Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Oracle wins start and ETNZ race five, no 6th race

Once again Jimmy demolished Dean at the start. From the LVC and the youth AC we knew that if the current is running from the Goldengate bridge that the windward boat has an advantage. The lower you start the worse your angle get over time.
Being the leeward boat works if you start really close to the other guy and can throw a penalty on them.
Jimmy has a coach (Philippe Presti) which keeps him sharp and confident. Dean might need his Philippe Presti too. ETNZ just keeps too much room between themselves and Oracle. The penalty Jimmy threw on ETNZ still has his impact. Dean needs to clear his mind and step up as he is now too cautious.
Jimmy and his team did a magnificent pre-start and start job and he definitely showed that he is worth his money.

Downwind Oracle just gained another 4 seconds, which was primarily won in a gust just after mark 1. The teams are pretty even. Oracle could sail a little bit deeper, but VMG's were pretty similar.

Oracle had practiced tacks on lay day and wanted to demonstrate a foiling gybe at mark two. They ruined it completely, first the boat fell off the leeward board and then the boat almost completely stopped due to the rude turm. ETNZ kept her pace and just tacked 100 meters later, dipped Oracle near the boundary, could sail longer in a more favorable current and never looked back.
Amazing to see how Oracle screwed up.
The direct tack was criticized by the live commentators but I do not think they should blame JK.
If the tack had been OK then Oracle would have had right of way after their tack and could have controlled the race from there. If Oracle had tacked later, ETNZ would have right of the way after their tack. Oracle's lead was just too small to get in a controlling position. The Oracle guys were still not confident that they would win a tacking duel, though I saw some pretty neat tacks by Oracle too.

Where Dean is too impressed by Jimmy in the pre-start, Oracle lacks confidence (and some skills) upwind. Sunday Oracle showed that they can match ETNZ speed upwind but just had to improve their tacking. They worked on tacking on the lay day which made a lot of sense but trying the foiling tack was a sign of either hubris or plain insecurity.

Interesting to see how these top teams can crack under pressure. It showed that these immense talented sailors are human too and that the learning curve in the AC72 is still steep.
ETNZ needs to win 5 from the next 13 starts to win the AC. Once ETNZ wins the start the team will be in control. Being too cautious will hurt ETNZ and can have a detrimental effect on morale or Oracle must continue to throw out of jail cards to ETNZ as Nathan Outeridge called it.

Jimmy was impressive at the press conference. Honest, direct and open to the journalists. The team knew they lost the momentum they created by winning race 4 and had to regroup now. ETNZ found an extra gear upwind and did look much faster upwind than in race 4. I knew/believed that the footing mode would be ETNZ's weapon.

Oracle deliberate did not go for match race tactics in race 5 as they believed they could only win by sailing smart, which means sail against the clock and less against ETNZ. Their strategy was to sail the fastest course for their boat. JK acted accordingly that strategy but it did not work out as planned.

Will there be any changes Thursday? I do not expect crew changes, though you never know with Sir Russel Coutts. Maybe Oracle will swap boards and go for slightly larger boards. It will make the boat more difficult downwind and easier to foil upwind.

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