Russell Coutts, a five times winner of the America’s Cup and the top helmsman with a 14-0 win record is CEO of Defender Oracle Team USA and the America’s Cup Events Authority.
He gives his thoughts on the just completed three day Practice Racing ahead of the 35th America’s Cup, and critiques each of the five teams.
‘Artemis Racing are head and shoulders ahead in terms of consistency of maneuvers and how they manage their racing tactically. They’ve made a massive jump in the last two or three weeks. Nathan Outteridge has improved his positioning in the starts to the point that he won two of three starts against Oracle Team USA. Artemis also looked strong in defending their leads and managed to stay tack for tack with Oracle Team USA, extending a two boat length lead at the bottom gate to a seven boat length advantage by the top gate.
Land Rover BAR’s maneuvers were looking amongst the strongest of all teams on the water this week. It was a great improvement for Ben Ainslie, who has already halved the deficit with respect to the top performing teams. If they can further improve their straight line speed they will be a real force to be reckoned with.
‘Groupama Team France has a lot of work to develop their control systems & maneuvers. However, their straight line speed looks competitive. They should be able to make a significant step forward over the next weeks.
Softbank Team Japan needs to address their reliability issues, but with Dean Barker and Chris Draper in charge – I’d fully expect them to. As expected they had some good starts and should have won a race against the in form Artemis.
‘Oracle Team USA didn’t have a great series. Jimmy Spithill and Tom Slingsby will be looking to improve their consistency in maneuvers and figure out better strategies to keep themselves in the race when they get behind.
‘We still haven’t seen Emirates Team New Zealand yet, although they are expected to be on the water before the next series of practice racing.
‘Wind shifts played a key part, especially in some of the closer races. I thought it was quite difficult to read the wind with the aqua blue color of Bermuda’s water, particularly when it was sunny.’
Q: What can we look forward to in the weeks ahead?
‘?The next phase of practice racing will see the introduction of light air dagger boards for at least some of the teams. It will be crucial to see how far up the range the cross over will be for the use of these boards.
‘Two weeks is a long time in the America’s Cup, a lot can happen and I look forward to seeing how the sailors and teams improve before the next phase of practice racing which starts on the 24th April.
‘Judging by what’s happened over the last month this is a race to see who will learn the most. Sailing technique is playing a huge role in the performance of these boats. For sure design is important, but at least equal to that will be the differences in sailing techniques.’
by America’s Cup Media and Sail-World