Artemis v Emirates for right to face Oracle
Dean Barker, the SoftBank Team Japan helmsman, was left to ponder what might have been after finding himself on the wrong end of another America’s Cup comeback on the Great Sound yesterday.
Barker and his team-mates blew a 3-1 lead in their best-of-nine Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Challenger Play-off Semi-final against Artemis Racing, who reeled off four straight victories to clinch the series 5-3 with a match to spare.
The outcome was a bitter pill to swallow for Barker, who as a former Emirates Team New Zealand skipper who was on the wrong end of one of sport’s greatest comebacks four years ago in San Francisco when Team New Zealand squandered an 8-1 lead to lose the 34th America’s Cup Match 9-8 to defender Oracle Team USA.
“Obviously, disappointed in the fact we won’t be competing any further,” Barker said. “We’re disappointed not to be going through to the final, but it was a pretty epic race in some challenging conditions.
“We’ll reflect back on mistakes but are very proud of what this team has achieved.”
Team Japan’s afternoon got off to ominous start when their boat struck an unknown object heading out to the racecourse.
“We hit something straight after we left the marina and we didn’t have time enough to go back to the dock and lift the boat out,” Barker said. “We tied up by the race area and had a couple of divers inspect the three foils that were in the water, but couldn’t find any damage.
“It’s obviously not a great feeling when you’re running at 40 knots and you hit something.”
Artemis held a 4-3 advantage going into yesterday’s penultimate match, but had to dig deep after a poor start left them trailing behind Team Japan over the first two legs.
The decisive moment in the match arrived on the second beat when Team Japan delayed their tack near the boundary on the left side of the course and got luffed head-to-wind as Artemis passed them and held on the for the series-clinching win to complete an impressive comeback.
“To come back from 3-1 down, the boys really dug deep,” Nathan Outteridge, the Artemis skipper, said. “Absolutely stoked.”
Team Japan pushed Artemis hard all the way on the final run to the finish line and closed the gap after their rivals came off their foils during a poorly executed gybe. But it ultimately was not enough as Artemis crossed the line 13 seconds ahead of their rivals.
“That last gybe, all we had to do was make it stick,” Outteridge, an Olympic gold medal-winner, added.
“But it’s very hard to gybe in these boats when you’re going over 40 knots, so full credit to the guys to recover from that.
“It didn’t go all our way in that race. We had our own battles but really happy to take us through to the next round.”
Artemis will now meet Emirates Team New Zealand in the Challenger Play-off Finals, also a best-of-nine series, starting today.
“We are really happy to make the final,” Outteridge added. “And we’re going to be ready to go tomorrow.”
The winners of Team New Zealand and Artemis will face two-times defending champions Oracle Team USA in the 35th America’s Cup Match, presented by Louis Vuitton.