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29 June 2012, 09:54 am
ORACLETEAM USA Spithill Strong On Day One In Newport
ORACLE TEAM USA's Jimmy Spithill
ORACLE TEAM USA's Jimmy Spithill

America's Cup World Series
Newport, Rhode Island, USA

It was a frenetic opening day of racing at the AC World Series in Newport, the sixth and final stop on the global international circuit.
In glorious conditions on Thursday afternoon, the overall series leader, ORACLE TEAM USA's Jimmy Spithill, extended his lead, while his nearest rival, Dean Barker, saw his season championship hopes sink with a dramatic and unexpected capsize.

Spithill had roaring start in the opening fleet race, powering off the starting line in light breezes to lead from start to finish, giving the American team top seeding in the match racing quarterfinals, which started immediately afterward. Pushed to the limit in the match racing, the team responded to advance to the semi finals.

"We went one-nil down, match point down, and I thought this was a great test for the guys to keep cool and fight back," Spithill said of his match racing. "I'm really happy with how we performed under pressure."

Conditions were tricky to start the day, with the forecast sea breeze not having filled in by race time at noon. But that didn't trouble Spithill, who extended a narrow lead at the first mark all the way around the race course. A big wind shift late in the race gave the chasing pack some hope, but Spithill held on for what was doubtlessly a satisfying birthday present for the 33 year-old skipper.

With the sea breeze then beginning to build ahead of the match racing, anticipation was high for an action-packed afternoon. The thousands of fans lining the shoreline at Fort Adams and crowding the race course boundaries with spectator boats on Narragansett Bay were not disappointed.

Paired against Luna Rossa Piranha, Emirates Team New Zealand unexpectedly capsized in the building conditions. More dramatically, the Kiwis couldn't get their boat upright for nearly an hour, the wing filling with water. At one point, the boat was no longer on its side, but instead had its bows pointing straight up at the clear blue sky, as the boat drifted along in the current. Early indications are that the wing suffered damage in the incident, but the team expects to be racing on Friday.

"It was a close race, we did a normal mark rounding but the runner (one of the control lines) was caught and we couldn't let the wing out," Barker explained. "The boat was just too loaded up and we were at the point where we couldn't turn up or down and the boat just rolled over… These boats have to be treated with the utmost respect. You have any little issue on the boat and it can be very punishing."

Artemis Racing continued their strong form in the match racing series. The winners in Naples and Venice earned their ticket to the semi finals with a 2-0 sweep over Energy Team. Meanwhile, both ORACLE TEAM USA crews were pushed to the limit by their opponents. But first Coutts (over Swordfish), and then Spithill (over Team Korea), won the deciding third race to advance. This sets up Coutts against Chris Draper's Piranha team in one semi final and Artemis Racing against Spithill in the other pairing.

"Jimmy and his guys are sailing really well and it's going to take our best effort to beat them," Hutchinson said. "It's sudden death tomorrow and in order to teak one off them we'll have to put our best foot forward, but I'm optimistic. I think we have a very good team and on the day, any team can win."

Friday's program has the one race Match Racing semi finals, followed by a single fleet race. Racing starts at 14:36 EDT and is live on youtube.com/americascup.

Fleet Race One Results

1. ORACLE TEAM USA Spithill
2. ORACLE TEAM USA Coutts
3. Luna Rossa Piranha
4. Artemis Racing
5. Energy Team
6. Emirates Team New Zealand
7. Luna Rossa Swordfish
8. Team Korea

Match Racing Championships, Quarter Final results (winners advance to Semi Finals)

Artemis Racing beat Energy Team, 2-0
Luna Rossa Piranha beat Emirates Team New Zealand, 2-0
ORACLE TEAM USA Coutts beat Luna Rossa Swordfish, 2-1
ORACLE TEAM USA Spithill beat Team Korea, 2-1

AC WORLD Series Newport Match Racing Championships - Results

The top four teams will race in the Semi Finals on Friday

5. Energy Team
6. Emirates Team New Zealand
7. Luna Rossa Swordfish
8. Team Korea

2011-12 AC World Series Overall Championship Leaderboard (after five of six events)

1. ORACLE TEAM USA Spithill…84 points
2. Emirates Team New Zealand…80 points
3. Artemis Racing…71 points
4. Energy Team…65 points
5. Team Korea…56 points
6. ORACLE TEAM USA Coutts…53 points
7. Luna Rossa Piranha…34 points
8. China Team…31 points
9. Luna Rossa Swordfish…21 points
ACWS
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