After Oracle used their postponement card (after Race 5) they had been holding their breath that their boat didn’t suffer any major breakdowns that might have ended their quest for the Cup. What happened right before this final, winner-takes-all race? Major breakdown.
As Oracle Team USA-17 headed out to the race course, a structural failure in the wing had rigger Jeff Causey hanging from a harness 10 meters above the platform laying carbon fiber plates and shooting fast drying adhesives over a breakage to hold everything in place. The question on everyone’s mind was whether the repair would hold for the entire race.
With this final race so important the teams kept a simple time and distance strategy and tried to keep aggressive maneuvers to a minimum (is this even possible when you’re sailing a 72-foot hydrofoiling catamaran at nearly 50 mph?). Like the start of Race 18, there was a drag race to Mark 1. Just shy of the mark OTUSA-17 suddenly fell off her foils giving the New Zealanders the lead and Jeanne a near heart attack.
The Americans kept the race close–as in one boat length close–and the delta at Mark 2 was just 3 seconds. As the teams headed upwind they traded the lead multiple times but Oracle, showing off its upwind foiling ability, came out ahead. The delta at Mark 3 was 26 seconds. On the downwind leg Oracle pretty much sailed away from Aeotearoa with 44 seconds separating the two teams at the finish line.
Afterwards, a devastated Dean Barker said “Yesterday was the first time that we felt we had a bit on…in Race 2 we led around the bottom gate and watched Oracle pretty much sail around us and into the distance on the upwind, which had been our strength. Today we went in with the attitude to win the start, lead at the first mark and leeward gate and see what we can do. Today, again, we saw how dominant they’d become upwind.”
Dean Barker was understandably heartbroken over the loss.ETNZ boss Grant Dalton said, “They just got better and better. They got about a minute and a half faster upwind than they were about nine days ago. We were about 50 seconds quicker then, and now they’re about 50 seconds quicker than us. They’ve done a really amazing job to turn that around.”
Regatta Director Iain Murray said, “To see Oracle going from a bottom speed in a tack of 8 knots to 17 knots within one week was extraordinary. We have seen them foiling upwind at 32 knots in 16 knots of breeze. If you said that was going to happen just two weeks ago, people would ask what you had been eating. We have never seen this in sailing before.”
Here is today’s trivia question:
Race 19: What design feature did CEO Grant Simmer and aerodynamics expert Tom Speer credit with giving OTUSA a speed advantage over Emirates Team New Zealand?