A "coulda, shoulda, woulda" day for Emirates Team New Zealand.
Of course it is easy for us "armchair admirals" to make good decisions from the couch, even easier after the fact to say "they should have done this and not done that" but it is much, much harder on-board, in real time, to make those calls.
That said, this is what high performance sport is about, to win at the top level you must make the key calls, and get them right most, if not all of the time. Emirates Team New Zealand did not do that today.
Peter Burling said that Emirates Team New Zealand were looking forward to testing themselves under the pressure of having a point on the line.
That's a great attitude to have but they did not perform as well as they would have liked and made numerous mistakes. They sailed flawlessly the previous day, then fell short when it really counted.
The start set the tone for the race. ETNZ as the windward (give way) boat allowed Oracle the chance to control the start and create a penalty situation. ETNZ had the opportunity, with 40 seconds to go, to dive deep and hook Oracle but they chose to bail out and stay to windward.
They then tried to create a gap so they could get an even start, but in doing so they got high in the start box and gave OTUSA the opportunity to chase them. Oracle were able to get the overlap so, ETNZ were defending with 30 secs to go.
They did not take the initiative, were tentative, and as soon as you leave the door ajar Jimmy Spithill will smash through it.
Not only did ETNZ lose the start, they also copped a penalty in the process. Bugger!
From there ETNZ did a nice job of closing up and they showed good speed. But TNZ chose a high risk quick tack on top of OTUSA to go around the top left gate. It did not pay off.
Perhaps TNZ lost their electronic telemetry and did not know where the boundary was or exactly where the three boat length circle was at the top gate - this would explain the boundary penalty and the decision later to tack short of the layline.
But, it seemed to me that they could have continued on to the right gate at the top and squeezed around after they cleared and crossed ahead of Oracle, so the choice to try and tack in front of Oracle Team USA at the top left gate was a strange one.
Another factor was the unusual short final leg downwind before the reach to the finish today. This was half the length of all previous races and meant that teams really only had one gybe from rounding the top left gate before laying into the bottom turn to the final reaching leg to the finish.
Regatta Director Ian Murray sets up the course so the final leg always finishes in front of the America's Cup village and the course is always set to ensure this happens. Today's conditions may have meant he did not have room to have the teams sail a full length final downwind - this made it easy for the leading boat to control the end of the race.
Credit where it is due though. Oracle Team USA sailed a really good race, they dominated the pre-start, defended their lead well and made good decisions when under pressure. So, first round to Spithill, Slingsby and Oracle Team USA. Well sailed.
Great teams get tested when the pressure comes on and it can go two ways, a team can come together and be more solid, or they can fracture and start to come apart. Emirates Team New Zealand will come together, there is much to learn from today and the most important lessons are always gained from mistakes. So, no need to panic. Come together, sort through the lessons, take them on-board and get back out there and win yacht races.