Monday, September 9, 2013

Americas Cup: Surprises Abound

1. Oracle looked sloppy when a crewman fell overboard before the first start. No surprise there. It's not uncommon for the defender to be rusty early in the series. Without a competitive qualification series against serious competition, defenders often fail to develop the competitive reflexes and instincts that challengers which have struggled through an elimination series have developed.
2. TNZ showed up with their A game. Oracle did not.
3. The word around the yacht club bars was that TNZ had the faster boat. It sure looked that way in the first three races. But maybe that's not so. Oracle showed flashes of boatspeed, but was foiled by poor boat handling and tactical errors in the first three races. They showed something different in race four.
4. A huge surprise was the series of tactical errors Oracle made in the early going. On the other hand it was beautiful to see how they learned from the early races, adapted and found a way to win in race four.
5. Another surprise was how both crews handled the 72's as if they were dinghies. They both showed that they can create opportunities to pass. This is probably the biggest surprise of the event.
6. Conventional wisdom states that the faster boat will win. Why is that? Well, first of all it's incredibly demoralizing to be on a boat that you know doesn't have the straight line performance of the competition. On the other hand, it's just as empowering to know that your boat is faster than the competition. It gives you the confidence to sail more aggressively, take more risks for greater rewards.
7. It is also true that, all else being equal, he who makes the fewest mistakes wins. Oracle's early errors played a large part in handing three victories to TNZ. By the same token, TNZ had a few less than stellar moments and let race four get away from them.
8. Do not underestimate Kostecki. One thing you can be sure of is that the crew of Oracle learned a lot in the first four races and, more than anyone else, John Kostecki took the measure of TNZ. It was not a fluke that Oracle won race four.
9. With the 24 knot limit on windspeed, these boats will probably survive the entire series. Still, they are experiencing apparent winds of over forty knots on the upwind legs. I'm expecting more carnage before this event is over.
10. Contrary to popular opinion, including that of yours truly, this is turning into an exciting event and I am looking forward to tomorrow's racing!

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