Yachting: Vuitton victory a formality - Coutts

By Dana Johannsen

Russell Coutts. Photo / Getty Images
Russell Coutts. Photo / Getty Images

It was just a few months ago that Oracle chief executive Russell Coutts claimed that he didn't expect to face Emirates Team New Zealand in the America's Cup final.

With a history of ill-feeling between the two syndicates, his comments, when taken out of context, appeared to be a slight on the Kiwi team - Grant Dalton certainly believed it was. But Coutts was responding to questions over whether it was a foregone conclusion that it would be Team NZ challenging his Oracle team for the Cup come September.

What he meant was the Oracle crew needed to be prepared to face anyone in the final. From the outset, Team NZ have had the strongest programme - but with the need to keep event organisers and sponsors happy, Coutts stuck to the party line and claimed all three teams will be a threat.

But based on what he has seen on San Francisco Bay over the past six weeks, he now admits that the Louis Vuitton challenger series will likely be a formality for Dean Barker and his crew.

"Some of the Louis Vuitton races are going to be reasonably one-sided," said Coutts, missing the obvious humour in the statement in that much of the races will literally be one-sided, with Artemis indicating they're unlikely to make the start line until early August.

"Luna Rossa is way behind Team New Zealand right now, and I don't really see them turning that around. Artemis are obviously well behind the eight-ball; they should have been on the water months ago ... but I rate some of their sailors as world-class."

There is a feeling that the event might be better served simply fast-forwarding two months to the inevitable Oracle-Team New Zealand showdown. But those feelings are not shared by Dalton.

The Team New Zealand boss said there are still gains to be eked out of their boat after being forced to put their development programme on hold over the past month as they made alterations to their catamaran to comply with the new safety requirements.

"We're now miles behind our development curve that was slowly ramping into the first race," said Dalton. "We have to be a much better boat come September, we've got to keep moving," said Dalton.

His urgency can be attributed to Oracle having the luxury of being able to spend the next two months to fine-tune and develop their boat in a competitive two-boat testing environment, while Team New Zealand duke it out in an inadequate challenger series.

Oracle have had both their AC72s out on the water in San Francisco this week, with Ben Ainslie, who has a reputation for being an aggressive match-racer, at the helm of boat one, and Jimmy Spithill steering their second boat.

- Herald on Sunday

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