Promising signs for Oracle in practice
The build up to the 35th America's Cup reached another significant milestone yesterday with two teams lining up for the first time in the new 50-foot foiling catamarans in the Great Sound.
Oracle Team USA, defenders of the “Auld Mug”, and British challengers Land Rover BAR competed in two practice match races in ideal foiling conditions.
Oracle swept both races in their boat 17 contested on an informal course in the absence of a race committee and umpires.
“It was a good day,” was how Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill summed up the exercise.
Spithill's opposite number and former team-mate Sir Ben Ainslie reckoned his team gained from the experience — despite failing to win a race.
“Each day on the water is a development day, and this will continue all the way through this America's Cup cycle,” Ainslie, the Land Rover BAR skipper and team principal, said. “Our shore, design and sailing teams are doing a fantastic job working to maximise the performance of our race boat.
“It was great to be out sailing on the America's Cup course today, the conditions were fantastic.”
Spithill and Ainslie are no strangers to Bermuda as both are former King Edward VII Gold Cup Trophy winners.
However, sailing for this Hundred Guinea Cup, first won by the yacht America in 1851, is quite different. Gold Cup matches were sailed in Hamilton Harbour in classic International One Design yachts, not in the Great Sound in superfast foiling cats. After the morning practice, Oracle did a series of upwind and downwind speed runs and practising foiling tacks and gybes, keeping the boat up on foils as they crossed the eye of the wind. After each manoeuvre they stopped for a debrief with a technical crew one of their three chase boats.
Measured by the GPS speedometer in a powerboat running even with Oracle, the flying cat hit some 48kts blasting downwind in 18-20kts of southwesterly breeze, slicing through the two-foot chop and powerboat wake like a hot knife through butter.
Swedish challengers Artemis Racing showed up to the party but had to postpone their scheduled races after suffering minor damage. Groupama Team France was out testing but did not participate in practice with another team, while SoftBank Team Japan's boat remained in the team's boat shed.
The practice period runs until March 26.