Friday, September 13, 2013

America's Cup Day Four: Removal of Doubt

It was no surprise that Kostecki got the hook. Team Oracle has nothing if not a lot of depth on their bench and Ben Ainslie is certainly a qualified tactician. But it was also no surprise that they achieved the same result with the new guy. Oracle is sailing scared. If they get ahead of TNZ they are nervous that they'll get passed. If they get  behind, they have no confidence that they can pass. This sets them up for mistakes, and they have certainly committed more than enough to send the Cup back to NZ.

In race 6, Oracle won the start and the first run. But then they were so concerned about getting rolled that they failed to stick to a winning strategy. They went around the wrong mark at the leeward gate and that pretty much sealed their fate. Out of phase with the tide and their competition, they struggled to get back over to the right side of the track only to have TNZ pummel them all the way to the weather mark. By then it was over.

It was only a matter of time before TNZ would win a start. In race 7 they did that and simply never looked back. I don't know exactly how many practice days team Oracle has had, with or without Ainslie, but it's pretty clear that they have not had the same amount as the Kiwis. It looks to me like the Oracle crew is still on the steep part of the learning curve while TNZ is certainly well beyond that stage. Perhaps Oracle's crash last October took too much of a toll in terms of sailing days for the crew. Perhaps there is too much internecine friction within the command structure at team Oracle. Whatever it is, this team is not living up to its potential. The betting now is whether Team Oracle can win even one more race before the Cup is shipped to Auckland.

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