Oracle Team USA and Emirates Team New Zealand are tearing up the waters inside San Francisco Bay, battling to win the America's Cup final.
I was at the media center for the first four races in the challenge for the Cup on Saturday and Sunday, and the excitement of the September Showdown did not disappoint the crowd, yet the Kiwis took a substantial lead in the points to win.
Oracle Team USA began the final races with a two-point disadvantage. The team was penalized with the harshest penalty in the cup's history after getting caught making illegal modifications to their boat. The penalty included banning one racing crew member and two support crew members, plus a $250,000 fine, and finally, USA was dinged two points in the best-of-17 races to win the America's Cup.
The Measurement Committee and International Jury confirmed that the team had made modifications to its AC45 yacht(s) in 2012, however, and — important to note — not to their AC72s.
The AC45s are the smaller 45-foot catamarans, which all the teams raced while leading up to the Louis Vuitton challenger series in July. Apparently, the three expelled crew members hid extra ballast in the AC45's hulls to help add ballast weight to these very light boats during the races. No one other crewmembers, skipper or management team was involved, according to the international jury's findings.
Technically, before the first America's Cup race got underway Saturday, the score was already 2 to 0 with the Kiwis in the lead due to the two-point penalty. However, the race began with a score of 0 to 0 because scoring standards do not list a negative score. Therefore, the first two races won by Team USA will not be listed as wins with two points.
This is confusing to many spectators, but Team USA will show a positive score after winning its third race.
However, the Kiwis dominated the races on Saturday, with two amazing leads at the finish line. Team USA was late crossing the start line on race 1, and the Kiwis were first around mark 1 with speeds near 40 knots. The lead changed about halfway through the race, but the Kiwis rallied and crossed the finish line first with a 36-second delta until USA finished.
Saturday's Race 2 encountered a flood tide, and the Kiwis managed to sail very well, outperforming USA. Team New Zealand was able to increase the finish delta by 17 seconds to a 52-second leading victory over USA. However on Sunday, Team USA was sailing better in Races 3 and 4 . USA was able to win Race 4 with an eight-second lead over the Kiwis crossing the finish line.
At the end of the first weekend of racing, the score is -1 to 3, with the Kiwis ahead by four points. However, the reported score will be shown as 0 to 3 — remember, the negative score is not shown.
Races 5 and 6 on Tuesday did not fare well for USA, with the Kiwis capturing Race 5 with a 1:05 victory. The course has five legs encompassing 10.27 nautical miles; however, the boats will sail over a nautical mile further due to wind lines and tacking with a top speed of the day at 46.9 knots (54 mph).
Then for Race 6, Jimmy Spithill, Oracle Team USA's skipper, pulls out his postponement card, which will end the day's racing. The teams have one postponement card that can be used to postpone only the second race of a day without forfeiting a point to the other team. I feel this is a good move by Spithill for the team to regroup before the Kiwis have too big a lead for USA to catch up. The score at the end of Race 6 is 0 to 4 with the Kiwis holding a five-point lead, and remember, USA is still one point negative.
I will be heading north to San Francisco for the weekend of four races on the bay. This weekend will be a very good indicator whether USA keeps the trophy or the Kiwis fly home with a new souvenir after visiting San Francisco.
Tip of the week is that the American Legion Yacht Club is reaching out to the community to help sponsor its first fishing tournament. The tournament and awards banquet will be held Sept. 21 at the yacht club, which is located at American Legion Newport Harbor Post 291 on the Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach.
The fishing tournament will include a kids division for those under 16 years of age with junior awards at the banquet. You can find out more about the tournament and sponsorship opportunities by calling the American Legion at (949) 673-5002. I hope the tournament will be a success and that the fish are biting on the 21st.
Please be boat smart and boat safe. Lastly, please boat responsibly and look behind you before you turn the wheel at the helm.
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MIKE WHITEHEAD is a boating columnist for the Daily Pilot. Send marine-related thoughts and story suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org or go to http://www.boathousetv.com.