x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Another runaway for Oracle in Louis Vuitton Trophy

Synergy team trumped before start as the US boat first to the finish for 10th time in 11 races with masterful pre-race manoeuvres.

Synergy Russian and BMW Oracle compete during yesterday’s Louis Vuitton Trophy competition.
Synergy Russian and BMW Oracle compete during yesterday’s Louis Vuitton Trophy competition.

DUBAI // BMW Oracle Racing yesterday improved their record to 10 victories in 11 starts with a decisive, 48-second victory over Synergy Russian Sailing Team on the sixth day of the two-week Louis Vuitton Trophy regatta.

The win at the start of the second round allowed the US team, led by the Australian skipper James Spithill, to retain a big lead atop the leaderboard, with 11 points - 4.5 points ahead of Emirates Team New Zealand.

"We're in a pretty solid position," said mid-bowman Brad Webb, who has been with the Oracle team since its inception in 2000.

"Jimmy's been starting the boat brilliantly, and between JK [John Kostecki, tactician] and Murray [Jones, strategist], they're putting the boat in the right place on the racecourse."

The race was over before it began. About 80 seconds before the start, Spithill lured Synergy into a trap, locking the Russian yacht on his windward aft quarter with no avenue for escape.

In full control, Spithill slowed his boat by sailing close to the wind.

When the start gun sounded both boats were two lengths behind the committee boat.

Synergy's bow drifted to leeward and the port side grazed the starboard keep-off wand on the transoms of the 24m America's Cup-class yachts. The on-water umpires penalised the Russian yacht for failing to keep clear.

Spithill entered the racecourse with a two boat-length lead, and the outcome was inevitable. Oracle led by 34, 37 and 50 seconds at the three mark roundings en route to the finish.

"It was an error on Synergy's part," said Webb, who mans the running backstays during the pre-start. "With a minute to go they were locked out, and it's one of those situations where they have to sit back and wait it out. When their bow went down I think they were trying to build speed, but fortunately for us they incurred a penalty."

"We're pretty confident in our boat-handling," Spithill said. "The guys are doing a good job on the winch handles and trimming the sails. At the end of the day, the penalty was a bonus.

"I'm happy with how the guys are sailing the boat. Everyone's getting better and learning every day. There's a long way to go, so that's exciting."

Webb said that the crew coach, Dean Phipps, emphasised to the team that they not get too comfortable with the early success. Four races remain to be sailed, each worth two points, before the semi-finals next Friday.

"I like our chances, but we can't get too carried away," Webb said. "We need to keep doing what we've been doing and stay focused on our jobs. At any minute the wheels could fall off. We've seen it happen to other teams and it's happened to us. If we keep doing what we're doing all will be fine."