Fisher's View: Cascais - The finale – devil take the hindmost

Emirates Team New Zealand sails around the spectator fleet before the final fleet race of the America’s Cup World Series in Cascais Portugal. 14/8/2011

Bob Fisher, one of the worlds top international yachting journalists, and certainly the top writer on the America's Cup, is in Cascais, Portugal for the first round of the America's Cup World Series.

Bob is a multihuller from way back, having competed for Britain in the Little America's Cup and has been covering the America's Cup since 1967. After three rides on an AC45 on three consecutive days, he's developed a habit.

He writes:

Dear Diary – Day 10 The finale – devil take the hindmost - America's Cup World Series - Cascais, Portugal

We were pre-prepared for Plymouth this morning and treated to an introduction to the Facebook generation when ACTV supremo, Gary Lovejoy, described Plymouth Sound in football stadium-like terms. The Hoe, which is graced by Drake’s statue close to the spot where he allegedly played bowls as the Spanish Armada sailed into the English Channel, became 'The Kop' or the 'Stretford Road end' of the pitch.

One could tell then that the perceived audience for ACTV was radically different from any that the America’s Cup had generated in the past. But perhaps this is due to the heavy football background of many of the executive of ACEA. Successful on that field of pplay, they are expected to radicalise sailing coverage to attract audiences, while the Flintstones are forgotten.

And so to the so-called Super Sunday . . and the opportunity for Jimmy Spithill to demonstrate to the boss, Larry Ellison, how it should be done. Larry claimed the sixth man spot and Jimmy appeared to be ready to present the dainty dish to set before the king with a classic, well-timed run into the start to lead the fleet to the first mar and on down the run.
All looked set for Spithill to provide Larry Ellison with a double – the fleet race win to add to the match racing title he had scored on Saturday – particularly as he rounded the windward mark, at the halfway stage, with an 18 second lead. But as Jimmy headed to the starboard side of the run, Dean Barker and ETNZ headed for the port side, gybed and picked up a stronger breeze to go into the lead.

Terry Hutchinson in Artemis also managed to pass Spithill as he too was able to find a better slant of stronger breeze in the 5-9 knots of northerly breeze. The course available was fairly narrow, but this demonstrated the importance of constantly looking for the stronger breeze – the gradient across the course was not great but amplified by these exciting boats.

Catamaran racing is very different from any previous America’s Cup racing, but it is interesting to see that it is the younger members of the 'old faces of AC racing' that are appearing at the front of the fleet. They are rapidly learning the craft of multihull racing. One or two more experienced multihullers, like Mitch Booth of the China Team, are having their moments, but the loss of two key members of his crew before the series started did not aid his effort.

The big surprise however has been the performance of Chris Draper and Team Korea. The British former 49er world champion and Olympic bronze medallist, who has plenty of experience in Extreme 40s, took this fleet by storm and was undoubtedly the most improved team at this first World Series regatta. The seventh in the final race belies the strength of this team that was fourth in the match racing.

The last race gave the Luca Devotti inspired Spanish Green Comm team and opportunity to prove its ability. Luca has been promising improvement all week and while there is no doubting the talent, its coordination was dubious, but today’s fifth, just behind the two Oracle boats brought out all the old Devotti ebullience.

1983 Cup winner John Bertrand was sixth man aboard Emirates Team New Zealand – lucky devil. I wanted that seat.