Spithill targets perfect start
Oracle Team USA will step up their bid for a third successive America's Cup triumph when they lock horns with challenger Groupama Team France in the opening race of the Louis Vuitton America's Cup Qualifiers on the Great Sound today.
While the American defender's spot in the final is guaranteed, there is still something at stake for skipper Jimmy Spithill and his team-mates on board 17. The Qualifiers hold the promise of a bonus point in the America's Cup Match should Oracle top the standings at the end of the double round-robin series.
“We are approaching this to win, that's our goal,” Spithill, the youngest skipper to win the “Auld Mug”, declared. “That point is worth fighting for.”
Franck Cammas, the Team France skipper, will be looking to upset the defender to get their bid to win the America's Cup off to a positive start.
“Everything is possible,” Cammas said. “We like the fight and we are very proud to a race against the best team in the world.”
Oracle, the first team to defend the America's Cup away from home waters by choice, head into their opening race with plenty of momentum, having hit new performance standards during a final tune-up run in their foiling AC50 catamaran in top-end conditions over 20 knots on the Great Sound on Thursday.
“The harder you push these boats, the faster you go,” Spithill said. “It's as simple as that.
“People wonder why F1 cars slide off the track when they have the best drivers in the world, but it's because they're trying to get everything they can out of the cars. For us, it's no different.”
The start of the Qualifiers were pushed back a day because of forecast high winds.
“We've waited over two years for this,” Spithill said. “Another day won't hurt.”
There are six races scheduled for today, with each of the teams competing twice.
“We are adding an hour to the race window on both Saturday and Sunday to run extra races, with the aim of getting back on schedule,” Sir Russell Coutts, the America's Cup Event Authority chief executive and five-times America's Cup winner, said.
One of the day's most intriguing match-ups is the fifth race featuring Oracle and Emirates Team New Zealand, the two teams that competed in the thrilling final series in San Francisco four years ago.
Racing will start shortly after 2pm today and tomorrow