[Source: America's Cup] Helmsman Tom Slingsby led ORACLE TEAM USA into the top spot in the standings with finishes of 1-2 in today’s two fleet races. Slingsby, filling in for team skipper Jimmy Spithill, also won his first competitive match race, a 34-second victory over HS Racing led by co-skippers Roman Hagara and Hans-Peter Steinacher.
“It was an ideal day for us, we’re really happy,” said Slingsby, the 28-year-old Australian who won the Gold medal in the Laser class at last year’s Olympic Regatta.
“The wind was a bit steadier today so you just had to worry about getting a good start, boathandling and positioning,” Slingsby continued. “You didn’t have to read into watching the wind and everything it did. It was a beautiful seabreeze with small shifts and made things a bit easier.”
Slingsby’s performance impressed even the U.S. Ambassador to Italy, David Thorne, who was guest racer aboard ORACLE TEAM USA.
“Looking at the racing, it’s really spectacular,” said Thorne. “Being in it, doing it, it’s so much fun to get engaged in something like this. These are not really sailboats, they’re airplanes. It’s a spectacular feeling of speed and movement. It’s completely thrilling.”
Led by skipper Yann Guichard, France’s Energy Team posted a 2-1. They were overtaken by Slingsby on the second upwind leg in the first fleet race, but rebounded for a 26-second win in the second race.
“Yesterday was difficult to understand the race course, it was very shifty. Today the wind was very steady so I could really focus on the speed of the boat, especially on the start,” said Guichard, who led Energy Team to 4th place at last year’s AC World Series Naples.
“It will all come down to Sunday, but it’s really important to do well day after day so we can be confident going into the last day,” Guichard said.
While the fleet races were tame in terms of boats banging off each other, the same cannot be said of the day’s first match race between Luna Rossa Swordfish and Emirates Team New Zealand.
The rival crews who spent the winter training on AC72s in New Zealand were involved in a collision at the windward mark that flattened the starboard bow of Luna Rossa Swordfish and damaged the port stern scoop of Emirates Team New Zealand.
Dean Barker got Emirates Team New Zealand off to a good start when he forced Francesco Bruni and Luna Rossa Swordfish over the start line early. Barker led by 5 seconds around the leeward mark but Bruni steadily chipped away at that lead upwind.
As the two crews aimed to round the left side windward mark, Barker approached on starboard with Bruni on port. Video replays show that Bruni got to the three-boatlength circle a split second before Barker, which gave Bruni rights to round the mark free of interference from Barker.
Barker, however, continued sailing straight to the mark and Bruni crashed into him as he started to tack towards the mark. Barker was penalized on the ensuing run and Bruni won the match.
But the damage to the boats was done and later Luna Rossa Swordfish retired from the second fleet race due to the damage despite finishing 3rd in the first fleet race.
“We are happy with our win over Team New Zealand because they are one of the best teams on the water so to beat them is a nice thing to do,” said Luna Rossa Challenge skipper Max Sirena, a trimmer aboard Swordfish.
“In the second race we broke the headstay bracket on the bowsprit, it dragged back 10 centimeters. We think it’s because of the damage in the collision,” Sirena said.
Barker was upset that Luna Rossa Swordfish didn’t do more to avoid the collision.
“Normally, even if you’re in the right you avoid collisions resulting in serious damage and it doesn’t seem like they did a lot,” said Barker, a past match racing world champion. “I think it’s pretty poor to be honest. But the umpires see it the way they see it and our guys have a long night to fix the boat.”
Both boats were hauled from the water for their shore teams to affect repairs.
America’s Cup World Series Naples Championship Standings
(Provisional, after 4 of 7 scheduled races)
1. ORACLE TEAM USA (Tom Slingsby) – 38 points
2. Energy Team (Yann Guichard) – 36
3. Emirates Team New Zealand (Dean Barker) – 36
4. J.P. Morgan BAR (Ben Ainslie) – 35
5. Luna Rossa Piranha (Chris Draper) – 33
6. Luna Rossa Swordfish (Francesco Bruni) – 23
7. Artemis Racing White (Charlie Ekberg) – 21
8. HS Racing (R. Hagara/H.S. Steinacher) – 17
9. China Team (Mitch Booth) – 14