ETNZ did win the two races yesterday. The first after some very close racing and the second with more ease once they were ahead. Amazing machines, super professional teams who gave their best, impressive.
I predicted an ETNZ win. Dean Barker did indeed stay out of trouble by getting the time to distance right and buy not being close to the line too early.
The boats were pretty even in the reach and downwind. ETNZ was showing somewhat higher speeds and Oracle showing more consistency. Upwind ETNZ was the faster boat, where many had given Oracle an advantage. ETNZ made their foiling upwind work and sailed away from Oracle.
ETNZ wins about half a minute on the the upwind leg. That is hugegain in under 12 min leg. I did not expect lead changes once a boat was ahead, but I was wrong. By using the right of way and by just splitting enough to throw in the tack, the teams could put the pressure on the other team. The tacks of ETNZ were just better than those of Oracle.
The difference in upwind speeds is related to the difference in wingshape in my humble opinion as an outsider. The Oracle wing has a wider and slightly rounder first element. This explains why Oracle shows more consistency as that shape is more forgiving than the thinner ETNZ wing. ETNZ shows better acceleration in the puffs and they have an advantage once they start to foot upwind. The thinner wing, though being more critical speeds up more easily. It is not just the wing. The ETNZ guys worked hard on their foiling technique upwind and the acceleration in reaching mode. ETNZ sailed away Luna Rossa in the reach, though the teams had similar wings.
Therefore the difference comes down to two things: Practice and basic design choices.
ETNZ choose a different wing philosophy and I relate that to Glenn and Pete Melvin being involved in the design of the boat.
Although Oracle had a lot of knowledge from the last cup, the ETNZ team includes more members with a deep multihull background. The choice for a more critical wing seems to be sailor driven. I bet that if you simulate the Oracle wing in stable wind conditions, it would out perform ETNZ's wing.
is the race over? No way, as the teams are still close and the in other circumstances Oracle might excel as well and a penalty can change any race. In the lighter stuff Oracle will be more similar in speed than ETNZ and might even outperform ETNZ both upwind and downwind. Once it gets puffy though, ETNZ will have a small advantage over Oracle downwind. The foiling upwind thing might not make as big a difference in the lighter breeze. Although the teams will get close to the time limit in such circumstances.
More aggressiveness in the start from Oracle might backfire as it involves risks for them as well. Oracle might get a penalty themselves. If a hook does not result in a tack or penalty, the aggressor will be further off the line as the first two races showed.
The best thing Oracle can do is to improve their time to distance ability and by getting ahead after the start.
A 10 second lead at the second mark could be enough to prevent ETNZ from passing upwind. If they can stay close to ETNZ and do not allow ETNZ to get out phase they have a change. Though Oracle will become vulnerable once ETNZ etsablishes a position above Oracle even when ETNZ is behind. In the slightly above and behind mode ETNZ can make their footing mode work.
The boundaries are a big improvement as it leads to more (short) splits.
Yesterday the current did run with the boats in the beat. If the current is from the other side, there will be less options to pass as both boats have to go to Alcatraz after the second mark. This will benefit the leader in the race.
I was impressed how close the racing was and how close the skippers dared to interact. hats off for both ETNZ and Oracle. Can't wait for the two next races.