Fisher's View: Day Zero ACWS San Francisco - Coutts on the ACWS

Skippers Media Conference - America’s Cup World Series San Francisco 2012 Event 1. Back row, James Spithill (Oracle Team USA), Santiago Lange (Artemis Racing), Max Sirena (Luna Rossa), Yann Guichard (Energy Team), Dean Barker (Emirates Team New Zealand), Nathan Outteridge (Team Korea), Terry Hutchinson (Artemis Racing), Front Row – Russell Coutts (Oracle Team USA), Ben Ainslie (BAR Racing), Paul Campbell-Jones (Luna Rossa), Phil Robertson (Team China).

Bob Fisher, one of the world's top international yachting journalists, and certainly the top writer on the America's Cup, is in San Francisco, CA, USA for the sixth round of the America's Cup World Series.

Bob is a multihuller from way back, having won the 1967 Little America's Cup, with Peter Schneidau on Lady Helmsman, and has been covering the America's Cup since 1967.

He writes:

Dear Diary – Day Zero - America's Cup World Series - San Francisco, CA, USA

Five time winner of the America’s Cup winner and Olympic Gold medalist, Russell Coutts
Russell Coutts was holding nothing back when he talked with a small media group the day before the America's Cup World Series 2012/2013 began. He was unreserved when asked about the relative merits of Match and Fleet racing: 'I think the guys who made the Deed of Gift, and changed the event from a fleet race to a match race, [if they were still about] would think the move was a pity.'

Coutts was clearly thinking of the spectacle he believed would take place on San Francisco Bay over the forthcoming five days, which will culminate in a winner-takes-all fleet race on Sunday. The high point of the week's racing, which everywhere the ACWS has been held previously has been the focus of spectator attention, is bound to be a major spectator attention grabber here and not so much attention will be devoted to the match racing.

Creaking at the seams - the result of back problems, Russell, who told me over a year ago: 'Fish, I'm too old for this sort of shit,' and promptly proved it the next day by pitch-poling an AC45 in San Francisco Bay, agrees that the younger sailors do have an advantage, but says that the older ones have their moments, particularly when the conditions are tricky.

Looking across at the four-time gold medallist, Ben Ainslie, he said that it would take even him time to acclimatise to multihull racing. I reminded him that he had said six weeks ago in Newport, RI: 'I can't wait to see young Benjamin go head-to-head with Jimmy.' That still holds true, but he thinks it will take Ainslie a full six months to be up to the same speed as Spithill.

21/08/2012,San Francisco(USA,CA), 34th America's Cup, America's Cup World Series San Francisco 2012 August, Official Training
Coutts will be sailing Oracle Team USA number 5 and admitted that he had raced against Ainslie: 'I had a match against Ben yesterday and he kicked my butt!' He added that he didn't expect him to do exceptionally well in the forthcoming regatta, but added: 'Come October [the next ACWS], watch this space.'

Against criticism of this venue, Coutts shrugged. There are strange currents and wind shifts but: 'The best sailors are those who can read the wind and current on the water,' he said, adding: 'Some of my favourite places to race are like that - Cowes and the Solent, for example.'

He predicted that the AC72s would be more dramatic than the AC45s and that curved foils would present a new series of problems. There would be times when straight foils would be quicker, and that the difference would be marked. 'The best teams will be those who adapt quickly to changes,' he said, adding: 'there could be a difference in 2-3 knots between boats if trim changes go wrong, particularly with the boards.'

Next time the Cup is held, Coutts wants to see a significant cost reduction, even suggesting boats of 55 or 60 feet as being big enough to be significant to the spectators. Times, they could be a'changing.

Cheers,
Bob

PS. It's bloody cold here!