Kiwi expertise behind Oracle's Cup resurgence
DUNCAN JOHNSTONE IN SAN FRANCISCO
An SOS to their Kiwi boat builders has helped fire up Oracle's incredible comeback in the America's Cup.
Oracle's miracle roll continued yesterday as they won a fifth consecutive race, this time by 33 seconds, to keep Team New Zealand on match point, a position the Kiwis have been stuck on for six days.
Team New Zealand has had just one win in 10 days. It was about the time of that last victory that help for Oracle arrived from New Zealand via experts and equipment from Core Builders Composites in Warkworth.
The company is a 100 per cent-owned subsidiary of Oracle, producing the wingsails, foils and appendages for the AC72s. It also built the smaller AC45s that were at the centre of Oracle's cheating scandal.
It has made private boats for Larry Ellison and its ties to this regatta run deep - America's Cup Events Authority's New Zealand boss Stephen Barclay is a director.
But it's the design and build masterminds that have come to the rescue of an Oracle boat that was struggling for speed early in its clash with Team New Zealand. Oracle has clearly made huge gains to dominate and give the defenders real hope of retaining the Cup.
Asked what magic components were delivered to spark the turnaround, Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill just smiled. "I don't know what turned up to be honest."
But he was happy to acknowledge the fact that Kiwis were helping beat Team New Zealand.
"We have a fantastic team down in Core Builders. It's no secret the majority of our boat building force is from the southern hemisphere. There's obviously a lot of Australians and New Zealanders and New Zealand have produced a lot of great boat builders. They really have led the way in composites and are leading the charge with both teams.
"Those guys down there have done a great job building a lot of our componentry.
"But it's tough because they are not here living the racing with us. Some of them have come up and helped build the boat, a lot of them are still down there.
"We know they are down there watching and are behind us. That motivates us ... their blood, sweat and tears."
Oracle's gains in speed, performance and crew work have advanced on Team New Zealand at a rapid rate since Aotearoa dominated the early exchanges of this final.
They have tinkered non-stop with their boat; regatta director Iain Murray confirming Oracle has needed new measurement certificates for every race.
Team New Zealand haven't stood still and remain hugely confident in their boat.
But there was a touch of envy in Dean Barker's reply when he was asked about Oracle's resources to fund a game of catchup.
"Well, you have got a guy there that is fairly wealthy running that team," Barker said, referring to Ellison.
"They want for nothing - they have had absolutely everything they needed all the way through. So that resource has made them a very strong team and able to react like they have been able to.
"We obviously come at it from the other side, having to watch everything we spend. We have obviously had to make a lot of tough decisions along the way, though that's not the reason why we aren't winning this last race."
Barker said Team New Zealand's changes would be more about altering aerodynamics and appendages to suit conditions.
"We have little tweaks here and there, but there's nothing major we can do. We don't need to make massive changes. The boat is going well, we just need to sail it well."
Yesterday it appeared to be a decision to use an extra code zero sail up front that cost the Kiwis at the start, with the big sheet's extra drag on the first reach allowing Oracle to accelerate away to a lead they never relinquished.
Barker maintained the final could still be won.
"But it is definitely a battle. There is no question that the Oracle guys have stepped it up a lot. We need to be able to respond, we have obviously spent a lot of time talking about how we can do things better.
"In the early part to the series we were making a lot less mistakes than they were.
"We have to take a step back evaluate what we are doing wrong and how we can improve those processes.
"But the guys are very positive, we know we can win and that belief is going to be there till the very end."
- Fairfax Media