ORACLE TEAM USA COUTTS (Russell Coutts) crashed out of the America's Cup World Series races in spectacular fashion on Friday, hitting the Race Committee boat at speed during the start of fleet race number three.
The veteran had been trying to squeeze into a narrow gap between the start boat and his stablemate, ORACLE TEAM USA SPITHILL (Jimmy Spithill), but there wasn't enough room and a violent collision resulted.
"I thought there might be a gap there, and there wasn't,
" said Coutts. "It was a tough break. I didn't think it was that risky. I thought they were going to turn down and start the race and they just kept turning up and shut the door.
The top performer on the day was Nathan Outteridge and his Team Korea crew. In the first race, Outteridge battled Paul Campbell-James and his Luna Rossa Swordfish crew for the lead before penalty trouble dropped the Koreans back to fourth place. In the meantime, the Italian Piranha crew grabbed second place and Yann Guichard's Energy Team sailed their best race to place third.
"It was a big day today. There was a bit of breeze and we were usually at the front of the fleet, which is great for us,
" said Outteridge, the recent Olympic gold medalist. "A fourth and second, you're going to take that any day. Consistency is the key for the first three days and then on the last day you've got to send it pretty hard."
In the day's second fleet race, Emirates Team New Zealand (Dean Barker) was able to power off the starting line to lead into the first mark but on the second upwind leg, ORACLE TEAM USA SPITHILL pushed into the lead to win the race. Outteridge again performed well, stealing second place from the Kiwis on the final sprint to the finish. Ben Ainslie had his best result of the fleet races, taking fourth place.
"JK (John Kostecki, tactician) has spent a lot of hours on this Bay,"
said Spithill. "I don't think anyone can know the Bay completely, but it certainly helps for him having spent a lot of hours out there. It was incredible racing. It feels like you're in a stadium and I think that's what we've created here. We appreciate the support and are looking forward to an even bigger turnout over the weekend."
The results leave Spithill at the head of fleet, with Outteridge and Team Korea vaulting into second place. Coutts, after a strong opening day in the fleet races, tumbles down the leaderboard to 10th place.
The afternoon started with the final two pairs of the match racing quarterfinals, and following the first match J.P. Morgan BAR skipper Ainslie apologized to his crew after mistiming the start. That allowed Emirates Team New Zealand to romp to an easy win and advance to the semifinals. "Sorry about the start guys, still getting used to it,
" Ainslie said when he crossed the finish line, as the most successful Olympic sailor of all-time works to find his feet on the AC45 circuit.
The second match was closer. Coutts won the start and led for much of the first lap. But Energy Team's Yann Guichard found favorable conditions offshore to cross ahead early on the upwind leg. Coutts then regained the lead and aggressively covered his French opponent, protecting a narrow advantage to the finish line.
Coverage of the racing (14:00 PDT start time tomorrow and 11:30 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 on 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 (there will be no live coverage in the United States on YouTube).