Team USA back on water in search of answer to New Zealand
Hamilton (Bermuda) (AFP) – Oracle Team USA were back on the water Tuesday as they scramble to find answers to Emirates Team New Zealand before America’s Cup racing resumes on Saturday.
A sweep of all four races on the opening weekend gave Team New Zealand a 3-0 lead in the first-to-seven points series as they erased their one-point opening deficit and then some.
Team USA skipper Jimmy Spithill said “everything was on the table” as the two-time defenders contemplated “serious changes” aimed at narrowing the gap on Kiwis, who displayed markedly more speed in the light winds at the weekend on Bermuda’s Great Sound.
After a day of work in the boat shed, Oracle had their foiling catamaran out on the water.
While regatta rules limit the changes Team USA can make, they could tweak their hydrofoils, the appendages that allow the catamarans’ twin hulls to rise above the water’s surface to virtually fly at breathtaking speeds.
Changes to the set-up of the massive fixed-wing sail and crew changes are also possible.
One of the most noticeable innovations by New Zealand this year was the use of bike-style cycle power, rather than traditional arm-grinders.
Team USA have already added one cycle station — with tactician Tom Slingsby sometimes seen pedalling.
But Spithill has insisted he doesn’t believe the “cyclors” make much difference in providing sufficient power to the hydraulics system at key moments, even though it’s reckoned the legs can generate some 30 percent more power than the arms.
“I honestly don’t think it’s the bikes,” Spithill said. “They’ve obviously got speed and they’ve had a little edge in a lot of the maneuvers.”
It’s not the first time Spithill and Oracle have had their backs to the wall.
In 2013, Team New Zealand were one win away from victory at 8-1, only for the US outfit backed by tech billionaire Larry Ellison to roar back to a 9-8 victory.
Spithill said a similar resurgence wasn’t out of the question.
“We’ve got a lot of great boat building resources, we’ve got design engineering and we’ve got a very good group up here,” Spithill said.
And plenty of confidence.
“Clearly we’ve got to make some steps forward in boat speed but we’ve shown we can do it,” Spithill said.
“We’re a group that isn’t afraid of a challenge. I think mentally the guys seem to operate better under higher pressure and that’s what we’ve got.”
But 26-year-old New Zealand helmsman Peter Burling believes the challengers can make strides before Saturday as well as they try to bring the Cup — the world’s oldest international sporting trophy — to New Zealand for a third time after Black Magic’s triumphs in 1995 ad 2000.
“We’re all still on an incredibly steep part of the learning curve,” he said. “We’re just trying to keep learning and keep improving. Nothing changes for us.”