This is some of the best racing I’ve seen
What a compelling first week it’s been at the 35th America’s Cup!
Intrigue, controversy and no shortage of surprises, some of the races in the Great Sound have been among the best I’ve seen.
It’s been fabulous. Lots of lead changes, some thrilling close encounters between the boats; hopefully this is a glimpse of things to come in the final races.
All of the six teams — Oracle Team USA, the defender, Emirates Team New Zealand, Artemis Racing, Land Rover BAR, Groupama Team France and SoftBank Team Japan — have been competitive. Although there’s no doubt there will be some happier than others.
The biggest surprise package for me has been Team France.
Considered as rank outsiders by many, I wouldn’t have predicted them to win one race, let alone two.
Franck Cammas and his team have been a pretty stubborn bunch by pulling off unforeseen wins against Artemis and BAR, who they came very close to beating a second time in Thursday’s final race.
Their unexpected form has caught everyone by surprise and it definitely made things interesting at the foot of the standings.
At the other end of the spectrum, Nathan Outteridge’s Artemis will be arguably the most concerned team right now.
They will probably be a little shell-shocked by what has gone on.
They will need to rediscover the kind of form they showed prior to the Qualifiers, that’s for sure.
Things just haven’t gone the Swedes way so far.
They got a wrong call in their defeat against the impressive Team New Zealand and life would be looking a little bit different for them had that decision not gone against them.
I know the umpires will be disappointed with that. Unfortunately, umpires occasionally make bad calls and that’s just the nature of sport. You have to move on and put that behind you.
We’ve got an excellent team of umpires selected by Iain Murray, the race director, and I know they will be more upset than anyone.
Ultimately, Artemis’s performances, particularly in the lighter winds, when it gets down to nine or ten knots, haven’t been strong.
They’re clearly going to work on racing in that middle range of conditions, as that seems to be their Achilles’ heel.
It’s been a similar story for SoftBank Team Japan.
They have lost three races that they probably should have won, against Artemis, Team Zealand and Oracle, and they will be ruing those quite a bit.
And then there’s Ben Ainslie’s BAR, who have had some tremendous ups and downs. Ainslie and his guys have made some dramatic improvements and they can contend with the top teams when they sail well.
They will be looking for more consistency now that they have qualified for the Challenger Play-offs.
At the other end of the standings, I’m not been overly surprised to see Oracle and Team Zealand sitting at the top.
As I expected, Jimmy Spithill is leading his team incredibly well, while Peter Burling, the Kiwis’ young helmsman, is showing himself to be a really exciting talent.
Team Zealand will likely be the highest-placed challenger in the Qualifiers and get to choose their opponents in the best-of-nine semi-finals.
The biggest thing for me so far has been the competitiveness of the Qualifiers. In the past, you have had teams making up the numbers and there have been some pretty dull races.
And although some of the races at this event have been won by quite far margins, they have all been fascinating at different phases.
I really feel that the America’s Cup has a good platform to grow from here.
If you take the current crop, increase that number by two teams who can win races and really compete, then the future looks incredibly bright from the America’s Cup.
• Sir Russell Coutts was talking to Stephen Wright in advance of yesterday’s racing