Fisher's View: Fleet Race Final - The End at San Diego

San Diego America’s Cup World Series - Racing Day 5 - Fleet Race

Bob Fisher, one of the worlds top international yachting journalists, and certainly the top writer on the America's Cup, is in San Diego for the Third 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.

He writes:

Dear Diary – Day 7 - America's Cup World Series - San Diego, California, USA


Just as he had promised the boss, Larry Ellison, Jimmy Spithill delivered the double championship victory in San Diego when he added the winner-takes-all Fleet Racing Championship to the Match Racing Championship that he had won the previous day, taking Oracle Racing 4 (Spithill) to within a point of Emirates Team New Zealand in the overall season’s standings.

'We really wanted the double,' said Spithill after the race, 'and having Larry with us was a bonus. When he’s with us the crew gets a lift. I’ve raced against him [in RC-44s] and he is a fierce competitor, and it spills over when he’s on board.' When it came to the 'Moet Moment' and the champagne was being sprayed, Ellison came in for a fair amount of the horseplay.

A session of speed trials preceded the fleet race and with around 18 knots of breeze the times were fast. Oracle Racing Teams were the stars of that too, but Jimmy Spithill’s performance was eclipsed by his new team-mate, Darren Bundock with Russell Coutts’ vintage crew (for whom 50 is the new 30) in Oracle Racing 5 by just one tenth of a second at a speed of 26.87 knots over the 500-metre course.

It was the fastest time so far recorded over the course at any of the America’s Cup World Series regattas so far. That, possibly, was due to a steady and for San Diego, breeze that peaked around 20 knots. Certainly the Oracle Racing Team had the hammer down when the breeze was at its best.

20/11/2011- San Diego (USA,CA) - 34th America's Cup - San Diego America's Cup World Series - Racing Day 5 - Fleet Race

Then came a pause while we all waited for the big event of the day, but the sight of nine AC-45s charging for the line was, or would have been to a lesser scribe, totally indescribable. However, the colourful wings of the nine catamarans carving white wakes toward the starting line, all in a row athwartships, with not one breaking the line early, was indeed one that will be remembered.

Dean Barker with Emirates Team New Zealand (third in the speed trials) was the early leader. Jimmy Spithill had attempted to come up from leeward but Barker and his crew held firm and while the Oracle Racing team called a protest for water at the first mark, the umpires ruled in ETNZ’s favour. Downwind they went to the first gate (Mark 2) where the Kiwis still led from Oracle Racing 4, Aleph, Energy Team and Artemis Racing.

20/11/2011- San Diego (USA,CA) - 34th America's Cup - San Diego America's Cup World Series - Racing Day 5 - Fleet Race

Energy Team tacked early to go to the right and Artemis Racing went with her. Darren Bundock, the speed king, was penalised for tacking too close and went to the back of the pack. Artemis made big gains to lead through the weather gate from Energy Team, Oracle Racing 4 and Aleph with ETNZ just hanging on to the leaders.

Oracle Racing 4 moved to the front early on the next downwind leg as the wind temporarily dropped from 18 to 15 knots, and led through the leeward gate from Artemis, Team Korea and Energy Team. Hutchinson ad his team on Artemis had a nasty foul-up with the jib and failed to clear it with a tack and was forced to gybe away to clear the top two battens in the sail from the forestay. Painful. They lost places wholesale.

20/11/2011- San Diego (USA,CA) - 34th America's Cup - San Diego America's Cup World Series - Racing Day 5 - Fleet Race

Oracle Racing 4 opened a 300-metre lead amounting to 28 seconds through the downwind gate and then gained more on the right had side of the upwind leg, although ETNZ struck back on this beat and held second place from Team Korea and the Energy Team.

Spithill and his crew were untroubled for the rest of the race and finally finished 48 seconds clear of ETNZ, but behind them there was a nail-biting finish between the two French boats with Energy Team, skippered by Yann Guichard, sneaking across the line one second ahead of Pierre Pennec with Aleph in fourth place. Team Korea who had been challenging for the podium, dropped back to fifth. The surpise was that Oracle Racing 5, skippered by Darren Bundock was last.

20/11/2011- San Diego (USA,CA) - 34th America's Cup - San Diego America's Cup World Series - Racing Day 5 - Fleet Race

20/11/2011- San Diego (USA,CA) - 34th America's Cup - San Diego America's Cup World Series - Racing Day 5 - Fleet Race

20/11/2011- San Diego (USA,CA) - 34th America's Cup - San Diego America's Cup World Series - Racing Day 5 - Fleet Race

20/11/2011- San Diego (USA,CA) - 34th America's Cup - San Diego America's Cup World Series - Racing Day 5 - Speed Trials

20/11/2011- San Diego (USA,CA) - 34th America's Cup - San Diego America's Cup World Series - Racing Day 5 - Fleet Race