such as Spithill, John Kostecki (tactician), and Dirk de Ridder (wing trimmer).

The idea was for the guys to get as much training in as possible. It worked well. Ashby won the event and Spithill went on to place 6th in his first significant competition in the singlehanded catamaran.

Less than two months later they were hoisting champagne together in celebration of the America’s Cup triumph. In July they placed 18th out of 80 in the Gold Fleet at the F18 Worlds, and now the Aussies hope to re-establish their homeland as a wrecking crew in the Little America’s Cup.

Australia, the U.S. and U.K. have been the major players in the class. U.K. crews won the first eight championships from 1961 to 1968, but none since. Australia and U.S. teams each have seven championships.

Heading into the 25th anniversary event, the Canadians Fred Eaton and Magnus Clarke are the team to beat. The duo is the defense team after having won in 2007 aboard Alpha.

This week they’re racing the slick new cat Canaan, the second-generation advancement from Alpha. Canaan’s black carbon-fiber hulls sport a clear coat and the wing is reputed to be the lightest in the fleet.

Team members spent much of last night replacing the film on the wing. In an effort for weight reduction they used a super-thin film similar to cling film wrap. But the film is porous and easily punctured, and with rain and strong winds expected the first days of the regatta the team replaced the thin film with a vinyl layer.

Clarke, the crewman, has ties to BMW ORACLE Racing, as does Rob Paterson, a crewmember aboard Orion, the first generation cat after Alpha.

Clarke and Paterson were the “wingsitters” aboard USA from the time the wing sail was fitted in San Diego last November right through until February in Valencia. There, dressed in every piece of clothing they could muster to combat the chilly winter nights, they camped out on the tri under the fully-rigged wing to prevent it from sailing off on its own. With just a couple of degrees of incidence, the wing sail could generate lift and threaten to launch USA.

Which brings us back to Ashby and Spithill. You might say they’re entering this event under a wing and on a prayer. They’ve had scant little practice time as schedules have prohibited them from arriving before the weekend. A practice session yesterday afternoon was cut short after about 30 minutes because a line controlling the leech element of the wing failed.

Day 1 won’t be a cakewalk, either. A low pressure system has parked up across the New England region and dumped nearly one inch of rain in Newport over the past 24 hours along with east/northeasterly winds. Although the rain has abated this morning, it is expected to return later today and the winds are expected 20 to 25 knots from the northeast.

Today’s racing will be held in Narragansett Bay, north of the Newport Bridge, where the waves will be smaller but the wind gustier and shiftier.

But with Ashby’s extensive knowledge on the helm and Spithill on the wire, Australia’s hope for a return to C Class cat domination is in good hands.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Silent Heroes -- Part II

BMW ORACLE Racing once again thanks Seahorse magazine for its permission allowing a reprint of this excerpted article regarding our boatbuilding and engineering crew and the construction of the trimaran USA 17. This story, Silent Heroes – Part 2, is printed in Issue 367, September 2010.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Silent Heroes - Part 1

BMW ORACLE Racing kindly thanks Seahorse magazine for its permission allowing us to reprint this excerpted article regarding our boatbuilding and engineering crew and the construction of the trimaran USA 17. This story, Silent Heroes – Part 1, is printed in Seahorse Issue 366, August 2010.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A decade of memories

Ten years ago a sailing team began a journey with ambitions of grandeur similar to every start-up. No IPO was offered, but a mission statement was clearly laid out: Win the America’s Cup.

On Aug. 11, 2000, the sailing world buzzed with word that Oracle Racing intended to challenge for the 31st America’s Cup, slated for Auckland, New Zealand, 2002-03. It had purchased the assets – including the shorebase, race boats, support boats and containers full of equipment – of a former syndicate.

Since then the team has traversed what some would call a long and winding road, others a long strange trip. Either way, it’s been a memorable 10 years for the team now called BMW ORACLE Racing, America’s Cup champion.

Larry Ellison at the helm of Sayonara
A challenger finalist effort in the first showing took a step backwards to a semifinal placing in 2007, but led way to victory on Feb. 14, six months ago in the 33rd America’s Cup Match.

When put into context, 10 years from start up to Cup champion is not all that long. Sir Thomas Lipton and Syd Fischer would be green with envy.

For team founder and afterguard member Larry Ellison and the OTM’s (original team members) – Ian “Fresh” Burns, Tom Ehman, Melinda Erkelens, Mickey Ickert, Brian “Puck” MacInnes, Tim Smyth, Julie Sutherland, Mark “Tugboat” Turner and Brad Webb – still on the roster, it’s been one heck of a ride.

“I think Larry knew it was a big challenge,” said Erkelens, a legal counsel who helped kick-off the team with her husband Bill in the spring of 2000. “You’re hopeful that you can win it quickly, but realistically it takes awhile to get it all working, everybody in place and the right people on the job.”

On the heels of the conference call in August 2000 it wasn’t inconceivable to think that Oracle Racing would have immediate success. Ellison’s motivation for forming the team stemmed from his great success with the maxi yacht Sayonara. Four times the sleek 80-footer won the Maxi Yacht World Championship.

Coinciding with the fourth championship in 2000 was as a sea change in the America’s Cup. The all-conquering Team New Zealand, winners of the 1995 and 2000 matches by a combined 10-0, was disbanding. Suddenly, the Cup seemed up for grabs.

Influential businessmen such as Ernesto Bertarelli and Craig McCaw followed the likes of Patrizio Bertelli into the arena, buying up the best talent, both sailing and design wise, in the world. Some of that talent happened to crew on Sayonara. Fearful of losing his best sailors to other commitments, Ellison did the next best thing. He joined them.

The maxi yacht Sayonara
“There were some members of the crew whom he wanted to keep sailing with,” said Erkelens, who spent many long nights in 2000 and since. “We had a bunch of Kiwis sailing with us that he would be able to keep. Once he realized that he could keep the foreign talent, it didn’t take a whole lot of convincing. He was very excited.”

But the team’s staying power was uncertain in its nascent days. Three months after the public presentation the team was two-boat testing in New Zealand on the Hauraki Gulf when the keel strut of USA 61 snapped and the boat capsized.

“That happened the week before I was meant to start,” said Webb, the bow man. “I’d flown down to Wellington to visit my parents and the news was on the front page of the evening paper. I wondered if I’d still have a job.”

Webb’s reward for his staying power was being the first crewmember to cross the finish line in the second race of the 33rd Match, arms raised in triumph. For Burns, the journey has produced proud moments, such as the two America’s Cup Class sloops for the 2007 campaign.

The man everyone knows as “Fresh” carries memorable moments from two-boat testing.

“We were on the Hauraki Gulf in 2003 and it was clear sailing,” Burns said. “Someone on our boat said, ‘Does it look like there’s smoke coming out of the antenna bar of the other boat?’ We didn’t believe it and kind of wrote it off to atmospheric conditions at the time but, it turns out, the boat was on fire.

“A battery belowdecks had turned over and arced against the hull. Then a crewmember went below to check it all out and he passed out from smoke inhalation. It was an exciting moment,” Burns said in his laconic Australian way.

Burns moved from navigating to the design side because he was always involved with the performance team, working with the designers to improve the yachts’ efficiency. For “Fresh” the win in the 33rd Match is the result of accumulated confidence more than specific knowledge.

“Things have changed a lot in the 10 years,” he said. “We’ve gone from simple computational analysis, store bought products for everything, to having in-house specialists in design and construction and taking it all on ourselves. We don’t hire external contractors, now it’s all done in house.

Tom Ehman (left) and Ian "Fresh" Burns
“You get a much better product that way because there’s no conflict of interest so you accumulate confidence in the people around you to get things done,” Burns continued. “If we’d never worked with Tugboat (Turner) or Tim (Smyth) before, we might’ve never had the confidence in them to build the trimaran. But having worked with them for so long we knew they could do it. That’s been the biggest step forward for this team.”

That accumulated confidence spurred the team to historic heights. It helped create the trimaran USA, featuring a towering wing mast that inhibits it from passing beneath most of the world’s bridges. It also gave the team the focus to become the first challenger in the storied history of the America’s Cup to win a one-on-one Cup match.

That’s not to be confused with the success of challengers such as the Australia II (1983) Team Dennis Conner (1987) or Team New Zealand (1995). They all won the match after advancing through a challengers’ elimination series.

Six months ago BMW ORACLE Racing won the match as the sole challenger, almost 10 years after it was born. Mission statement checked.

The trimaran USA in Race 2 of the 33rd America's Cup Match

Friday, August 6, 2010

BMW ORACLE Racing congratulates British crew

BMW ORACLE Racing may have won the war in a race around the Isle of Wight, but today it dropped a battle on the Solent.

BMW ORACLE Racing awoke today trailing the match race regatta against TEAMORIGIN 4-1. But with wins worth 3 points, the American yacht quickly tied the series by winning the first race.

BMW ORACLE Racing sneaks across TEAMORIGIN in today's first race

The British crew rebounded by winning the next two heats with excellent performances in the pre-start and won the series with a 6-point advantage, 10-4.

“Thanks to everyone involved who helped make this regatta happen,” said said BMW ORACLE Racing skipper Jimmy Spithill of Australia. “I thought it was fantastic racing. TEAMORIGIN came out on top today and deserved to win, full credit to them. We look forward to the next match.”

BMW ORACLE was penalized in this key moment of the day's second race

The five-day regatta saw the two crews complete four days of match racing on the Solent. Yesterday they sailed a race around the Isle of Wight in a recreation of the famous race from 1851 that gave rise to the America’s Cup, sailing’s most revered event.

BMW ORACLE Racing won the 53-nautical-mile race by 1 minute and 22 seconds. Coupled with its 2-0 win in the 33rd America’s Cup Match last February, the American crew has sailed 132 nautical miles of original America’s Cup racing in the past six months.

"I think just because of the history behind it, yesterday’s race meant a lot to both teams," said Spithill. "There was no pulling any punches. Both teams wanted it pretty badly."

BMW ORACLE rolls TEAMORIGIN during the second race

TEAMORIGIN leads BMW ORACLE Racing to the windward mark in the final race

TEAMORIGIN wins match racing

RACE 7 -- BMW ORACLE Racing wins
BMW ORACLE Racing has tied The 1851 Cup at 4 points by winning Race 7 over TEAMORIGIN. The British crew had a nice pre-start, nearly stuffing BMW ORACLE Racing into the “coffin corner,” the lower left part of the start box outside the layline to the pin end. But both crews were early for the line and when BMW ORACLE Racing luffed up from leeward, they were able to get back within the pin end lay. The two crews took a split tack start onto the racecourse, BMW ORACLE on starboard at the pin end and TEAMORIGIN port about mid-line.

On the racecourse BMW ORACLE Racing held starboard for about 1 minute before tacking to port, while TEAMORIGIN held starboard for about 2 minutes before coming over to starboard. BMW ORACLE Racing won the first meeting of the yachts when it took port across the bow of TEAMORIGIN in a slim cross. BMW ORACLE controlled the match up the beat protecting the starboard advantage, which it would need at the top of the leg.

The two crews were nearly bow-to-bow at the windward mark, with BMW ORACLE Racing coming in on starboard. TEAMORIGIN has shown a lot of aggression in the series with regards to the rules, and the British tried to duck inside between BMW ORACLE and the mark. They then tried to get a penalty on the American crew for shutting them out, but the on-water umpires green-flagged the incident. The British crew didn’t agree with the call and vociferously objected to the umpires’ decision with strong language. The umps then penalized TEAMORIGIN for “dissent.”

From there BMW ORACLE Racing maintained its lead around the course to tie the series on points. TEAMORIGIN still leads on the water 4-2, but with wins today worth 3 points the two teams are tied with 4 points.

The warning signal for Race 8 is scheduled for 1110 hours, with a start slated for 1120 hours.

TEAMORIGIN regained the lead in The 1851 Cup against BMW ORACLE Racing by winning Race 8 when the American yacht was saddled with a penalty. After trailing by 7 seconds at the windward mark, BMW ORACLE Racing was penalized on the first run when it didn’t keep clear of the leeward TEAMORIGIN while overtaking to windward. BMW ORACLE eventually sailed over the top and led at the leeward gate by 12 seconds. The American yacht extended that lead to 18 seconds at the second windward mark.

On the run to the finish BMW ORACLE Racing slowed the match down and eventually luffed TEAMORIGIN, both teams lowering their spinnakers. Both crews were luffing head to wind, but BMW ORACLE Racing never got its 270-degree penalty turn completed before TEAMORIGIN broke free from the engagement.

TEAMORIGIN earned 3 points for the win and now leads the standings 7-4. The next race is also worth 3 points. If BMW ORACLE Racing can win and tie the score, the two crews would sail Race 3 left over from Tuesday when 22-knot winds forced the cancellation of racing. That race would be worth 1 point and the winner would win The 1851 Cup.

The warning for Race 9 is scheduled at 1220 hours, and the start at 1230 hours.

TEAMORIGIN won Race 9 of The 1851 Cup and now leads the series against BMW ORACLE Racing by 6 points. The British crew dominated the pre-start of the race, holding BMW ORACLE Racing outside the committee boat end of the line at the start gun. TEAMORIGIN calmly held the match almost head to wind before crossing the start line almost 55 seconds late. BMW ORACLE Racing crossed the line about two boatlengths in arrears.

The British then controlled the match around the first lap. At the top of the second windward leg BMW ORACLE Racing narrowed its deficit to about one boatlenth, but then mishandled the spinnaker set. The chute went over the bow and TEAMORIGIN sailed away while the American crew regrouped, but the fight was over on the short course that was about than 5 nautical miles in length. TEAMORIGIN won the match by 24 seconds.

BMW ORACLE Racing 0-0-0-1-3-0-0 – 4
TEAMORIGIN 1-1-1-1-0-0-3-3 – 10

The 1851 Cup still up for grabs

The final day of The 1851 Cup has dawned with light winds across the Solent and high cloud cover. The sun is peaking through in some areas, but conditions are expected to deteriorate as the day progresses.

Today is also the traditional final day of Cowes Week, and the Red Arrows aerobatic team is set to perform tonight at 1930, followed by a gala fireworks show at 2100. The mouth of the River Medina becomes jammed with spectator boats to take in the displays.

Due to these uncontrollable factors and with a minimum of three races to complete and maximum of four, racing has been pulled forward from the scheduled 1530 start time. Principal Race Officer Harold Bennett hopes to fire the first warning signal at 1000, with a start at 1010.

From left: Ian Moore, John Kostecki, Murray Jones and Jimmy Spithill

After five match races on Tuesday and Wednesday, TEAMORIGIN leads the series with BMW ORACLE Racing 4-1, but the regatta is still up for grabs.

The first three races today are worth 3 points each. The potential fourth race would be a make-up of the race lost on Tuesday when winds exceeded 22 knots and is worth 1 point, but could become the tiebreaker depending on how the first three races play out.

“The boys want to go racing,” said Bennett. “They’re here to race, so we’ll do all four if we can.”

BMW ORACLE Racing comes into the day on a high after winning yesterday’s race around the Isle of Wight that re-enacted the famous race of 1851 which gave rise to the America’s Cup.

The five-plus hour race was a slam bang affair. BMW ORACLE Racing blew out a spinnaker and both jockey poles, while TEAMORIGIN lost two spinnakers, a jib halyard and the spinnaker pole. The Brits also were penalized twice, once for a port-starboard infraction and once for luffing past head-to-wind.

In the end, BMW ORACLE Racing pulled out a 1m:55s victory.

"I think just because of the history behind it, it meant a lot to both teams," said our skipper, Jimmy Spithill. "There was no pulling any punches. Both teams wanted it pretty badly."

Today the hostilities resume with the regatta on the line.

BMW ORACLE Racing 0-0-0-0-1 -- 1
TEAMORIGIN 1-1-1-1-0 -- 4

USA 98 beats across Sandown Bay during the race around the Isle of Wight

Thursday, August 5, 2010

BMW ORACLE Racing upholds tradition around Isle of Wight

In a race today marked with penalties, blown sails and broken equipment, BMW ORACLE Racing defeated TEAMORIGIN around the Isle of Wight by 1 minute and 55 seconds to win the Trafalgar Cup.

The race re-enacted the famous race of 1851 that gave rise to the legend of the America’s Cup. Instead of a wooden schooner from America racing 14 British yachts, two America’s Cup Class sloops constructed of carbon-fiber sailed the 53-nautical-mile course. But the outcome was similar: an American yacht won.

“It was a fantastic day to go around the island. It was a lot more exciting than I thought it would be,” said James Spithill, skipper of BMW ORACLE Racing. “Thanks to TEAMORIGIN. They put up a good battle on the water and we enjoyed every minute of it.”

TEAMORIGIN skipper Ben Ainslie said, “We started battling about 10 minutes before the start gun and then were overlapped for about an hour and a half. They sailed a great race, congratulations.”

With the wind blowing from the northwest, the two crews were set up for an off-the-wind start on the clockwise course around the island. But in pre-start maneuvers TEAMORIGIN was penalized for being a port tack yacht and not keeping clear.

With the race underway, the two yachts were tight reaching with giant asymmetric spinnakers, heeling at great angles in the waters churned frothy by a large spectator fleet trying to keep pace at 10 to 12 knots.

About 25 minutes into the race the two crews were off Ryde and on starboard jibe, with TEAMORIGIN only slightly ahead of BMW ORACLE Racing. Then the real fun started.

Spithill jibed away to port and Ainslie followed. With the wind now coming over the left side of the yachts, BMW ORACLE Racing was leading when TEAMORIGIN got a slight overlap to leeward. The rules for the race allowed for quick luffs in such a scenario, and Ainslie took advantage.

TEAMORIGIN luffed BMW ORACLE Racing but took the American yacht too far into the wind, for which it earned a second penalty. TEAMORIGIN had to immediately perform one if its 270-degree penalty turns and that allowed BMW ORACLE Racing to regain the lead.

TEAMORIGIN regrouped quickly and moments later luffed again in another situation. Each crew was trying to get to the Nab Light Buoy first, because from there the course hardened up into the wind. Once on the wind, the trailing boat would be at a disadvantage.

As the crews went around No Man’s Land Fort TEAMORIGIN held the lead, but as the crew doused the spinnaker it fell into the water and parts of it became wrapped around the keel. A TEAMORIGIN crewman went overboard to clear the entanglement and BMW ORACLE Racing opened a lead that it would not relinquish.

“It was full on action from 10 minutes to the start,” said Shannon Falcone, mastman for BMW ORACLE Racing. “It couldn’t have been a better spectacle going down the Solent. We broke two jockey poles in those luffing matches.”

The race was part of The 1851 Cup, a match racing regatta between the two teams. Although today’s race doesn’t count in the standings, it will serve as a tiebreaker in the event the teams finish tied on points.

Racing for The 1851 Cup resumes tomorrow with three races planned on the Solent. Each race is worth 3 points per victory. TEAMORIGIN leads the series 4-1.