Emirates Team New Zealand came away with a clean sweep against Oracle Team USA in the first two races of the 34th America's Cup Saturday.
Anticipation for this main event has been building the Bay Area for years and the races did not disappoint, especially the first one which included lead changes and near misses between the two boats.
Thousands watched on the shoreline on a hot, gorgeous day on the San Francisco Bay.
The double win was seen as an upset by race watchers who expected the defending champs Oracle to have the upper hand on their home turf.
But with Dean Barker at the wheel of its 72-foot catamaran, Team New Zealand was able to come from behind in Race No. 1. He led the whole way in the second race.
"What we saw there was one hell of a yacht race," said Barker after the first win.
“That was a fantastic day. We’re really happy with how it all panned out,” added Kiwi tactician Ray Davies.
Team USA skipper Jimmy Spithill said it was not the result he wanted, adding "tomorrow is another day."
“I think the boats are very close and the boys did a good job on board. We were surprised not to get them a penalty in the start in Race 2, and we weren’t able to accelerate as quick as they did. It’s difficult to come back from behind; they didn’t make many mistakes after that," Spithill said.
The winner of this year's America’s Cup will be the first to win 9 points. For the Kiwis that means nine race wins. For Oracle Team USA it means 11, due to a penalty imposed by the international jury. The team was accused of cheating in what is being called the biggest scandal in the 162-year history of the America's Cup.
The jury found Team USA illegally modifying 45-foot catamarans in warmup regattas. On Tuesday, Oracle was not only docked the two points, Dirk de Ridder, who had trimmed the wing sail, was booted from the regatta, along with two shore crew members. Additionally, grinder Matt Mitchell was barred from the first four races and the syndicate was fined $250,000.
Racing is scheduled for Saturdays, Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays with two races per day scheduled to start at 1:15 p.m. and 2:15 p.m.
On the first race of the series, the Kiwi's lost and then regained the lead on the windward third leg before sailing away from defending champion Oracle Team USA to win the opening race of the 34th America's Cup by 36 seconds.
The Kiwis need seven more wins to claim the oldest trophy in international sports for the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, which held the Auld Mug from 1995-2003.
In race No. 1 Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker had a slight lead crossing the starting line just inside of the Golden Gate Bridge and beat rival Jimmy Spithill to the first mark.
Barker kept the lead sailing downwind and was four seconds ahead at the third mark, but slowed down a bit shortly after turning onto the windward leg.
The first time the 72-foot catamarans crossed, Spithill had sailed Oracle into the lead. But Spithill let the Kiwis get the starboard tack advantage and they protected the favored left side of the course sailing past the city-front. In the second lead change on the leg, Barker sailed ahead and built a safe advantage.
Oracle appeared to have some kind of damage on its 131-foot wing sail after the first race. The wing sail looks and performs like an airplane wing, including a front element and flaps.
34th America’s Cup Standings (first to 9 points wins)
- Emirates Team New Zealand – 2
- ORACLE TEAM USA – 0
Race 1 Performance Data
- Course: 5 Legs/9.71 nautical miles
- Elapsed Time: ETNZ – 23:30, OTUSA – 24:06
- Delta: ETNZ +:36
- Total distance sailed: ETNZ – 11.7 NM, OTUSA – 11.4 NM
- Average Speed: ETNZ – 30.07 knots (35 mph), OTUSA – 28.58 knots (33 mph)
- Top Speed: ETNZ – 43.54 knots (50 mph), OTUSA – 42.51 knots (49 mph)
- Windspeed: Average – 16 knots, Peak – 21 knots
Race 2 Performance Data
- Course: 5 Legs/10.11 nautical miles
- Elapsed Time: ETNZ – 22:46, OTUSA – 23:38
- Delta: ETNZ +:52
- Total distance sailed: ETNZ – 11.3 NM, OTUSA – 11.3 NM
- Average Speed: ETNZ – 30.12 knots (35 mph), OTUSA – 28.92 knots (33 mph)
- Top Speed: ETNZ – 46 knots (53 mph), OTUSA – 42.87 knots (49 mph)
- Windspeed: Average – 16.6 knots, Peak – 19.5 knots