Yachting: Oracle steals show with flying cat

By Dana Johannsen

Newly repaired USA-17 foils critics with show of strength in San Francisco Bay.

Oracle repaired USA-17 using foils fashioned from the mammoth 27m trimaran in which they won the America's Cup in 2010. Photo / Alex Robertson
Oracle repaired USA-17 using foils fashioned from the mammoth 27m trimaran in which they won the America's Cup in 2010. Photo / Alex Robertson

Out to prove their faltering AC72 programme is back on track, Oracle have taken their repaired USA-17 out for a spin on San Francisco Bay in an apparent show of strength.

On their home patch for the second round of the America's Cup World Series today - raced in scaled-down versions of the giant catamarans - Oracle took the opportunity to show they are not up the proverbial creek without a wing-sail.

Dagger board failures soon after launching USA-17 delayed the Cup defender's testing programme by a month.

They returned to the water this week sporting foils fashioned from the mammoth 27m trimaran in which they won the America's Cup in 2010.

Just as Emirates Team New Zealand demonstrated out on the Waitemata Harbour last month, Oracle too managed to get airborne, foiling for long stretches downwind.

Team New Zealand dispatched a chase boat from their own practice racing in the AC45 to keep a close eye on the progress of the America's Cup defenders.

Oracle's exploits also piqued the interest of the world's sailing media gathered in San Francisco for the World Series regatta.

With the bulk of the questions directed at Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill in yesterday's pre-regatta press conference, it appeared their AC72 joyrides around San Francisco Bay had upstaged the regatta.

Spithill said he was excited to finally get a chance to unleash their new cat on the water and show what it was capable of.

"We had a few pretty good rides - it's incredibly rewarding, you push these hard and you sail them well and they are very, very fast," said Spithill. "We were up on the foils and sending it downwind out on the race course. It was pretty exciting and I think it sends a statement to other teams."

Team New Zealand and Oracle remain the only two teams to have their AC72s on the water. Luna Rossa, to whom the Kiwi team sold their design, plan to launch their boat in Auckland next month, while Artemis hope to resume testing in a couple of weeks.

It looks increasingly unlikely that the fourth challenger, Team Korea, will be on the startline in 2013. The Korean syndicate have paid the $200,000 entry fee, but they have yet to start building a boat.

Young Kiwi sailor Peter Burling, who will make his debut at the helm of Team Korea in today's match racing qualifiers of the AC45 regatta, admitted he doesn't expect to be appearing in the big show next year.

"I think it's pretty unlikely we'll have a 72, but the team is definitely doing the rest of the AC World Series," said Burling.

The Olympic silver medallist in the 49er class joined Team Korea only last week after their former skipper Nathan Outteridge jumped ship to Artemis.

Burling and his crew will be first on the water today against Luna Rossa Piranha, skippered by Chris Draper. Team New Zealand will race the third match of the day against Artemis Red.

New AC72s

Length overall: 26.2m
Hull length: 22m
Beam (width): 14m
Mast height: 40m
Upwind sail area: 260sq m
Downwind sail area: 580sq m
Crew: 11.

- NZ Herald

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