So what is happening in the Americas Cup you ask. Well the BBC are covering it quite extensively and it is live on BT Sport as well as NBC Sports. However as you asked I will update you.
Today begins the Challenger Play-Off’s Final, a best of 9 series of races that come Monday will give us the challenger to the defenders Team Oracle.
I spent little time at my desk this week and a lot of time up at the Americas Cup Village in Royal Dockyard, and saw some immense racing in some intense weather conditions.
Tuesday we had our first considerable rainfall for months and the Village resembled a huge wet t-shirt contest as thousands of people watched what five time Olympian Sir Ben Ainslie called “the most exciting, exhilarating day of sailing I’ve ever been involved in”.
We watched in awe as these remarkable sail boats literally flew around the course at 70mph in treacherous windy conditions. In each race carbon fibre peeled away from the boats, and sailors were sent tumbling around the deck with waves of sea water rushing all over them. These sailors are absolutely masterful athletes and probably mad.
In the final race of the day the so far dominant Team New Zealand were leading 3-0 against Ainslie’s Land Rover BAR, and as the two teams jockeyed for position at the start, the NZ boat rose rapidly onto it’s hydrofoils and appeared to lose control before its bows plunged into the water and the boat flipped completely over leaving some crew suspended in the hull 40 feet above the water. Three were thrown overboard but all were rescued.
The NZ boat remained face down in the water with the three remaining crew, not strapped in, hanging on in their cockpits. Chase boats pulled the NZ boat onto it’s side before finally after around 20 minutes expertly tipping it upright. It was a remarkable spectacle but meant that Land Rover BAR were given the race and were back in it.
In the other play-off SoftBank Japan led Team Artemis 3-1 at the close on Tuesday following a couple of epic battles on the water as both teams manfully had to bandage up their boats as they raced when parts of the outer shell of the boat, known as fairings, literally flew off around the course.
Tuesday’s wind speeds were about as close to the maximum as you could get, with Ainslie admitting that they had never been out on the water on this boat in these conditions before. Wednesday’s wind was worse so racing was cancelled.
On Thursday conditions were spot on, and it saw the comeback of the Swedish Team Artemis, who following my day with them last Saturday, I was desperately hoping would remain in the competition, and they did not disappoint winning three consecutive races against Japan to lead 4-3.
In the other semi-final Ben Ainslie’s bid to ‘bring the Cup home’ ended when Peter Burling and Emirates Team New Zealand sealed the British team’s fate by reaching the magic five wins needed. The crowd was predominantly supporting the Brits but we had to admire Burling and his team both on and off the water after their boat suffered all kinds of damage from Tuesday’s capsize which had the hull and all of it’s intricate electronics upside down in the sea for half an hour.
The enforced day’s rest undoubtedly helped the Kiwis, and they produced a wonderful win in the first race coming from well behind to beat the Brits, who once again had a fast start. We were left wondering how the Brits were going to come back from this, but in the next race Ainslie skillfully kept the New Zealanders at bay and made it 4-2, but it was time for the British team to pack their bags as they lost in the last race of the day. Ben Ainslie said afterwards that this is only the start of the British Americas Cup challenge.
That just left Team Artemis and SoftBank Japan to race yesterday to qualify to race against Emirates Team New Zealand to find the ultimate challenger to Team Oracle. It took just one race as Nathan Outeridge saw off the Japanese boat to clinch victory 5-3 after being 1-3 down.