The home team, ORACLE TEAM USA, put on a show for its fans in San Francisco on Thursday, grabbing the top two spots in the first race and leading the fleet racing standings at the AC World Series San Francisco at the end of the day two.
Conditions were good for racing, with winds in the 12- to 16-knot range and fans flocked down to the Marina Green to cheer on their favorite sailors. The race course boundary was just yards from the shoreline and the teams often came within spitting distance of the crowds as they pushed the boundary to find relief from the flood tide. What was spectacular for the fans also proved good for the sailors.
"This racing is awesome. It's the best I've ever done in any boat. I'm so happy to be here and it's really what sailing should be about,"
said Artemis Racing's Santiago Lange
, a two-time Olympic bronze medalist in the Tornado class who is making his ACWS debut this week. "I'm still getting used to steering while looking around to see the marks and the boundaries and all the lights, but this is really great racing
In the opening fleet race of the championship, the veteran Russell Coutts made an extraordinary start, accelerating powerfully a few moments before the start gun fired, hitting the line with pace and speeding past his rivals for an early lead he would hold to the finish. His stablemate Jimmy Spithill wasn't far behind, putting two American boats at the top of the table.
"The start of the first race was critical, it was great to lead the fleet around that first mark
," said Coutts. "But it was a tough racecourse… you had to keep eyes open and pick your lanes well.
In the second race, the two youngest skippers in the fleet began to make their mark. On Youth Day at the AC World Series, China Team's Philip Robertson
and Team Korea's Nathan Outteridge
, were up among the leaders early in the race, with Robertson leading around the first mark before falling back into the fleet. Outteridge was challenging for top spot as well until a penalty temporarily dropped him back. He would rally to finish fourth in the race, just ahead of J.P. Morgan BAR (Ben Ainslie).
After placing second in the first race, ORACLE TEAM USA's Spithill put his stamp on the second contest, grabbing the lead from China Team at mark two and fighting off both Artemis Racing crews to hold on for the win and top spot at the end of the day.
"We had a bit of a battle with the Artemis boats, but the boys stretched us out there at the end
," said Spithill. "There's a definite tide line up the course and the wind was difficult to read at the top end of the course. Our maneuvers were flawless. We're very happy with today and are looking forward to tomorrow
Earlier, in the first set of sudden-death Match Racing Quarterfinal matches, both Luna Rossa crews were in tough pairings, scheduled against two of last season's top teams. First, Swordfish (Paul Campbell-James) fell to the 2011-12 Match Racing champions, Terry Hutchinson and his Artemis Racing White crew in a race the Swedish team controlled from the start.
Then, Chris Draper's Piranha team came up against the overall season title-holders in ORACLE TEAM USA SPITHILL. The American team timed the start to perfection and protected its early lead well, fending off a mid-race attack from the Italians, to earn a spot in the semifinals.
Racing on Friday through Sunday (14:00 PDT start time Friday and Saturday and 11:30 PDT on Sunday) will be broadcast live around the world on the America's Cup YouTube channel (subject to territorial broadcast restrictions). On television, coverage is available Friday through Saturday throughout the Bay Area on NBC Bay Area 11.2, and in California on Comcast Sportsnet California. The Super Sunday finale will be broadcast live, coast to coast, in the United States, on NBC from 11:30 PDT.