Difference is in the detail as Team NZ's ingenuity proves its worth
OPINION: The difference is in the detail as Team New Zealand slowly take control of the America's Cup match.
Two more commanding wins on Monday have bruised and battered defenders Oracle Team USA limping off to their base to try to resurrect their campaign during a five-day break. Be wary, they are pretty good at that.
But Team New Zealand's ability to eek more and more out of their blistering boat continues to bring hope to Kiwi fans and uncertainty to the normally resolute Oracle Team USA skipper Jimmy Spithill whose bravado is sounding less convincing as each race unfolds.
Here's what we learned from the latest double delight on Bermuda's Great Sound.
Aerodynamics favour Team NZ
There's more to the "cyclors" than just producing power. The designers have also got significant gains in terms of wind resistance by employing this radical system and it's helping, particularly in the light conditions. Team New Zealand's crew are "low-slung"compared to their Oracle opposites. The cyclists are tucked in behind each other in a sprint formation while the Oracle grinders stand, copping more wind. Similarly trimmer Glenn Ashby and helmsman Peter Burling have much lower seating arrangements to Kyle Langford and Jimmy Spithill, who have to be up high to see over and around their grinders. When they shift tactician Tom Slingsby to their "BMX" cycle grinder at the back of the boat on down wind legs, that aerodynamic inefficiency increases.These are small details but, combined with other minuscule differences, they add up to big gains.
New Zealand's speed advantage is across the spectrum
Much has been made of Team New Zealand's speed into the wind and their ability to point higher towards the top mark and thus, cover less distance to get there. But a closer look reveals the Kiwis have an edge in all speed departments. Some of their biggest gains have come downwind. It's not all to do with just a fast boat, it's also how much time can be saved during manoeuvres and the Kiwis are certainly quicker through their turns than Oracle. Kudos goes to the design team again in terms of their versatile foils. The Kiwis stuck with their light airs package on Monday while Oracle changed to a set they thought would suit the slightly stronger breeze compared to Sunday. Team New Zealand trumped them there because their foils cover a better range – handling the stronger breeze in the first race and excelling in the lessening wind of the second race.
Spithill is losing his bite
Much was made before the final of Jimmy's Spithill's perceived advantage in the starting box with his aggression. Team New Zealand have worked wonders in quick time to get Peter Burling up to speed in this key area. There has been tremendous improvement by the Kiwi rookie but it's hard to escape the feeling that the aging Spithill is losing his edge. He went over the line early on Sunday for a basic error. Twice on Monday he had opportunities to pounce on Burling but failed to do so, even when the Kiwis were struggling with daggerboard issues just off the line with less than a minute to go till the gun fired in race two.
Spithill is losing his bark too
The cocky Aussie has been a master at talking up a bad situation. By his standards he's been pretty subdued in the post-race press conference after the opening two days. It looks like reality has hit home. He's got a lemon on his hands compared to the Kiwi rocketship and squeeze what they might out of it, things look darker than they did four years ago. Spithill's repeated concessions in the key area of boat speed are him facing up to a tough reality.
Burling is just as cool off the water
The Team New Zealand helmsman looks ridiculously relaxed at times on the wheel. He's increasingly composed on the microphone as well as he fronts the international media alongside Spithill. He often uses clever eye movements and wry smiles to counter any digs from Spithill, the notorious baiter. And Burling can give as good as he gets in his own under-stated way. His hammering of Team New Zealand's fierce nationality pride was a left hook aimed at Oracle's mercenary approach to sign up foreign talent. And on Monday Burling's clever and passionate acknowledgement of the growing Kiwi fan base in Bermuda was another jab at Oracle who have talked up their "home" advantage.