ORACLE TEAM USA captured the two championships of AC World Series San Francisco on super Sunday, thrilling the capacity crowds who had front row seats to close-quarter, fast-paced racing on San Francisco Bay.
The day began with Russell Coutts, the four-time America's Cup winner, taking out teammate Jimmy Spithill in the Match Racing Championship. In a race that saw the lead change hands three times, Coutts eked out a 1 second victory with both boats screaming across the finish line overlapped at 20-plus knots.
Then, about 40 minutes later, Spithill found himself in another charge to the finish line. This time he needed to overcome Team Korea (Nathan Outteridge) to capture the Fleet Racing and Event Championship.
Watch a full replay of the day's racing at the America's Cup YouTube channel
Spithill rounded the last mark slightly overlapped on Outteridge's stern and then got a penalty on his rival skipper. Outteridge was forced to slow down by the umpires, and Spithill sailed through to leeward and into second place for the race and a 1-point victory in the overall event standings.
"This is a fantastic result for ORACLE TEAM USA, to win the match racing, fleet racing and overall championship,
" said Spithill, the reigning ACWS champion. "I can't emphasize how much the boys fought around the race track. We battled our way back to the top in each event and were rewarded for it."
The first AC World Series event in San Francisco, host city for the 2013 America's Cup, was hailed as a success by Mayor Edwin M. Lee, who presented the prizes to the top three crews in the Match Racing and Fleet Racing Championships.
"This is the first of many races to come and we look forward to the second event (Oct. 2-7) when all of these teams will be back,"
Lee said. "Thank you to all of the teams for being here and to all of the city agencies who have worked in collaboration with the event."
Local officials estimated that more than 150,000 people visited the AC Village at Marina Green over the course of the event. Both of the ticketed seating areas were sold out each day, and Regatta Director Iain Murray said that a larger than expected spectator fleet turned out on the water to watch the racing.
"The response from the public has exceeded our expectations,"
said Stephen Barclay, the CEO of the 34th America's Cup. "This was our first event in San Francisco and our first opportunity to get a taste of racing the wingsail catamarans on the Bay. It's simply been wonderful for everyone involved."
Throughout the week the fans were treated to racing within reaching distance of the shoreline. They could listen to the sailors talking tactics on the water, and the sailors could hear them cheering and rooting. The close racing continued today when both championships were decided by mere seconds.
For Coutts, the match racing title was his second consecutive, coming on the heels of a victory in Newport at the beginning of July, which wrapped the 2011-12 racing season. He has developed a fine touch for starting the AC45, which he displayed again today.
"It's been a fantastic event for our team,
" said Coutts, the CEO of ORACLE TEAM USA. "To get both teams in the match racing final is a great result, and Jimmy and the boys continue to be superb. It looked like the fans were having fun on the shore and that's what it's all about. We were certainly having fun on the water."
Luna Rossa Piranha (Chris Draper) won the fleet race finale by three seconds over Spithill, who had sailed through Outteridge into second place. As has become his custom, Draper was solid off the start line and steady around the racecourse.
At one point the crew led by 200 meters approaching the second leeward gate, but they almost gave it all away when they nearly capsized on the finish line. But the wingsail got eased just in time to avert disaster, and the finish gun fired a split-second after the windward hull slammed down into the water as the boat stabilized.
"We've seen in last few days that people who've been doing high-speed boat racing all their life - Nathan, myself, Yann (Guichard, Energy Team) and Jimmy, who has practiced here a lot - have done well
," said Draper. "But everybody's going to improve, so we can't rest on our laurels. We'll train hard and come back in October with an eye towards winning."
The next ACWS regatta in San Francisco is scheduled during Fleet Week, 2 to 7 October, when the ACWS fleet will share the Bay alongside the naval ships of the Pacific Fleet in one of the largest annual events held in San Francisco.