2013 America's Cup: Pete Cumming gives his view on the America's Cup
Last Updated: 06/09/13 3:24pm
Pete Cumming: Gives his view on the America's Cup
Sky Sports' Sailing analyst Pete Cumming, who competed as a trimmer in the America's World Cup Series, gives his view on the America's Cup Finals which start on Saturday. Race 1 is live at 9pm on Sky Sports 4
Sailing has never before experienced anything quite like the AC72. They are the fastest and biggest catamarans ever to race in any competition, let alone the America's Cup. A new breed of sailor has emerged to crew these monsters and on Saturday, 22 of the world's best sailors will take to the water in San Francisco.
Historically the Defender has the advantage in the America's Cup as they set the rules and don't show their hand until the first Race of the Finals. This time that is not strictly the case. The Oracle boat spent four months off the water to undergo repairs after crashing out in training back in October 2012 which cost them valuable development time.
In the meantime the Kiwis were fine tuning their own boat and Dean Barker and his crew are looking both fast and extremely polished in how they manoeuvre their boat around the race track. Oracle suffered a further blow this week when a tribunal delivered a 2-point penalty after finding them guilty of illegally modifying the AC45's. Oracle will now have to win 2 more races than the Kiwis if they are to retain the Cup.
ETNZ changed the game for everyone, they read the new boat design rules by Oracle and set about assembling some of the smartest yacht designers and engineers who found a way to design their 72ft Catamaran so it would actually fly above the water on just its foils. No other team had designed their boats with the ability to foil, not even Oracle.
Oracle's Jimmy Spithill made the switch to racing multihulls back in 2008, the Australian is a proven fierce competitor and is leading a very talented team of sailors and designers but ever since they launch of the 72's they seem always to be playing catch up ETNZ. The Kiwis have been constantly raising the design development bar to new levels many thought impossible.
Images of ETNZ foiling in July 2012 were the first of their kind and there was disbelief in the sailing world that it would be possible to do this on such a large powerful boat. Immediately the other teams had to modify and re design their foil package to match the New Zealand boat. Over the past year we have watched them refine the design and the techniques on how to quickly get the boat up on its foils with the hulls clear of the water, quite literally flying on water. Foiling quickly and staying on the foils around the race track is the key to the AC and is the big focus of all the teams.
We see faster speeds from ETNZ & Oracle almost every time they are training, like F1 teams setting their cars out on the track to try and bring lap times down and understand how to get the best out of the equipment on the race track. This paired with the sailors learning huge amounts about how to sail these monsters, every hour is critical to the teams and the big question is, who has learnt the most on the crucial weeks building up to September 7th.
With such strong current at times up to 2.5 knots on the race area it makes the SF bay a very tricky Venue. Quite simply when you are sailing in the same direction of the current, you want to be in maximum current and when you are sailing against the current you want to be positioned in the minimum current flow. This means that both Oracle and ETNZ will be battling on a fairly one sided course with not many overtaking opportunities tactically. However if the famous SF sea breeze of 20 plus knots kicks in, we may see teams making boat handling mistakes or as in the LV Final teams pushing a little too hard and breaking equipment when the breeze is up!
Until we see Oracle & ETNZ line up for the first time on the start line on Saturday, it's a tough one to call. Although we have seen both teams sailing many hours in the SF bay on and off the race course, they have avoided lining the two boats up on the same piece of water. I have ETNZ as my favourite to win.
Both boats look similar in terms of speed but I believe the Kiwis' very polished crew work will give them a performance edge over Oracle. In the right weather conditions you can expect both teams hitting speeds close to 50 knots and in order to win they will need to push their boats and sailors harder than ever before.