Three capsizes tell the story of an epic final race in the Plymouth AC Preliminaries with winds gusting close to 30 knots across Plymouth Sound.
The race course was pushed up close to The Hoe, and once again, the crowds on the hill were rewarded with thrilling racing just meters from shore.
The blustery conditions pushed the crews and the boats to their limits, and in some cases beyond. Three teams capsized; the French Aleph, Team Korea and just meters from the finish, Spain's Green Comm Racing. In each case, the crews escaped unscathed, the boats, with minor damage to their wings.
During the race, the ORACLE Racing Spithill crew had many near misses and was lucky not to capsize as they passed the first mark with the lead. Other boats challenged them for their early advantage, with first Artemis Racing, then Emirates Team New Zealand taking their turn at the head of the fleet. But it was a game of least mistakes, a war of attrition that eventually went back in favor of James Spithill and his slick ORACLE team.
France's Energy Team sailed a strong race to finish fourth, after battling around the course with Russell Coutts for a podium spot. China Team too, sailed well in the conditions to finish in fifth place. Artemis Racing, meanwhile, was forced to retire, moments after relinquishing the lead on the second lap of the course, with equipment problems.
Aleph was the first to capsize, nose-diving right in front of the crowds gathered along Plymouth seafront, early in the race. Then, at the top of the course Team Korea speared their bows into the waves and flipped over. And tantalizingly close to the finish, Green Comm Racing was toppled by a gust on the final leg of the race. Luca Devoti, sports director from Green Comm commented later, "Nobody has been hurt and the wing has been damaged; we'll need two days to fix it."
All day, the sailors and the boats were racing at their very limits, unless a nonchalant James Spithill was to be believed after the race. "It was great racing for sure, not even at the limit of the boats; still a way to go."
Brave words after a race that had spectators gasping with disbelief.
While Spithill won the race, his rival Dean Barker's second place was sufficient to give victory to the Kiwis in the Plymouth AC Preliminaries.
In Sunday's AC500 Speed Trials, it looked like the Kiwis had it in the bag with two great runs while others were spinning off the race track. James Spithill's words nearly came back to haunt him as the ORACLE AC45 flipped right on to its edge - there were a few moments of doubt as to whether it would capsize - before it slapped back down on its floats.
With Spithill out of contention in the speed trials, it was up to the remaining teams - and ORACLE Racing Coutts in particular - to take the fight to the Kiwis. Once again Russell Coutts had the bit between his teeth and turned in a scorching final run to post a winning time of 37:48 seconds.
Monday and Tuesday are off days at the America's Cup World Series - Plymouth allowing the teams a chance to rest and repair both man and machine. Racing resumes on Wednesday with qualifying races for the Plymouth AC Match Race Championship.