San Diego saved the best for last, testing the international America's Cup World Series fleet with the strongest winds of the week, with gusts approaching 20 knots on Sunday afternoon, making for great racing conditions.
The teams didn't disappoint the fans gathered on Broadway and Navy Piers - the race was full of intrigue, with plenty of lead changes on the race course, and lots of near misses and thrills and spills from start to finish.
ORACLE Racing Spithill
, winners on Saturday of the Match Racing Championship, came from behind to win the Fleet Racing Championship, becoming the first team to secure a double win at the AC World Series. Once again, team principal Larry Ellison was on board with the team today.
"We really wanted to win the double,"
said skipper James Spithill following the race. "We started okay, but got mixed up in the pack. But JK (tactician John Kostecki) got us back into it and then the boys did a fantastic job. We were able to stretch away and use our speed."
It was Emirates Team New Zealand
who exploded off the starting line to lead the fleet of nine AC45s into a tense, action-packed turn at the first mark just a few hundred yards away. While the Kiwi team led early, the long leg upwind allowed several teams to shine, none more so than Artemis Racing who worked their way up to the front of a very tight pack by the top gate.
But ORACLE Racing Spithill
chose the favoured mark at the top and was soon leading the fleet downwind at speeds near 25 knots, slowly extending away from the pack of boats giving chase. Artemis Racing
had a near disaster at the bottom mark, their headsail not deploying cleanly, with a near-capsize dropping them well down the fleet.
While Spithill moved away from the fleet, Team Korea, Emirates Team New Zealand, Energy Team
, and Aleph
were locked in a dogfight for second place. The advantage was first with Korea and then the Kiwis, but the two were just yards apart for most of the race, until a poor gybe on Korea allowed the Kiwis and both French boat to go past. At the finish, it was Emirates Team New Zealand i
n second, with Energy Team
just one second ahead of Aleph
for third, and Team Korea
's Terry Hutchinson made a late charge to take sixth place just one second ahead of China Team
, with Green Comm Racing
and ORACLE Racing Coutts
at the back of the pack.
Earlier, in the AC500 Speed Trial, the fastest runs came on the teams' second attempt down the course. First it was Emirates Team New Zealand
setting the pace. But then came the ORACLE Racing
juggernaut. First Spithill and then Darren Bundock, skippering ORACLE Racing Coutts
, broke the record, with Bundock's speed of 26.87 knots standing up as the winning speed.
San Diego is the last event of the calendar year for the America's Cup World Series. The teams will now have four months of winter training before the next AC World Series stop in Naples, Italy from 7-15 April 2012. Venice, Italy then follows from the 12-20 May 2012.
"We're going to go to some fantastic venues,"
said Regatta Director Iain Murray. "The ACWS has grown legs of its own, it has proven itself as a concept. It excites the people, we fit it into the geography of the bays, and creating the stadium racing means we can broadcast our racing from the inside out. I see the World Series going from strength to strength. The AC72s are starting to be built, teams are getting stronger and more confident. We're heading towards some great events."
Results - San Diego Fleet Racing Championship
1. ORACLE Racing Spithill
2. Emirates Team New Zealand
3. Energy Team
5. Team Korea
6. Artemis Racing
7. China Team
8. Green Comm Racing
9. ORACLE Racing Coutts
Results - AC500 Speed Trial
- Coutts - 26.87 knots
- Spithill - 26.79 knots
Emirates Team New Zealand
- 26.56 knots
- 25.98 knots
- 25.96 knots
- 25.67 knots
- 25.19 knots
Green Comm Racing
- 24.74 knots
- 24.30 knots